Nothing is impossible in boxing. No matter how excellently skilled or athletically gifted a fighter might be, it only takes one punch to determine the outcome of a fight.
And while Floyd Mayweather is one of the few fighters in history to maintain a perfect record—especially given the extremely high level of competition he’s faced over the course of his career—every single fighter who has ever lived is capable of being defeated given a long enough timeline.
Mayweather has been a fighter for over 20 years, and 49 fights and 387 rounds of professional boxing take’s its toll on any man.
Those who say Conor McGregor is attempting the impossible on August 26 are mistaken. The same type of folks said similar things before James Braddock beat Max Baer in 1935, Buster Douglas defeated Mike Tyson in 1990 and, more recently, when Jeff Horn upset Manny Pacquiao on July 2.
Even the greatest fighters are not immune to upsets.
McGregor, age 29, certainly has the height, weight and age advantage going into the fight. While Mayweather, 40, has won a lineal championship at 154 pounds, his most natural weight is probably 147, and let’s not forget the diminutive superstar started his boxing career at 130 pounds in 1996. Meanwhile, McGregor should probably be facing the likes of a true middleweight a la Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez instead of a blown up welterweight like Mayweather.
Still, age and size are fool’s gold in boxing. There are countless examples of older, smaller great fighters defeating larger, younger good ones, and regardless of being 11 years senior to McGregor, one must assume going into the bout Mayweather is still an excellent fighter based on his undefeated record as well as the way he looked as unbeatable as always in his last fight against Andre Berto two years ago.
McGregor will be in deep waters for his first foray into the sweet science. While boxing is an important part of mixed martial arts, the inclusion of striking with elbows, knees and feet, as well as all that wrestling, means Mayweather will have a considerable competitive advantage going into the fight, even more so than usual. McGregor is used to fighting with considerable more options at his disposal, while Mayweather is adept at the one particular style.
But everyone can lose, and if McGregor is serious about knocking off Mayweather, he’d be prudent to consider the strategies below.
Fight Like the Younger, Larger Fighter
McGregor should use any and all advantages he has in the fight. His primary assets, age and size, might be fool’s gold in a way, but it doesn’t make those attributes completely worthless. They should be exploited for all they’re worth. Against Mayweather, McGregor needs to establish his youthful vigor and overall physicality from the opening bell. He should body up on Mayweather, grab and hold, and while wrestling isn’t technically legal in boxing, one sees such in boxing matches all the time.
Leaning, grabbing, pushing—McGregor should maul Mayweather all he can and make Floyd work harder than he ever has. He should lean his heavier frame on him, bump him, strafe him with forearms and try to inflict as much pressure on Mayweather’s diminutive frame as possible. Whatever level of such tactics the referee will allow that night, McGregor should stay right there the whole fight.
Don’t Worry About Landing Clean Punches
Hitting Mayweather clean, especially early and with any regularity, is virtually impossible. He’s one of the greatest defensive technicians ever, and carefully trying to box him and match him punch for punch is just plain stupid. Canelo Alvarez is a higher-level fighter than Marcos Maidana, but the latter enjoyed much more success than Alvarez because he committed to volume punching, especially in the first fight.
Channeling his inner Maidana, McGregor should aim for anything and everything on which he can land a punch. Forget trying to hit Floyd’s head: work the body, arms, elbows, and shoulders—whatever is there.
The goal, of course, is to tire Mayweather out. While punches that Mayweather picks off in his patented Philly shell defense are less damaging than clean shots to the face or body, the cumulative damage is something McGregor can build on as the fight progresses. Ideally, after round 4, McGregor can start working up and down Mayweather’s torso and the punches start getting through. Or if Mayweather decides digression is the better part of valor and moves his feet more instead of fighting in the pocket, McGregor can at least appear the aggressor to the judges.
The objective is simple: either legitimately hurt Mayweather with his power or simply out throw a retreating Mayweather and take the win on the scorecards.
However great a UFC fighter McGregor is right now, and some already consider him one of the best ever, the plain fact remains that he is not a professional boxer. Against Mayweather, that’s not really such a bad thing.
Think about it. Mayweather has faced and defeated just about any reputable boxing style in the sport today, and the more technically sound fighters he’s faced have had more trouble than the erratic brawler types. McGregor should avoid at all cost trying to box Mayweather like a prototypical boxer. He needs punches in bunches, from odd angles thrown creatively.
In fact, the less jab-cross combinations (the most used combination in boxing by far) McGregor throws on fight night, the higher the chance he has to win the fight. McGregor should be forceful, erratic and creative enough with each punch to keep Mayweather guessing where the next one is coming from. No, it won’t be easy, but such will be necessary to winning the fight.
Mayweather’s style is great against all boxing styles, but it’s less great against the unconventional.
Keep Talking Trash
Mayweather has been the alpha male in just about every fight he’s ever had. McGregor has too, and while both men have a penchant for talking trash before and sometimes even during bouts, McGregor has made a point to out tongue-lash Mayweather during the prefight buildup and shouldn’t stop there.
Mayweather doesn’t like to be upstaged, and while it’s counterintuitive to some, the truth about fighting is that too much emotion during a fight can be a very bad thing. McGregor needs every advantage he can grab in the fight, and trying to rattle Mayweather, or get him thinking about one-upmanship instead of boxing could help McGregor steal a win.
Think about it this way: the more data a fighter can give to Mayweather to process the better. Whether it’s weird combinations or showmanship, the goal is the same: short-circuit Mayweather’s mechanics.
Mayweather will almost assuredly box McGregor’s ears off. He’s the best fighter of the last 20 years and one of the greatest ever to lace up the gloves. But anything can happen in the sport of boxing, and McGregor pulling the upset isn’t as outside the realm of possibility as most boxing pundits predict. The Irishman is a great fighter in his own right, a larger, younger and just-as-brash one fighting in the prime of his career. If he manages to beat Mayweather, it will not be the biggest upset in the history of the sport.
While the upset isn’t all that likely, it certainly remains a real possibility.
Because both boxing and MMA are there very same in this one indisputable fact: anything can happen on fight night.