McGregor Versus Mayweather and the Puncher’s Chance

Such a recent loss often looks horrible on a boxer’s resume. Fighters have become obsessed with avoiding losses in hopes of earning the largest possible paydays. So, back to McGregor: when he lost to Diaz, fans figured he was too small or had the wrong game plan, but they wanted to see him try again. Why the hell do people want to believe McGregor can actually win? Diaz, the bigger, more experienced man, slapped him around before it went to grappling. You have questions? Losses in MMA mean a fighter just has more to learn or had an off night. Me: No, you’re an idiot. The puncher’s chance only applies to situations where victory needs to be won and where victory would be life altering. Fans know that, and they know the best is still to come. There is no coherent narrative they all subscribe to, so whomever has the loudest voice, which appears to be Mayweather, in a sense speaks for the entire sport. He called him illiterate and that always pisses off Floyd. Everyone who can’t remain undefeated, which is most fighters, can still benefit from losing in entertaining fashion. The fact is he was a far more technically sound fighter than Floyd Mayweather, something a lot of fight experts consider fact. People said he had a puncher’s chance, too, and it turned out that they were right. Sugar Ray Robinson finished with over 200 fights, winning 173 of them. Showmanship doesn’t necessarily carry the day, either. Demetrious Johnson, Anderson Silva, and Georges St-Pierre are among the first to have come close, and all would likely make the top-five all-time pound-for-pound list. It certainly looked that way. If Mayweather jabs from his hip, a basic punch, it will be something McGregor has hardly ever seen. It makes fighters easier to hit and forces them to wind up their punches. The puncher’s chance doesn’t apply to finding parking in your urban neighborhood at midnight — that’s just dumb luck. That’s not hyperbole. He spent nine rounds getting the shit beaten out of him, lulling the 27-year-old Michael Moorer into a false sense of security. He’s that good, and he started at 21. The same stance is terrible in boxing. To most fans, fighting is just two guys hitting each other. He went 49-0 using this strategy, which was the only way he could fight anyway, then retired and died in a plane crash. Harry Greb too. And this is a hell of a test. Jon Jones, who recently regained his light heavyweight title, is as dangerous and skilled as they come. Me: …
Let me briefly complete the above conversation in this paragraph: the most glaring reason this will be a waste of time is that one guy has had 49 professional boxing matches and the other has zero. ¤
William D’Urso is a writer living in Long Beach, California. The loud and theatrical Stephen A. People either believe he is “The Best Ever” as he claims, or they tune in hoping to watch him lose. For a fighter simply to survive that schedule means he’s incredibly talented. Or somehow talking someone of superior intelligence and looks into a date. He’d later admit that he tried too hard for a knockout and tired in the second round. Fighters are still trying to figure out how to put it all together. Now some book makers are offering Mayweather bets of 3-1. As painful as it is to listen to, Smith almost certainly doesn’t believe what he’s saying. We hear that phrase all the time. For the average viewer it’s hard to understand just how huge the skill difference between these two men is. I’ll walk you through this. He’s The Notorious Conor McGregor! McGregor’s size will be too much. Oh, you disagree? In the second round of his first fight with Diaz, he took a punch that clearly buckled his knees. Muhammad Ali wasn’t in this category. Then there’s McGregor. It’s been wedged into the American lexicon and it isn’t going away. The most successful fighters learned how to minimize damage to themselves by adopting some of the best defensive techniques the sport has come up with. That’s often a mistake. McGregor has three losses, including one within the past year to Nate Diaz. It’s a reassuring thought that nudges doubt into the unused storage space of our minds. You: You’re an idiot. McGregor’s life is already altered. Absolutely not. Me: Mayweather’s a pro. It was a satisfying end to the puncher’s chance story line. That’s the genesis of this unbeaten talk. He was plodding and powerful, known for wearing down more skilled opponents. They’d hit him until they tired, which was always before he did, then he’d club them to the canvas. That makes footwork and defense totally different. It’s getting that job you’re not qualified for. There’s a few reasons for that, and Mayweather’s undefeated streak is a big part of it. Losses in boxing mean that a fighter isn’t as good as the guy who beat him. That would be an image shattering admission in boxing. He’ll have a hard time with the angles Conor will use. ¤
Boxing, in its current form, has been around since the Queensbury rules were introduced in the mid-1860s. It doesn’t matter. The way he loses on August 26 will begin to answer that for us. Then, in the 10th, Moorer stopped circling the big man and stood in front of him before eating that famous right hand. Very few fighters are good enough to go undefeated, even if everything goes perfectly. Enough people believe McGregor has at least some chance of winning that, absurdly, this fight … no, not fight — farce, atrocity, sideshow … has a very good chance of being the richest combat sports event in history. You: But McGregor is an MMA fighter, he’ll know how to fight dirty. You: He’s Mystic Mac! Losses matter far less in mixed martial arts largely because fans don’t give a damn about records. ¤
Fans and fighters talk about heart all the time, but the two sports view it a little differently. It won’t. McGregor won’t win. You: But he punches really hard. The only question becomes: How long can his popularity survive? Smith won’t stop with the puncher’s chance nonsense even though he admits Mayweather’s victory is a certainty. It won’t mean a damn thing August 26. Why? His fight with Mayweather is the successful sale of the “how far has he come?” narrative to which MMA fans hold fealty. Manny Pacquiao, a lefty with championships in eight weight classes, presented no problems. He gets minor points for that. Even the best MMA fighters start late. He said all the right things after the loss, then turned around and beat Diaz in his next fight. That’s smart. It just means he has more to learn. Maybe it was Valley Forge or Bunker Hill that made us believe the guy with no chance always has a chance. Not with McGregor. That’s insane. But there remains a virulent strain of silliness — I’m being generous — among some big media personalities. The profane president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dana White, has waged a war against the idea that losses diminish a fighter. Fans rewarded him by showing up in record numbers to watch him narrowly defeat Diaz in a rematch a few months later. Me: No way. He might weigh more but he doesn’t know how to use leverage to make his strength an advantage. The fight will last exactly as long as the masterful Mayweather wants, and most anyone who knows boxing agrees on that point. Fans don’t want to accept this. He always finds a way. The surprise wasn’t that the two went to the ground — Diaz is renowned for his submission skills — the surprise was that McGregor took the fight to the canvas. But boxing, with its numerous warring promoters, has splintered. But MMA fans didn’t care. During one of Rogan’s fight discussions on his podcast, his guests wondered aloud if McGregor had given up. Now no one calls McGregor a quitter. That means talent obviously isn’t the main driver in boxing. It would almost be like a boxer who stopped throwing punches. Guys like that will either go extinct or be relegated to the very lowest levels of the sport. McGregor won’t even be used to standing like a boxer. But it wasn’t that long ago that people figured out Brazilian jiu jitsu was essential for any complete martial artist, and even that form, perfected by the Gracie family, has experienced recent improvements. Because the puncher’s chance is bigger than fighting. That means boxers have had a very long time to learn how to fist fight. It’s not. Retiring as an undefeated champion became a thing with the great heavyweight Rocky Marciano. It won’t matter. He’s undefeated in a sport where virtually everyone loses at some point (he has one disqualification loss, which is absolute bullshit). That’s as good a reason as any for why the goose egg matters so much. He became the oldest champion in boxing history (until Bernard Hopkins beat that record in 2011 at 46) and grew his fortune by tens of millions through endorsements. Occasionally you’ll see fighters on TV who don’t even know how to throw a punch. MMA talk show hosts and even some fans suspect McGregor isn’t even the best fighter in his weight class. If a boxer quits in a high-profile fight, he’s covered in a stink that’s hard to overcome. The peak was between the 1920s and 1960s, when it was not uncommon for a boxer to have 20 fights a year. He has no practice with that, or intentionally hitting low. Because MMA is a completely different sport with more ways to attack an opponent. And that’s the final piece of it, the trappings of success brought by an unlikely victory. Mayweather has successfully made his zero extremely valuable. Me: Also stupid. There are a few obvious reasons for this. That was all it took. McGregor talked his way out of it, saying everyone who takes chances can lose, and that he would learn from his loss and take it like a champ. It takes an unbelievable talent, and usually good matchmaking. Among the daftest stories to be published about this sham is from the almost always excellent sports, pop culture (and sometimes politics and tech) website The Ringer. That’s when Conor McGregor will lose to Floyd Mayweather in what should be spectacular fashion. Maybe it points to something ancient in the human brain, something within that makes us believe a physical contest is at its source a force of will. One concussive shot from one of the hardest punchers ever. MMA fighters stand more square to their opponents to defend against take downs and deliver kicks. Why not just accept he’ll be reduced to a quivering mound of flesh? They can all be excused for producing content they know will reach an audience, even if that content might be ludicrous. ¤
You know those grills, the ones you plug into the counter and cook chicken or a grilled cheese sandwich? You: But he’s in Floyd’s head. But they had a chance to learn because even low-level cards were televised, and fighters could make a solid wage by fighting once every few weeks. Me: If you say so. Losses mean less to fans because they mean less to the people who control the conversation. Watch old timers like Charley Burley or Archie Moore, and you’ll recognize a few things Mayweather does. Like so many things in life that are there to comfort us, the puncher’s chance is a vague reassurance that usually fails to show up when it matters most. Victor Ortiz, a Mayweather-knockout victim and the sort of actor who has appeared on Dancing with the Stars, and various hot garbage films like The Expendables 3 and Southpaw, quit more than once and earned near unanimous derision. It allows his beaten fighters to maintain value for subsequent bouts. He’s employed Joe Rogan, who agrees that losses don’t matter, and many other pundits on ESPN and Fox Sports share this opinion. Landing an elbow so it looks like an accident is really, really hard to do. They’re called Foreman grills, and in addition to being awesome, they’re named after George Foreman, who reclaimed the heavyweight title at 45. Why? Earning a big advance for a novel about Kim Kardashian time traveling to medieval England. McGregor simply isn’t used to seeing the movements a pro boxer makes. He’s the loudest voice in MMA, and people have listened. Various talking heads have been right to say that McGregor will be pissing into the wind when he makes his boxing debut against the undefeated and excellent old pro. Oh, and a puncher that had an elite ring IQ and a 72-4 record. They believe in “the puncher’s chance” largely because they’re not really sure just how impossible the task is that lies ahead of McGregor. For Mayweather, hitting him will be as easy as it would be for an adult to smack a child. In “The Case for McGregor,” the author, Chuck Mindenhall, lays out some flatly fanciful ideas for how McGregor might win. ¤
Okay, so now we agree McGregor won’t sniff victory unless Mayweather takes a dive or suffers a serious injury like a torn Achilles tendon. Still, he had to write something, and it’s much more interesting to try and figure out how the impossible could be possible than how the inevitable is inevitable. It’s the undefeated record and the hatred he inspires that keep people watching. At 225-1 in favor of Mayweather, the betting line was appropriately astronomical. So why do people care? It also means that he’s seen every style there is, and every other fighter out there knows what he can do, too. Sure, martial arts are ancient. The only other champion who never lost was Ricardo López (he had 51 wins and one technical draw, so he was effectively undefeated), who no one talks about because he was little; he never did get the acclaim he deserved. What if he’d started at 10, like a lot of the best boxers? Give me your hand. The zero in the loss column works for him, but it’s bad for almost everyone else in boxing. Matched right, Sugar Ray Robinson was. AUGUST 20, 2017

THE PUNCHER’S CHANCE. And he’ll have no experience timing Mayweather’s straight right hand. It did for Ali, but Mayweather is as boring to listen to as he is to watch. He landed that most unlikely of victories by becoming so popular and visible that he could get the biggest fight available in a sport in which he has never before competed. The puncher’s chance is about the victory, not the punch, and McGregor is already lapping up the endless success his popularity offers. The legendary Roberto Durán, perhaps one of the best five boxers ever, did it, and many think less of him. Great fighters have earned their skill with years of training and thousands of rounds exchanging punches with other professionals. You: Okay, but Floyd has trouble with lefties. But then there’s the matter of the odds. People want to see the limits of the puncher’s chance tested. But fans know no fighter has the whole array of skills when they turn pro, and they are used to fighters vastly improving throughout their careers, so losses don’t mean a fighter isn’t talented. Still, there are genuine attempts among sports writers and personalities to think up a scenario in which McGregor could actually win. He has a puncher’s chance of stretching it out. That thinking has made it possible for White to make fight fans want to watch, and he has powerful allies to reinforce his message.