By Adam Samee
Round 10. 14,623 fans on their feet. Conor McGregor falls into the ropes, and the referee calls it. Floyd Mayweather knocks him out and makes history. In his last fight, Mayweather retires as the only boxer to go undefeated for fifty fights.
As August 26th, fight night, approached, this was heralded as one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. Boxing fan or not, everyone had heard about the hype. What would it be like to see one of the greatest boxers ever box one of the greatest UFC fighters ever? On March 12, 2017, Mayweather officially came out of retirement to fight McGregor. Mayweather had never lost in his 49 match career. With McGregor being a non-boxer, no one knew how well McGregor would do in the boxing ring, which was one reason for all the buzz surrounding the fight. Mayweather is a 40-year-old boxing legend who was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and he is considered the greatest defensive boxer ever. McGregor, on the other hand, is a famous and brash 29-year-old mixed martial artist from the city of Dublin in Ireland.
Some of the most famous celebrities in the world, such as Lebron James, Drake, Mike Tyson, and more showed up to watch the long-awaited event in Las Vegas, the city that all of Mayweather’s fights have been in. Did it to live up to their expectations?
16-year-old Clover Hill High School senior Aradh Faruqi is a boxing enthusiast. Before the fight, he predicted, “I don’t think the fight is going to live up to the hype. I think it will be a quick knockout by Floyd.” Faruqi shared this opinion with most people. This is largely because Mayweather is a boxer and McGregor is not. He then added, “I also think it could last a full 12 rounds, with Floyd winning by decision.” Mayweather had done this in the past against top tier boxers such as Manny Pacquiao and Zab Judah. Mayweather is a defensive boxer, so his fights often end up disappointing the viewers.
On August 26, Aradh said he expected a boring fight, like the one he saw against Pacquiao. Another fight fan, avid UFC spectator and wrestler Jackson Turley, is a junior at St. Christopher’s School. He said, “as an MMA fighter, I thought Conor would win by TKO or win enough rounds in the beginning to win the score cards. During wrestling, I have his type of attitude. He goes for the knockout, which I love.” McGregor has proven to be a skilled fighter, with a record of 21-3. Also, being from Ireland, he attracted many international fans, which was a significant factor in building the excitement around the fight.
Mayweather had been the clear favorite to win the fight ever since it was decided that it would be in a boxing ring. His record (49-0 before the fight) spoke for itself. But why was McGregor such an underdog after all of his UFC success? Adam Nadeem, a 24-year-old businessman and boxing fan from Houston, said, “Put aside how much money these guys made in one night and look at the bigger picture, Floyd’s legacy. If he lost, he would always be known for that one loss, and the 49 wins would mean nothing. 50-0 is much more of a powerful statement than 49-1.” According to Upper School history teacher Dr. Brian Ross, who teaches a history elective on Race, Culture and Sport, “Serious boxing fans wanted Mayweather to win because if a non-boxer, UFC guy like McGregor could defeat a 49-0 boxer, the sport of boxing would decline in stature.”
There are major differences between boxing and UFC fighting. Boxers have less freedom as to where they can hit, and they are restricted to using only their hands, as opposed to UFC fighters, who can grapple and kick in a match. There are penalties in boxing for things that are legal in UFC fighting. Nadeem said, “[McGregor] was very arrogant and cocky, as he usually is, saying that he would knock out Mayweather in less than four rounds.”
Many people took Mayweather’s side because of controversial comments from McGregor. He was accused of being racist for saying “dance for me, boy” to Mayweather during a promotional event. Then, after initially being called racist for that comment, he said, “All of the media seem to be saying I’m against black people. … Do they not know I’m half black? I’m half black from the bellybutton down.” He later called black boxers “dancing monkeys” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The pay-per-view cost of this fight was $100, making it one of the most expensive fights to ever be broadcast. “Even though this fight costs double the amount of the [Pacquiao] fight, it was 10 times the fight, and I didn’t expect that,” said McGregor supporter Turley. This view echoes the sentiment of the many people who were unsure about how entertaining the fight would be. Many thought it it was not going to be worth the cost. Ross understands what each outcome would mean for boxing, which many claim is a dying sport. Fox Sports news anchor Skip Bayless tweeted, “Did ANYONE who bought it think it was an unwatchable joke??? NO! Edge-of-seat entertaining into 9th rd.” Overall, viewers were satisfied with the outcome and competitiveness of the fight.
McGregor was entering a field he had no experience in, which caused some people to claim the fight was called too early. Bayless argued this point as well. ESPN First Take anchor Stephen A. Smith said, “I thought it was one of those situations where ultimately it was a premature stoppage … I would have liked to see Floyd at least put him down.” Considering McGregor’s lack of boxing experience, Smith believed the referee should have let it go longer, because UFC fights usually end when a fighter hits the ground. Most major sports news analysts agree with Smith.
Featured image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.