This Saturday night, the world will witness one of the biggest match ups in combat sports history as UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor steps out of the Octagon and into the boxing ring to face five-division boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.
Incidentally, Mayweather vs McGregor will also be the first boxing match that I have commentated on. I trained alongside boxers at the start of my career and fell in love with boxing at a young age so I understand what it takes to get in a boxing ring. I understand the boxing mentality and I’m hoping to bring my knowledge and experience to the table. It’s fair to say I’m hugely excited about this match up.
There are a lot of people who are sceptical about the fight taking place but, for me, it makes complete sense to let the fight happen. For the sport of mixed martial arts, there is nothing to lose. McGregor is stepping out of his comfort zone and taking on one of the greatest athletes ever to step foot into the boxing ring. But Mayweather is not a puncher and I believe there would be more risk involved if McGregor was fighting some of the other top names in the UFC’s lightweight division such as Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The likelihood of McGregor beating Mayweather under boxing rules is, undoubtedly, slim. However, if there wasn’t a chance of McGregor winning then we wouldn’t be counting down the hours until the first bell. There is an intrigue around this fight like I’ve never seen before and the majority of that is down to McGregor.
There’s no denying that Mayweather is the best the world. He has beaten every man he has faced in the professional boxing ring. Forty-nine times they have tried and forty-nine times they have failed. But every one of those opponents was a boxer. What McGregor brings, that Mayweather hasn’t previously encountered, is unpredictability. This is about real fighting. McGregor will not fight like a boxer and he won’t replicate what other boxers have done in the past. He has a different fighting stance and he has the power to throw a punch down the barrel and connect with Mayweather.
McGregor is also the bigger man and has an understanding of over and underhooks, and head position that Mayweather will be unlikely to have encountered in his entire professional career. It’s this element of unpredictability from McGregor that intrigues me the most and, when you have punching power like McGregor has, there’s always a possibility to win.
Mayweather doesn’t think offensively; he thinks defensively. McGregor is the opposite so there are going to be traps that McGregor will need to avoid. He needs to use a lot of feint so he can draw those attacks out of Mayweather before he falls for them. The fluidity of McGregor’s movement will allow him to disguise his punches until the very last minute, and his footwork carries him into range, allowing him to deliver the punch with weight and momentum behind it.
Then comes McGregor’s actual offensive - fighting at long range, covering distance very quickly, and finding a home for his powerful left hand in the narrowest of opportunities. McGregor also has the option to step through to give chase if Mayweather backs away quickly, or to step across and cut off a corner without breaking his combination. It’s worth noting as well that McGregor is only the eighth southpaw that Mayweather will have faced in 50 bouts so there’s no denying that Mayweather has a preference towards orthodox fighters.
Unlike in a MMA bout, McGregor can throw punches without the concern of someone trying to tie him up and drag him to the ground. Yes, there will be clinch work in the fight, but the boxing clinch is elementary in comparison to a full mixed martial arts rules fight, often favouring overhooks as they are better for controlling the arms. If they do clinch, McGregor will have the height and weight advantage and if he is stifled, it will only be a few seconds before the referee gets involved.
Of course, the chances for McGregor are slim, but I challenge you to find me another fighter who has done what McGregor has done in such a short space of time. He has achieved so much and is without doubt one of the most talented fighters we have ever been fortunate enough to watch in action.
Mayweather, meanwhile, has beaten every man he has faced in the professional boxing ring. If McGregor tries to play skill-for-skill with Mayweather then I think the Irishman could be in trouble. It’s the element of unpredictability, though, that McGregor brings to the table. That’s what makes this event so intriguing and that is why everyone should tune in to watch.
Dan Hardy will join the Sky Sports Box Office team as studio expert and ringside commentator for Mayweather vs. McGregor, live on Saturday, August 26. Book now at www.skysports.com/mayweathermcgregor
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