The once-ridiculous thought that the undefeated boxer, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., would come out of retirement to fight the UFC's reigning lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, is now looking like just a question of 'when?' not 'if?'. After all, Max Kellerman of ESPN and HBO, made a very good point: "Fighters don't truly retire until people stop handing them huge paychecks". And you can bet that Mayweather's manager, Al Haymon, is going to ensure that Floyd gets a very big check for this fight - I am convinced it will be well into the 9-figure range.
Staking the Actual Fight
So all the commentators and pundits on both sides (boxing and even the UFC) acknowledge that given the match will be fought under boxing rules, Floyd can't and won't lose. Most argue that for Mayweather to take his first loss, it would require some very awkward 'Sunday punch' from McGregor that catches Mayweather off-guard...and Mayweather's masterful defense just won't allow that to happen.
But there is question as to 'how' Mayweather will win. Mayweather is not a power puncher. In fact, if you take out the weird Victor Ortiz KO, Floyd hasn't scored a knockout since he floored the then-undefeated, Ricky Hatton, 10 years ago. Floyd is a finesse fighter who relies on his famous 'shoulder-roll' and his lightning quick reflexes to pot-shot opponents into virtual submission. Mayweather has taken a lot of criticism for his lack of an exciting style, but it's his superb defense that has enabled him to stay undefeated and not take punishment in the ring. He's never even been 'officially' knocked down (some would dispute this in the Judah fight).
- Age: Floyd is now 40 years old - an age that was once considered ancient in boxing. But, both Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins have shown that a disciplined lifestyle (no alcohol, no weight fluctuations, etc.) can very much extend a boxer's prime long after his peers have retired. In any case, you have to take into account that Floyd is 40 and McGregor is 28 - the exact age that most consider an athlete to be at his physical peak.
- Style: Floyd is a defensive fighter who is elusive, doesn't allow opponents to 'cut off the ring' and is very 'surgical' in his punches - he lands at a very high percentage. I don't know much about McGregor, but apparently he is a solid boxer with a lot of power. The question will be about whether Conor can utilize head movement (he's not known to) to avoid Floyd pot-shotting him. Also, they will apparently be using boxing gloves (likely 10 oz), as compared to the typical MMA gloves of 4-6 oz., meaning McGregor's power will be somewhat mitigated by the padding.
- Vulnerability: Floyd may be undefeated, but he's not immortal. He did not look particularly sharp in his last two fights against Berto and Pacquiao - he was never seriously hurt, but it looked like he had lost a tiny step. The one fight where he did get caught was in his first fight with Marcos Maidana in May-2014. Maidana was a brawler who threw shots from awkward angles, unleashed 80 - 100 punches per round and fought pretty dirty. That very well may be McGregor's game plan to exposing Floyd.
Likely Outcome: Floyd by lopsided Unanimous Decision. Floyd gives McGregor a boxing lesson, wins by luring McGregor into his notorious traps, and then pot-shots him to rack up the points, and releases from engagement upon scoring.
Why Boxing Has So Much on the Line...
It is boxing, not the UFC or even Mayweather, that has everything to lose in this fight. Since this fight will be under 'boxing rules', if McGregor was to somehow beat Mayweather, or even give him a competitive fight, it would hurt boxing in a very big way. Boxing has always disregarded MMA as basically an unskilled, tough man competition where the craziest guy wins the fight. Boxing regards itself as 'the sweet science' - a blend of the mind and the hands in skilled combat. So, if a UFC fighter, with no legitimate professional boxing experience, was able to beat or provide a close fight with arguably the greatest boxer of his generation, what does that say about boxing?
On the flipside, if McGregor was to get annihilated, UFC fans will always be able to say, "McGregor is an MMA fighter, not a boxer" and the expectation was that he was no match for Floyd Mayweather from the outset.
But make no mistake, there are unintended consequences for the UFC if McGregor was to pull off the improbable. McGregor is going to take home the biggest paycheck in the history of the UFC for a fight with Floyd Mayweather and don't think for a second that other UFC fighters aren't going to see that. Dana White will start seeing a flood of UFC fighters wanting to go to battle in similar crossover fights for huge paydays. So, I think the potential effect of a strong McGregor performance in a fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. raises the biggest question of all: