Of the two major questions to emerge from Sunday’s superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, one is more straightforward to answer than the other.
Should McGregor, as he protested after being stopped in the 10th round, have been allowed to take enough more unanswered blows to the head to knock him to the canvas? No, clearly not.
Given the magnitude of the money, audience, and egos involved, referee Robert Byrd’s stoppage was one of the better you’ll see in combat sports. After a bright start where he somewhat confounded predictions of his hopelessness, McGregor was done after nine rounds. His lungs betrayed him and his hands followed suit.
Mayweather was like a rich dude in a strip club with a cigar and bad intentions. Chances are that’s not a metaphor, given reports of ‘Money’s’ routine as the fight loomed.
McGregor, brave as he was, in that hopelessly-outmatched-but-refusing-to-kiss-the-canvas fighting Irish way, had entered a world of hurt by the time the contest was halted.
“I get a little floppy when I get tired”, McGregor said as he protested that it was mere fatigue to blame for his hopefully temporary retardation.
It wasn’t tiredness, Conor, it was the flushed right hands to the temple that made your brain and your body stop functioning as well as you’d have wished.
Surveying a man who could no longer defend himself and who had just earned the right to ponder how to rid his bank account of $US100 million, Byrd did the only decent thing, calling an end to the festivities while McGregor retained enough mental capacity to remain in charge of his own affairs.
McGregor, warrior to the end, thought that was “fookin” lots of things, including wrong.
Few will agree with him.
The second question over what may well wind up as the richest one-day event in human history – did McGregor actually manage to provide a decent challenge for the now 50-0, once again retired, self-proclaimed GOAT, is harder to answer.
The Showtime-appointed commentators were at pains to describe the opening three rounds as shockingly competitive, given that McGregor was actually “touching Mayweather’s face with his glove”.
Again, that’s accurate. But it would – save one nice uppercut – be an exaggeration to claim that McGregor was landing punches to Mayweather’s face, which was typically beatific and unmarked as he counted his blessings post-fight.
McGregor’s punches were a combination of what Colonel Bod Sheridan would describe as shoe-shine blows, and illegal hammer fists to the back of the head.
Mayweather could barely raise enough interest in proceedings to be annoyed with the repeated fouls.
“Our game plan was to take our time, let him shoot all his heavy shots early and then take him out at the end, down the stretch,” said Mayweather.
“I guaranteed everybody that this fight wouldn’t go the distance. Boxing’s reputation was on the line.”
To the uninitiated, McGregor might have seemed to have been holding his own as Mayweather slowly roused his 40-year-old frame into action.
The judges saw it differently, with two of the three giving the Irish MMA star just the first round and Mayweather the next eight before the contest was stopped. A third judge had Mayweather ahead 87-83 – or eight rounds to two with one tied.
The greatest sports spectacle of all time might not have been a farce, but neither was it particularly even.
“He’s composed – not that fast or powerful, but boy is he composed,” McGregor said of his 40-year-old opponent.
“Fair play to him, what a career he’s had. I thought it was a little early with the stoppage. I would have liked to have hit the floor, he should have let me keep going.
“I’ve been strangled on live TV and came back, so I would have liked him to have let it go. It was some buzz.
“I thought we were close. It was fatigue. The referee could have let it keep going, let the man put me down.
“No one is taking these kind of risks. I’ll take it on the chin, it’s another day for me.”
Which is very much the point.