Conventional wisdom says that Conor McGregor stands virtually no chance in a boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather.
However, a sizable contingent of fans and even analysts have predicted that McGregor can win because he’s not a boxer, rather than in spite of that fact. With his unconventional movement and powerful left hand, they say, McGregor can do what no other boxer has done: knock out Floyd Mayweather.
Thankfully the time for analysis is almost over with the fight one day away. So let’s look at the possible outcomes of Mayweather-McGregor, ranked from least to most likely.
4) McGregor by decision
Simply put, this is the one result that can be written off as virtually impossible. McGregor, highly confident that he will indeed shock the world, even knows that outboxing Floyd Mayweather over twelve rounds is not going to be his avenue to victory.
In fact, McGregor’s best chance may be to rough Mayweather up to the extent that he is comfortable having a few points taken away by the referee over the course of the fight. In a technical, 12-round battle he will be thoroughly outclassed, so winning on points should be the furthest thing from his mind. Fortunately for McGregor, his pre-fight statements are proof that he is well aware of what he’ll need to do to defeat Mayweather, which brings us to our next likeliest outcome:
3) McGregor by KO/TKO
No man has ever done it. In Mayweather’s 49 professional bouts he has not been dropped to the canvas, let alone knocked out. The amount of times he has been rocked by a punch can be counted on one hand (the last time he appeared to be in true danger was due to a series of Shane Mosley right hands in 2010).
But if the powerful Irish southpaw can shock the world and get his hand raised on Saturday night, it’ll be because he caught Mayweather and sent him to the canvas.
Analysts that argue for McGregor’s chances at achieving that elusive knockout punch point to his unconventional movement. He won’t approach Mayweather like other boxers have, and will use creative footwork and setups that are more in line with traditional martial arts than boxing. However, all the movement and creativity and even potential dirty tactics in the clinch mean nothing if McGregor cannot use them to land punches on Floyd’s chin.
Mayweather will certainly see movements he hasn’t seen before in the ring. The problem for McGregor will come when Floyd doesn’t have nearly as much trouble figuring out those movements as people expect.
2) Mayweather by decision
Floyd Mayweather is not a knockout puncher, or at least hasn’t been during the last dozen or so fights of his long career. He isn’t a naturally heavy-handed fighter, and that fact has only been reinforced by hand injuries over the years.
But Mayweather is a master at adaptation, both in and out of the ring. He recognized that he was aging and so he changed his style, focusing even more on his pristine defense, doing just enough to win rounds and win fights.
Given his style and lack of knockouts over the latter stretch of his career, it is very likely that Mayweather picks McGregor apart over 12 rounds on his way to a comfortable unanimous decision victory. Once he figures out McGregor’s patterns and movements, Mayweather will be content with jabbing and countering until the final bell rings.
1) Mayweather by KO/TKO
So if Mayweather is not known for his knockout power and hasn’t finished an opponent in years, why is Floyd by KO the likeliest outcome?
Here’s where we cut past the hype and examine exactly how out of his element McGregor may be. Professional boxers take years to work their way up to 12 round fights, even accomplished amateurs and Olympic medalists. McGregor will be fighting 12 rounds in his first ever boxing match.
He’s undoubtedly prepared himself physically for the 36-minute contest, but sparring rounds in the gym are very different than the actual fight. His opponent, Floyd Mayweather, knows how to use those 36 minutes better than any boxer in history. He knows when the find small moments to catch his breath, he knows when to push the action, he knows when to let his opponent tire himself out. McGregor has none of that experience.
Therefore the most likely outcome of the fight is that McGregor is worn down by the later rounds, exhausted from pressuring and missing Mayweather and hurting from the sharp, clean punches he’s taken. Perhaps Mayweather will be content with toying with McGregor from there, but once he has rendered McGregor defenseless he will likely end the fight with a body shot or enough flurries that the referee is forced to step in.
Official Prediction: Mayweather by TKO, Round 8