by Heath Bernstein

I’m a huge fan of MMA as well as boxing. The strategy behind any one-on-one competition fascinates me, which is why my three favorite sports are MMA, boxing, and tennis. Don’t sleep on tennis, by the way. It’s awesome.

Ever since Mayweather/McGregor was announced, media outlets across the board haven’t been able to stop themselves from breaking it down to a quantum level. Even experts and TV personalities such as Max Kellerman, who publically proclaimed Conor won’t land a SINGLE PUNCH during the entire fight, continue to spend hours upon hours upon hours analyzing the matchup. I get it—ratings are ratings—but if you truly feel Conor has no shot at landing a blow, let alone a chance at winning, stop wasting time on the topic. You don’t need to repeat yourself twenty minutes a day, everyday, until the fight takes place.

That said, the debate rages on, and until the score is finally settled on August 26th, people will continue to speculate. My friends keep asking me what I think, so here are my thoughts. Below I’ve broken down what many believe to be the most relevant factors heading into the fight.

Southpaw

Many have claimed Floyd is “allergic” to Southpaws (left-handed fighters). Just so you know, his record against such fighters is 8-0, with 4 knockouts (50% KO rate). The other four victories came via unanimous decision. Subtracting those bouts from Floyd’s 49-0 record, his ledger stands at 41-0, with 22 knockouts (53.6% KO rate). I can’t conclude that a 3.6% knockout differential equates to an “allergy”. Also, Conor’s professional boxing record is 0-0. It’s very important to consistently keep this in mind when weighing the value of every other “significant” factor.

Aggression

Conor will almost undoubtedly be the aggressor. His only real chance of winning this fight is to press forward and land some serious shots. That said, Floyd’s greatest strength is counterpunching. Conor is also a natural counterpuncher, so it will be interesting to see how effective McGregor’s offense becomes when he’s in charge of initiating the action. More importantly, will Conor be able to maintain an effective level of aggression throughout the course of the bout?

Endurance

Floyd is highly accustomed to fighting all 12 rounds (36 minutes). Conor has only gone the distance in MMA twice—15 & 25 minutes respectively. None of Conor’s other twenty-two fights (win or loss) have exceeded the 10-minute mark.

Trash Talk

While Conor will most likely be the aggressor, there is a chance his trash talk could tilt Floyd off his game. I do not think this will happen, but if for some reason Conor has managed to get under Floyd’s skin, forward pressure from Mayweather could put him in more danger than necessary. That said, Floyd is 49-0, and Conor is far from the first opponent who’s tried talking his way into a brawl.

Age

Conor is 29. Floyd is 40. Conor is absolutely in the prime of his career, but Floyd hasn’t shown much in the way of slowing down. Until I see Floyd in a boxing match where his skills appear deteriorated, I’m viewing his advanced age as a benefit opposed to a detriment. Floyd is also infamous for his intensely diligent work ethic. Factor in his propensity for avoiding punishment, and you’ll realize a 40-year-old Mayweather might be much younger than you think.

Size

Conor is 5’9” with a 74” reach. Floyd is 5’8” with a 72” reach. Not much difference here. A much more important factor will be the weight and frame of each fighter.

Weight

The fight is taking place at 154 lbs. Floyd will likely weigh-in right around that mark, while Conor could potentially rehydrate up to 170+ pounds. People citing Conor’s heavier frame as an advantage are mistaken. While added weight often offers pivotal advantages in MMA (mainly due to grappling exchanges), boxers are mostly rewarded for superior speed and footwork. It doesn’t matter how strong you are if you can’t find the target.

Assuming Conor does enter the ring as the much heavier man, his power advantage will be greatly outweighed by Floyd’s speed advantage. Because of this, I don’t think Conor will weigh significantly more than Floyd on fight day. Either way, it’s either a non-advantage (if they weigh the same) or a disadvtange (if Conor is significantly slower). Nonetheless, I bet most Conor fans still believe his power will be the difference. So…

Power

If you ignore Mayweather’s TKO win over Ricky Hatton in 2007 and dismiss his highly controversial stoppage of Victor Ortiz in 2011 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieJPRhlkVh4&t), Floyd hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2005. Twelve years without a knockout. That means the last thing Floyd needs to win a boxing match is power. Conversely, 18/21 of Conor’s MMA wins have come via knockout (85.7%). If anyone needs power, it’s Conor. The rules of MMA are set up to accentuate power (smaller gloves, no standing-8 count, use of kicks and elbows) whereas the rules of boxing are designed to blunt it. Which leads us to…

Gloves

MMA fighters wear 4 oz gloves, where boxers typically wear gloves that are 8-12 oz. For this fight, Conor and Floyd will likely be wearing 10 oz gloves (or 8 oz if you believe recent reports, which I don’t). Either way, Conor will be wearing gloves that are at least twice as big as what he’s been competing with. This favors Floyd for three distinct reasons.

1) Bigger gloves = more padding = less damage if/when Conor lands.

2) Bigger gloves = more defense than Conor is used to facing. It is much easier to punch through your opponent’s guard when he can only protect himself with 4 oz gloves. Conor will now face the challenge of permeating a much sturdier defensive wall. The effects here are twofold: Conor will have a tougher time landing while Floyd will have an easier time defending. Additionally…

3) Bigger gloves = heavier gloves = slower punches. Success in MMA and boxing are predicated upon elite speed and precision. Conor’s KO power is derived from exceptional speed and precision. Bigger gloves will curb the effectiveness of both. Floyd doesn’t rely upon power for victory, and he’s already been wearing 8-10 oz gloves for his entire career.

If Conor’s only path to victory is landing significantly damaging blows, 8-10 oz gloves will prove a colossal hindrance when aiming to “catch” the greatest defensive boxer of all time. But what if Conor lands flush???

Chin

Floyd has fought bigger, more aggressive punchers time and time again. On almost every occasion, he’s done so without absorbing a singular game-changing strike. But what if…? What if Conor does land that game-changing strike? Well, let’s take a look at when Floyd has been caught in the past.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ofeqQ_ljCk)

Mayweather has been clipped by boxers with only a “puncher’s chance”, and guess what? He ate their best and came away with the win. So assuming Conor can land flush, and that’s a big if, there’s evidence it won’t be the game-changer everyone expects.

Putting Everything Into Context

Allow me to offer an analogy. Wayne Gretzky is widely considered the greatest hockey player of all time. Imagine if, in his prime, he decided to race the #1 speed skater in the world. Sure, skating fast is a pivotal aspect of hockey, but do we really expect Gretzky, an athlete who balanced his mastery across a multitude of skills (passing, shooting, stick handling, checking, AND every aspect of skating), to be nearly as fast as an athlete who spent every second of their training focused on nothing but skating for speed?

In defense of Conor, while skating is an invaluable aspect of hockey, speed alone will not bring success if you’re inept at everything else. This holds true for the sport of fighting. Floyd may very well be the most talented boxer of all time, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a great, or even a good fighter. And this is very important, because it leads to the ultimate question…

Why Should We Care?

In all honesty, we shouldn’t. Not if the root of interest is in crowning the best fighter. And isn’t that the point of combat sports, determining which individual can beat the other one’s ass? Mayweather/McGregor is not a fight—it’s a boxing match. It’s what speed skating is to hockey. And while there’s an extremely small chance Gretzky could beat the speed skater in a race, there is absolutely no chance the skater could ever defeat Gretzky in a one-on-one game of hockey. The same goes for Conor vs. Floyd. While it’s all but certain Mayweather will dance his way to victory, there is virtually no chance in hell Floyd would beat Conor in what actually matters—fighting.

So again, why are we tuning in? Because people like Max Kellerman (and not to pick on Max – I love the guy), have spent so much time and energy talking about it that your brain makes you care. Everyone is talking about it. To not have an opinion is to be left out. And that’s the magic of marketing. You talk about something enough, and eventually, it becomes important.

People love to take sides and wage verbal war against each other. It’s not dissimilar to politicians putting party above country. Boxing purists are praying to God that Conor gets exactly what’s coming to him—an ass beating. At the same time, they put all their efforts into backing Floyd—a professional boxer who spent time in jail for hitting women. One fighter is hated because he talks a lot of trash. The other is hated because he talks a lot of trash…and beats women. Yet somehow the sides remain divided, party above country.

By now it should be pretty clear that Conor has a slim chance of hurting Floyd and an even slimmer chance of winning the match. But that doesn’t matter because lines have been drawn and the outcome, while foregone, is far from certain. And therein lies the beauty of truth. Nothing sells better than uncertainty—especially the type that breeds hope for the hopeless.

You can follow Heath on Instagram @TheBeardedPoet.