"You don't know a damn thing about boxing."
Listen to people argue about the sport (and all fight fans ever do is argue) and you'll inevitably hear that accusation. It's the standard way of dismissing someone who doesn't agree with you about some piece of boxing arcana, but it's also so commonly thrown around because two men beating each other up with their fists can look simple -- and boxing is anything but.
So it's my turn: It's still strange to see how many people don't seem to get what they watched last Saturday night.
Conor McGregor deserves a lot of credit for landing this fight, taking his preparations seriously and committing to trying to win given his limited resources in boxing skill and experience. What he shouldn't be given credit for is his performance -- for "lasting" 10 rounds with a historically elite fighter (who is no longer elite).
The truth is McGregor was merely a prop in a perfectly executed piece of theater. He didn't survive 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather, he was carried for 10 rounds by Mayweather. Until Mayweather had enough and stopped the fight.
Let's start with a basic observation. It appears McGregor did not learn much about boxing during his training camp. He did not learn how to throw a punch. He doesn't know how to start the motion in his legs and hips and transfer his body weight through the punch. He doesn't have even average power in the ring. He also did not have any grasp of the basic rules. It was quite shocking to hear McGregor admit in the postfight press conference that he was "using valuable energy here to get to this man's back and we're just being reset." Was he under the impression that he could throw punches to an opponent's back? Not to mention all the holding of the head and rabbit punches. It makes one wonder what the point was of having referee Joe Cortez attend McGregor's training camp leading up to the fight.
But the ruse gets pretty obvious when one observes the simple things Floyd chose not to do.
For one, after deciding he wanted to spend the fight in McGregor's chest, Mayweather rarely bothered trying the elementary things boxers do to get inside. Namely, regularly jabbing, feinting and slipping. Simply walking forward with your hands up and your chin tucked while hardly throwing, as Mayweather did, is not how boxers close down distance.
Secondly, Mayweather didn't cut off the ring. Fighters get aggressively offensive for a few reasons: They realize their opponent needs time and space to work and they want to deny that time and space. They realize their opponent is tiring and looking for ways to rest and they want to deny opportunities for rest. Or, they realize their opponent doesn't have enough power to hurt them and so they want to get in range to get off their offense because they're not worried about being hit.
All three were true in Mayweather's case. He indeed walked McGregor down, but he did it in a way that was incredibly amateurish and inefficient. He literally followed McGregor around the ring in a circle. That's not how you apply pressure. You pursue at angles, move to where your opponent is going to be -- cut off the ring in order to trap your target. Mayweather merely trailed after McGregor, growing increasingly offensive as McGregor grew fatigued.
In other words, to believe what you were seeing is to believe Floyd all of a sudden no longer knew the basics of boxing.
Now, it's true that there were obvious signs of slippage in Mayweather. His punches weren't as sharp or accurate as we've come to expect. Combine that fact with Mayweather walking forward in a straight line, and standing flat-footed as McGregor got off his weak, floppy, slapping punches, and you could, if you're naïve, get the impression that you were watching a contest.
And the misinformation campaign began during the fight itself, as various TV and online commentary started expressing their admiration for McGregor's ability. By the next day, a delusional consensus had formed. Whether the majority of the commentary truly didn't understand what they had witnessed or felt in the immediate aftermath of the fight that the bout needed to be mythologized so as not to offend the probable record-breaking pay-per-view audience is unclear.
McGregor himself can be forgiven for the hilarious assertion that he was outboxing Mayweather early. With Floyd throwing 28 total punches in the first three rounds according to CompuBox, it might have felt that way to him. More bizarre was his assertion that he thought he hurt Floyd during the fight. When? And with what? The much talked-about uppercut that McGregor landed in Round 1 is illustrative. It was well timed and landed clean -- and had precisely zero effect on Mayweather.
None of this should make anyone upset. Together, the two men put on a performance that left the audience satisfied. But let's not pretend we got a better fight than we expected; there was no fight. What the two men delivered, or rather, what Mayweather was able to engineer, was the entertaining show he had promised all long.