Why McGregor Can’t Win

With all of the hype surrounding next Saturday’s blockbuster fight between boxer Floyd Mayweather and mixed martial artist Conor McGregor, it’s almost easy to forget that the match’s outcome has long been decided, decades before the fighters put pen to paper earlier this summer.

By now, you’ve likely heard every argument as to why McGregor, who has never boxed professionally, still has a chance against the best boxer of the past thirty years. Analysis of the event has provided much-needed content filler across all media platforms during a very dry sports month. But no amount of mental gymnastics from pundits can change the fact that McGregor — while easily one of the best mixed martial arts fighters in history — simply has too much catching up to do against a boxer who has never been beaten in 49 professional contests.

Because boxing is a sport so many people aren’t familiar with, millions of people are still giving McGregor a “puncher’s chance” in his showdown against Mayweather, who, even at 40, is as sharp as ever. Here’s why some of the most common arguments on behalf of McGregor simply don’t hold weight.

Argument Number One: “A Fight is a Fight”

Both boxing matches and MMA contests are considered “fights”. Both sports involve violence. Both sports involve punching. Because of the parallels between these sports, many people mistakenly assume that McGregor’s MMA skills will translate to boxing, effectively giving him a chance against Mayweather.

Unfortunately for McGregor, the differences between boxing and MMA are too stark, and Mayweather’s skill specificity is a mountain too high to climb. Boxing rounds are three minutes long, compared to five minutes in MMA, allowing experienced fighters to save energy while doing just enough to rack up points. Boxing gloves are eight ounces, compared to four in MMA, giving defensive fighters an advantage in blocking and parrying punches. And the boxing ring is enclosed with ropes, compared to a fence in MMA, providing elusive fighters with endless escape routes during heated exchanges. Mayweather, for decades, has mastered these nuances perhaps better than any other fighter in history. McGregor has never even competed within these rules.

By choosing MMA over boxing at a young age, McGregor negated any chance he would ever have of beating Floyd Mayweather, who came from a boxing family and was wearing gloves before he could walk. Perhaps the best comparison we can make to this fight is a world-class triathlete taking on an elite Kenyan runner in a marathon. The triathlete, while obviously fit and fast, would be blown away by the runner, who has exclusively trained in one discipline his entire life.

Argument Number Two: “McGregor is Bigger, Younger, and Hungrier”

Having fought as high the UFC’s 170-pound weight class, Conor McGregor, 29, certainly has a bigger natural frame than Mayweather, 40, who realistically only moved up from the 135-pound weight class for bigger paydays. Couple those stats with McGregor’s nothing-to-lose, everything-to-gain attitude, and you have an argument for the perfect storm that could lead to a McGregor upset.

What most people following this fight fail to realize, however, is that the arguments of youth, size, and hunger have been made against Mayweather for years, and the outcome has never been anything than a Mayweather victory. In his mid-to-late thirties, Mayweather took on bigger opponents (Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez), younger opponents (Alvarez, Victor Ortiz), and opponents so hell-bent on winning that they broke rules (Cotto, Marcos Maidana). Still, Mayweather controlled each fight, often using the size and aggressiveness of his opponents against them.

Although now 40 years old, Mayweather is still in tremendous shape. And motivation won’t be an issue for him, considering a loss would spoil an otherwise perfect career.

Argument Number Three: “McGregor’s Movement will be Foreign to Mayweather”

The idea that McGregor, who has a partnership with commercial “movement coach” Ido Portal, will show Mayweather never-before-seen footwork and angles is comical at best. McGregor is certainly elusive in the octagon, and his varied striking from a wide stance makes him very difficult to fight. But ultimately, variety is very thing that makes McGregor so effective. And within the limited rule set of boxing, McGregor won’t be able to rely on unpredictability. No matter how much energy he spends moving in and out against Mayweather, boxers need to be within arm’s range to land punches. And Mayweather has spent nearly four decades mastering that range.

What’s more, Mayweather may actually be a better athlete than McGregor. Against Ricky Hatton in 2007, many predicted that Mayweather would tire against the relentless pace of the Brit, whose stamina was the stuff of legends. Instead, it was Hatton who fatigued against Mayweather, who seemingly got stronger as the fight went on.

Mayweather has an incredibly rare combination of fast-and-slow-twitch muscle fibers that has been overshadowed only by his own ring mastery. With his swift footwork, incredibly fast hands, and seemingly endless energy, Mayweather may actually be the best athlete in boxing.

McGregor, while an incredible athlete in his own right, has shown physical vulnerabilities in the past, particularly when it comes to stamina. The training he does with Portal, while effective for level changes, grappling exchanges, and overall flexibility, is not suited for long-duration efforts. After gassing out against Nate Diaz, McGregor added extra cycling to his training regime, which has indeed increased the size of his gas tank. But unless McGregor has been cranking out 300 kilometers a week on the roads, he’ll struggle to keep up with Mayweather, whose opponents all marvel at his immunity to fatigue.

Argument Number Four: “Mayweather Struggles against Southpaws”

The Mayweather southpaw myth originated in 2006 when Mayweather lost three of the first four rounds in his fight with welterweight champion Zab Judah (Mayweather went on to win the fight’s final eight rounds). That fight came just two years after Mayweather was rocked by southpaw DeMarcus Corley, leading many to believe that a left-handed stance may be the key to solving the Mayweather puzzle.

But since that 2006 bout against Judah, Mayweather has been flawless against southpaws, dominating the likes of Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, and the best southpaw of his generation, Manny Pacquiao.

The only men to ever legitimately come close to beating Mayweather have been Jose Luis Castillo (2002), Oscar de la Hoya (2007), and Marcos Maidana (2013). What the three men had in common were their orthodox stances, their aggressive styles, and their elite stamina. McGregor could not be more different.

Argument Number Five: “McGregor’s Left Hand Can End the Fight at Any Time”

The big ‘X’ factor in this fight — the one that has everyone at least a little bit intrigued — is the legendary punching power of McGregor, whose left hand has slept half a dozen world-class fighters inside the octagon. Even if Mayweather boxes circles around McGregor, people wonder, what happens if McGregor connects with the perfect punch?

While McGregor does have dynamite in his hands, the question of what happens when Mayweather gets hit has already been answered many times before. Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao, and Canelo Alvarez are just some of the explosive world champions who have landed clean on Mayweather’s chin, only to go on and lose decisively. Simply put, Mayweather knows how to handle adversity.

Still, some argue, McGregor could conceivably land a punch so clean, so on-the-money that he knocks Mayweather unconscious on the spot, thereby ending the fight. That hypothetical was put to rest during a recent sparring session when McGregor connected with a clean left hand on the chin of boxer Paulie Malignaggi. While the shot did damage, Malignaggi remained on his feet. Mayweather obviously would fare no worse.

How the Fight Will Play Out

If you want to know how August 26th will look, I encourage you to watch the highlights of Floyd Mayweather’s 2000 fight against Emmanuel Augustus. During that bout, Augustus, an awkward, athletic fighter with nothing to lose, tried everything he could to rattle the unbreakable Mayweather. But Mayweather’s punches were too crisp, his angles too sharp. There was nothing Augustus could have done to win that night, and McGregor will face a similar reality next Saturday.

None of this is to say that McGregor isn’t a great fighter. There simply isn’t an athlete in the world who can pull off what he’s trying to do. LeBron James, with his tremendous size and speed, couldn’t cut it in the NFL as a linebacker. Likewise, Rob Gronkowski, who also has a freak combination of mass and agility, would fail miserably as a small forward in the NBA. McGregor is no exception to the rule of specificity in sport, and the world will soon see why on August 26th.

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