When it was first announced that Conor McGregor would be making his professional boxing debut against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather, few pundits or fans gave the Irishman absolutely any chance of winning.
Mayweather is a five-division world champion, having won fifteen world titles and four lineal championships in four different weight classes. He boasts a flawless professional record of 49-0. McGregor, in contrast, last boxed competitively when he was little more than a child, training out of Crumlin Boxing Club.
However, with the super-fight now less than a week away, the odds on a shock McGregor victory have shortened. For the first time since the announcement: people are beginning to seriously wonder whether the two-weight UFC world champion can stun the greatest defensive boxer of all-time.
But what would a McGregor victory look like? And what tactics would he need to adopt to rock Mayweather?
Here, five experts put forward their view.
Rough Mayweather up in the ring
UFC light-heavyweight Jimi Manuwa, who is targeting a boxing match of his own with none other than David Haye, thinks that McGregor has to rough Mayweather up if he is to have any chance of winning the fight.
And he told The Independent that he thinks some of McGregor’s MMA skills could come in useful in this regard:
“I do give McGregor a chance of winning. The thing is Mayweather’s ring craftsmanship is second to none. So Conor has to really make him work and bully him in there – he has to get him into a corner and beat him up. And Conor has MMA skills which Mayweather won’t have seen before.
“Coming from MMA, Conor has so many more skills other than just boxing which he can use, such as the clinch and his wrestling ability. Plus he’s the stronger man. So it is going to be a very interesting fight, but it’s key that Conor gets on the inside and really bullies him.
“Of course on paper it looks as though McGregor hasn’t got a chance, but when you put two trained athletes inside a contained environment, anything can happen. We have seen that a lot in the UFC, but maybe we haven’t seen it in boxing yet.
“I think if McGregor catches him it could be lights out.”
Land. The. Left. Counter.
McGregor’s pull-back left-hand counter is widely considered to be one of the most destructive shots in MMA. Few have been able to take it, and part of the intrigue of this fight is whether Mayweather will be able to survive the shot.
According to UFC president Dana White, landing the left is by far McGregor’s best chance of winning:
“Listen, when you put two people together anywhere – here, anywhere – and they start throwing punches, anything is possible,” he said on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“Floyd Mayweather is going to be 41 years old this year. And if there is a kink in that armor, it has been with southpaws.
“Conor McGregor is a southpaw. He is 29 years old and he hits like a truck. He has got 12 rounds to land that punch. When he hits people, they go. And if he hits Floyd, I think he will hurt him. And when he hurts people, he puts them away.”
World-respected boxing trainer Abel Sanchez has told UFC.Com that waiting to land a big shot is not an effect strategy for McGregor, as Mayweather is too dangerous on the counter.
Instead, he thinks that McGregor has to work relentlessly, dictating the pace of the fight and making his supposedly superior fitness count:
“He has to make Floyd uncomfortable, and the only way he can make Floyd uncomfortable is to throw shots.
“They say McGregor is a big puncher, and if he waits for an opportunity to land a shot, he’s gonna get drilled by Floyd while waiting.
“So what I would try to do is get him to understand that he’s got to work three minutes out of three minutes and move his hands.
“Obviously he’s got to be in great shape to do that, so that would be part of it, and that’s why I’d worry about having enough time to get to that point.
“He’s a bigger guy than Floyd, but if he’s waiting to land one on the chin, it may be all night. The only chance he’s got is to move his hands and be faster than Floyd and be first before Floyd and just touch him.
“He needs to hit him anywhere and hopefully, while you’re moving your hands, he makes a mistake and you catch him. The more rounds he goes, the better it is for Conor McGregor.”
Jump him early
However, former MMA fighter and current Showtime analyst Brendan Schlub thinks that the early rounds are key.
He told the New York Post that it is essential McGregor lands some hard shots at the start of the fight, while Mayweather is still adjusting to the pace of the fight and gauging the distance:
“I hate to tell everyone this, but boxing is something that every mixed martial artist is very familiar with.
“I think Floyd is going to initially come out a little hesitant. He’s going to be a little caught off guard by Conor’s movement, how big he is, his distance.
“Those first four rounds, I see Conor taking the majority of those rounds just because he’s going to be more active, he’s going to be applying more pressure.
“He’s getting into Floyd’s head, getting him to kind of fight out of his element and getting Floyd to come forward and hopefully get aggressive with Conor. And that gives Conor his best chance to knock him out.”
Get into Mayweather’s head
The last man to box Mayweather, Andre Berto, agrees with Schaub that there is a chance McGregor could get into his opponent’s head. He told MMA Fighting that forcing Mayweather into making some silly mistakes could be his best route to victory:
“I see Conor coming in there really showing that bravado, showing that cockiness and showing that he’s really there to fight. And somewhat trying to steal the stage from Floyd just with his antics.
“He could get Floyd into a mind-game situation where he has him pulling some type of mistakes and [Mayweather] gets caught with a big shot and gets hurt. And [McGregor] could stop him.
“Or I see Floyd not playing into any of these antics and being who he is, to stay poised and to stay sharp and let his boxing skills just pick Conor apart. And either late rounds stop Conor just from the accumulation of shots or maybe cuts or just being beat up, or just outboxing him for 12 rounds and just trying to make him look silly.
“It’s the fight game — anything can happen. It’s either Conor catches him early, finishes him or Floyd is gonna outboxing him and makes him look silly and tries to embarrass him.”
Independent News Service