Chess Not Checkers: Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor Fight Preview

  • By Behind The Gloves
  • 25 Aug, 2017

Just one day from their August 26th showdown, 'Behind The Gloves' staff writer Rob Tebbutt previews Mayweather vs McGregor...

Floyd Mayweather squares off against Conor McGregor this Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, in a bout that has cast an ominous shadow over the world of combat sports.

It is a contest that has divided public opinion like no other. The fight’s detractors – of which there are many – deride the match-up as little more than a money grab from two of sports most marketable figures. Billed as ‘The Money Fight’, its outlandish garishness has only been topped by the, at times, vulgar volatility of its build-up.

After partaking in an almost unprecedented media tour, tackling four major cities in four days, the Mayweather-McGregor “circus” broke down the door to the homes of viewers and thrust itself (quite literally in the case of the gyrating McGregor) into the conscience of the paying public. Playing to crowds in excess of 10,000 – for a press conference – the two serial trash-talkers took turns to gain the psychological upper hand, amidst a chorus of cheers and vitriol from their respective camps.

After seemingly being caught unaware during the now-infamous ‘mic-gate’ debacle of the opening presser in Los Angeles, McGregor responded in Toronto with a blistering verbal assault that raised excitement levels among fans to fever pitch. The silver-tongued, unashamedly cocksure Irishman produced one of the most iconic pre-fight barrages in sports history as he took aim at Mayweather, his team and – much to everyone’s surprise, not least the man himself – Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza. It was a performance in public speaking akin to that of twisted stand-up comedian rather than of a fighter. McGregor possessed the underlying menace of a man seemingly intent of not only embarrassing his opponent, but also convincing the seemingly-unbelieving world of his belief in his ability. Even those who claimed not to be interested in the very public slanging-match between the two multi-millionaires had been turned by the savage eloquence of McGregor. Interest levels had been piqued.
McGregor dazzled during an electric Toronto press conference, but the 'May-Mac World Tour' would take a dark turn the following night in New York.

However, such as has been the case with many high-octane build-ups, there would come a point soon after where the jokes stopped being funny. A plateau had been reached in Toronto and there was only one way to go. 

The following evening saw crowds turned out in their droves to witness a performance labelled “as bad as it can get” by UFC President Dana White at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. McGregor, draped in a polar bear fur coat, addressed earlier accusations of racism from Team Mayweather with an ill-advised “black from the belly-button down” gag. It was a shockingly insensitive comment that bombed harder than his former-opponent Jose Aldo in their UFC World Featherweight title fight. At this moment, the ever-so-slightly softened stance of boxing’s hardcore reverted to type. The “show” was lambasted for its poor taste and calls of bringing the sport into disrepute grew louder and more vociferous from a discontented audience.

The gruelling tour came to an end in London the following evening in-front of 10,000 fans at Wembley Arena. The two respective camps were on their best behaviour – or as close to it as possible – and the show did no more self-destructive damage than the previous instalment. Despite the macabre tone of the New York leg, the old mantra that no press is bad press still showed to be true. Rightly or wrongly, people were talking. For Mayweather and McGregor, their entire careers as pay-per-view fighters has been built on a foundation of pushing boundaries, overstepping the mark and garnering a reaction from their audiences: sometimes good, more often bad. This was no exception.

Mayweather and McGregor's World Tour came to an end in-front of a raucous crowd in London... But after some close-to-the-knuckle incidents, did the tour help or hinder the bout?

But what of the fight itself? While it isn’t common to begin a fight preview with a blow-by-blow account of the press tour, it has to be said that there is nothing common about this fight. It is as unusual an event that has taken place in all of sports. Boxing, in its simplest form, is a competition between two men who enter the ring and punch each other until one man surrenders. It is that simplicity – and that alone – that has somehow led to a fight being made between a man who is undefeated in a 21-year career and another who is yet to undertake a single professional bout.

While it is impossible not to be impressed with Conor McGregor’s meteoric rise the top of the Mixed Martial Arts world, it is beggars belief that some feel he will be able to not only compete, but actually beat Floyd Mayweather – or any top contender for that matter – in a boxing ring. The talented southpaw striker has blitzed his opposition inside the octagon in eye-catching fashion, leading him to becoming one of the most marketable fighters in combat sports history. His brashness and egotism has catapulted both himself and his sport into the forefront of the global market, helping to drive pay-per-view sales and revenue by astronomical numbers in the process. McGregor has made a career out of achieving the seemingly impossible: but this time it’s a step too far.

Loyal to a fault, McGregor has prepared to face the best boxer of his generation without installing a specialist boxing coach. His MMA striking coach Owen Roddy, who has led McGregor to becoming a two-weight World Champion in the UFC, has been tasked with implementing the game-plan devised by McGregor and his head coach John Kavanagh. It is a move that has drawn harsh criticism from pundits and fans-alike, with McGregor seemingly unaware of the innate difference between the two concepts of striking and boxing. McGregor has faced further ridicule at the release of his training videos, including an unorthodox technique for warming-up his shoulders which drew further ire from the boxing community.

McGregor (centre) has kept faith with his long-time MMA coaches John Kavanagh (left) and Owen Roddy (right) ahead of his professional boxing debut.

For all of his undoubted skill inside the octagon, McGregor’s style is one that is unlikely to transcend into a successful boxing career. He is a fluid, flamboyant fighter with an excellent control of distance: but only against mixed martial artists unable to capitalise on the glaring errors he is making. On Saturday evening, he will step into the ring for the first time against one of the greatest pure boxers of all-time. McGregor, a debutant, simply does not have – and has not had – enough time to tailor his striking abilities to be even remotely competitive against a competent twelve-round fighter: let alone a bona fide all-time great in Mayweather.

Much talk has been made of McGregor’s power. It is my belief that the most significant contributing factor in this “fight” is not “ if Conor can land on Floyd”, but rather “ when Floyd lands on Conor”. Despite a career plagued with hand injuries and a safety-first fighting style, Mayweather’s boxing acumen and skill is of such a high level that he is able to pick and choose his spots to land against fellow-elite level boxers: against a routine novice like McGregor, it will be child’s play.

While he no longer carries the same punching power that saw him blast through competition earlier in his career, several of his most recent opponents will attest to the fact that Mayweather hits hard enough . He has caught – and hurt – rugged, come-forward fighters such as Argentinean banger Marcos Maidana and Mexican superstar ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in recent bouts. It is not necessarily the power of Mayweather, but the precision, accuracy and nigh-on perfect punch selection that will see him able to tag McGregor cleanly and consistently throughout the contest.

Conor McGregor has never been hit by a professional boxer, and that, I believe is the most significant asterisk attached to this bout.

Mayweather was imperious in defeating Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in their September 2013 WBA/WBC World Super Welterweight title bout.

Most expect McGregor to force the pace in the early stages as he seeks to score the most unlikely of stoppages. The 29-year-old McGregor has himself cut his initial four-round knockout promise in half, proclaiming he will end the fight inside two rounds. While he has no chance whatsoever of out-boxing and out-scoring the imperious Mayweather over the full twelve round distance – a distance McGregor has yet to complete, and will attempt to in his first fight (!?) – I would argue that an attempt to end the fight early will undoubtedly play into the natural counter-punching Mayweather’s hands. In short, McGregor runs a significant risk of being knocked out himself should he force the action in the opening rounds and stands even less chance of trying to outbox Mayweather: What choice remains? 

Conventional (lack of) wisdom from some fans expecting Mayweather to “run” from McGregor are also wide of the mark. The allegation of Mayweather as a “runner” is one tossed at him by those who, frankly, are unaware of the nuances of the sweet science. He is a defensive master. Utilising his unparalleled ring IQ first and foremost as a way of out-manoeuvring his opponents. Mayweather is a master chess-player facing a man who has yet to step away from the checkers board. Should McGregor come out firing as many expect, the inevitable check-mate will come sooner than anticipated.

It is a fight that is almost impossible to produce an all-encompassing preview due to the hideously apparent one-sided nature of the contest. Looking at the fight in black-and-white: Floyd Mayweather has faced 22 current or former World Champions in 49 professional bouts. He has defeated them all. He has held twelve World titles in five separate weight classes. He has never been officially knocked down in a professional boxing ring. Ever.

McGregor has never stepped into a professional boxing ring.  Ever.
One of the greatest defensive fighters of all-time, Mayweather has historically produced his best performances against aggressive, come-forward opponents.

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday 26th August, it is unarguable that McGregor has already “won”. His ascent to the top of the Mixed Martial Arts world is unparalleled. From collecting benefits in his home country of Ireland a mere five years ago, to being a part of the richest prize-fight in combat sports history – in his debut no less. However extraordinary that story may be, there comes a limit to how much even the most idyllic of sports fans can believe: this is it.

Mayweather will totally and completely dominate Conor McGregor before knocking him out. It is the only thing as obvious as the scale of the mismatch. Mayweather’s understanding of the fine details of boxing is something that even the greatest fighters in history have failed to master. Primed as a fighter under the tutelage of his father Floyd Sr. and Uncle Roger Mayweather, his boxing education began from the first day he was brought into the world. He is a true boxing thoroughbred, raised to become one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. To believe anything other than a Floyd Mayweather victory – and a resounding one at that – would be to discredit boxing altogether.

A win for Conor McGregor over Floyd Mayweather would not only represent the biggest upset in the history of boxing – that much is painfully obvious – it would be the biggest upset in the history of sport.

Tennis and Badminton. Rugby and American Football. Chess and Checkers… Mayweather and McGregor.

Article by: Rob Tebbutt

You can follow Rob on Twitter at: @RobTebbutt

By Behind The Gloves 24 Nov, 2017

Lee Selby has his eyes fixed firmly on unbeaten Mexican southpaw Eduardo Ramirez ahead of their showdown at the Copper Box Arena on December 9th.

The 30-year-old knows that should he come through his latest challenge unscathed, he'll be cashing in on some huge pay days in 2018, with the likes of mandatory challenger Josh Warrington, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg all banging the drum for a shot as his IBF featherweight title.

Selby told  Behind The Gloves : "I'm not looking past December 9th and doing the job against Ramirez.

"There were only a few names available for this fight who were up there in the ratings, and Ramirez was the one we went for.

"I don't like to do too much research into my opponents, I've had a little look on YouTube and he looks decent, with fast hands and he seems tough too.

"He's the sixth or seventh unbeaten fighter I've faced, so I have no worries about his record."

The Welshman was talking from his training camp in Fuerteventura following a sparring session with Ryan Wheeler and Jazza Dickens, and admits it's nice to train with the sun beating down on his back, adding: "We've been out here before, the facilities at Adam Bailey's gym are superb and it's nice to break camp up and come out here to get some sun on my back.

"I'm getting great sparring with two southpaws in Ryan and Jazza and my preparation is going well."

By Behind The Gloves 24 Nov, 2017

Former Team GB amateur standout Harvey Horn has said he hopes to be fast-tracked as he embarks upon his professional career. Horn will make his debut on the undercard of a show featuring British world champions James DeGale and Lee Selby at London’s Copper Box Arena on December 9.

The 22-year-old signed a long-term promotional deal with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren at the beginning of October and will campaign in the Flyweight division. He trains out of the famous Peacock Gym in Canning Town under highly-respected coach Mark Tibbs.

The East-Londoner gained a wealth of experience in a fine amateur career where he won won the 2014 ABA championships, before continuing his progression in the following year after winning a European silver medal in Bulgaria. He then represented Team GB at the inaugural European Games in Baku.

Horn gained what could be crucial experience through participating in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) which he entered with the British Lionhearts squad. The pro-style boxing format sees participants compete without a vest and are not permitted to wear protective headgear over three-minute rounds.

"They’re five round fights, no vest, no head guard, it’s like a professional fight." said Horn, in an exclusive interview with Behind The Gloves reporter Isaiah Benjamin.

"I was in there with the world’s best, so as far as I’m concerned I’ve already had three or four professional fights already. I’ll jump in at four rounds to start and maybe have two of those and then move up to six rounders, but I don’t want to stick around on the six’s too long."

"Judging on how I’ve been performing the last few years, and with the WSB and amateur experience that I’ve got, I’m hoping to be fast-tracked and that’s something that is expected of me from my promoter and my trainer.” he continued.

By Behind The Gloves 24 Nov, 2017

Quick! Name two currently active professional boxers with more talent and skill than Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux? I'm not a gambling man but I'll bet the farm you can't do it. So don't even try. Listen, pedigree doesn't lie. Double Olympic gold medal winners don't grow on trees.

For the boxing faithful, 2017 has been a year where our cups have runneth over. We've had the drama of Wladimir Klitschko vs Anthony Joshua and Ward vs Kovalev, the controversy of the long awaited clash between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, and the shock of Roman Gonzalez getting unexpectedly bombed out by the dynamite fisted Thai, Sor Rungvisai. Whichever way you slice it boxing is on a roll this year. And it's not over yet.

On December 9th, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, we get the biggest fight in the sport that can be made in any weight class below 135lbs. And the second the Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux bout was officially announced, you could hear the collective sound of jaws dropping across the entire boxing landscape. In fact mine dropped so hard it hit the floor, bounced back up and knocked me clean out. 

A couple of swift kicks below the belt line from the wife - her version of first aid - woke me up and, apart from the searing pain in my groin, my first thought was of Loma-Rigo. The fact this fight is signed, sealed and delivered is almost too good to be true. So go ahead and slap yourself. This dream matchup is actually going to happen and if you're anything like me I'd wager you can't wait for the first bell to ring on fight night.

Moving forward I'll say this... It's a damn good time to be a follower of the "Sweet Science."

By Behind The Gloves 23 Nov, 2017

On 30 October 2017, Robert Smith of the BBBoC blamed Tyson Fury for delays to his anti-doping hearing.  He said to Sky Sports, “ We [the BBBoC] are ready to go, UKAD are ready to go on our behalf, and the independent panel are waiting for a confirmed date. It's up to them [Team Fury] now [to propose a date] ." 

Then, on 23 November 2017, Mr Smith reiterated to Sky Sports, " The reason why this has taken so long, so I have been led to believe, is because Mr Fury's legal team could not agree a date for the recommencement of the hearing. They obviously now have, and the hearing will recommence [in December 2017] ."

Mr Smith is incorrect. While Team Fury have been advised not to discuss this matter until it is over, we would like to clarify as follows:

(i) This matter started in February 2015 – almost 3 years ago – after routine doping control tests.

(ii) Tyson and Hughie were not notified of the results of those tests for 7 months, and even then UKAD simply asked them about their diet. There was never any suggestion that Tyson and Hughie had done anything wrong or that they might be in any sort of trouble.

(iii) Then, without warning, UKAD charged Tyson and Hughie in June 2016 in relation to the February 2015 tests – i.e. 16 months  after the tests.

(iv) A hearing eventually took place in May 2017 but was halted after UKAD objected to the participation of a tribunal member.

(v) Hearing dates were then proposed for early October 2017 but UKAD’s team ( not  Team Fury’s team) was unavailable.

(vi) A hearing has now been fixed for December 2017.

Contrary to the BBBoC’s suggestion, therefore, the delays have not been caused by Team Fury.

Source: Hennessy Sports [Press Release]

By Behind The Gloves 23 Nov, 2017

Belfast's Carl Frampton (24-1-0, 14 KO's) marked his return to the ring under new trainer Jamie Moore last Saturday night with a closely-contested, unanimous points victory over Horacio Garcia (33-4-1, 24 KO's) after ten months of inactivity. 

Frampton certainly impressed in a win that could in no way be described as 'routine'; it was, in fact, anything but. It was a win where he was required to utilise his boxing skills and masterfully navigate the ring early on against a tenacious opponent, in addition to harnessing his own reserves of grit and determination as the fight progressed into the gruelling later stages, with Garcia growing in confidence.

Nevertheless, prior to making his comeback after a seemingly acrimonious split with former manager and mentor Barry McGuigan, it has to be said that Frampton's previous claims of his own capability to knockout any fighter in the division do now appear, in hindsight, to be somewhat hollow.

It's not that the Ulsterman possesses insufficient or otherwise unremarkable power. On the contrary, the spite and varied selection of his punches are clearly one of Frampton's main attributes. Moreover, Frampton is an extremely well-rounded fighter who is, to say the least, adequate in almost every department, and according to popular consensus, he stands with rival Leo Santa Cruz are the two best in a talent-rich Featherweight division.

By Behind The Gloves 23 Nov, 2017

Most boxing fans will have experienced a sense of deja vu on Monday evening, when it was reported that former two division World Champion David Haye (28-3-0, 26 KO’s) had sustained a bicep injury as a result of a freak training accident, resulting in the postponement of next month’s scheduled rematch with Liverpool’s Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KO’s).

The previous fortnight had seen much speculation surrounding the proposed bout, with a spate of rumours doing the rounds concerning the fitness of the thirty-seven-year-old ahead of the upcoming pay-per-view clash.

Haye has now withdrawn from four of his last seven scheduled contests, and has fought just one live opponent since 2012: suffering an 11th round TKO loss at the hands of the aforementioned Tony Bellew, on that one inauspicious occasion. 

In spite of his latest injury setback, the former WBA World Heavyweight Champion has ambitiously proposed a rescheduled date of either March or May, pending venue availability. Whilst such optimism may be met with a degree of scepticism by many, it should come as no great surprise from a fighter who will be undoubtedly desperate to exact revenge upon his arch nemesis, and subsequently erase the image of him being punched through the ropes - and into defeat - in the first encounter in March of this year.

Upon suffering the shock reverse last time out, 'The Hayemaker' made the decision to part ways with trainer Shane McGuigan in favour of Cuban veteran Ismael Salas, who had relocated to London in order undertake the assignment. The fledgling partnership has appeared to be a success thus far, with Salas being handed the additional responsibility of training two of Haye’s most valuable promotional assets, in 2016 Olympian Joe Joyce and crossover MMA star Michael 'Venom' Page.

By Behind The Gloves 23 Nov, 2017
It was confirmed today that the eagerly anticipated World Boxing Super Series semi-final between George Groves (27-3-0, 20 KO's) and Chris Eubank Jr. (26-1-0, 20 KO's) will take place at the Manchester Arena on February 17th.

After weeks of speculation, with many fans expecting the bout to take place in London, the mouth-watering contest was confirmed for Manchester amidst a fervour of interest from the boxing public.

WBA 'Super" Champion Groves, who dispatched of another domestic rival in the shape of Jamie Cox in the fourth round of their quarter-final bout in October, had made no secret of his desire to bring the fight to Stamford Bridge, the home of his beloved Chelsea Football Club. However, due to a scheduling clash with Britain's FA Cup matches, the location - as well as many other mooted football stadiums - was deemed unfeasible.

For Groves, the clash in Manchester represents the first time he has returned to the Manchester Arena since his controversial first fight with former unified Super Middleweight Champion Carl Froch in 2013, a match that many observers felt was cut short by an early stoppage by referee Howard Foster.
By Behind The Gloves 22 Nov, 2017

Boxing's No. 1 superhero and undefeated WBC/WBA/IBF/IBO middleweight world champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin is back home in the Los Angeles area after his well-received visit to the Mexico, the motherland of his boxing style. Joined by his trainer Abel Sanchez and promoter Tom Loeffler, Golovkin traveled to Mexico City this week to meet with his fans and thank them for the support they have  given him throughout his career and especially in the lead up and aftermath of his  September 16 title defense against Canelo Alvarez.  Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KO's), boxing's longest-reigning active world champion, has successfully defended the middleweight title 19 times -- one short of the record -- since 2010. 

Golovkin's whirlwind tour of Mexico City included a sustained standing ovation from 100,000 fans at Azteca Stadium at halftime of the game between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots.  Golovkin, wearing his WBC world title belt, was introduced on the field at halftime and greeted by an entire stadium chanting 'Triple G' repeatedly.  The following day, the Mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Angel Mancera, honored Golovkin with a proclamation declaring him a distinguished guest of the city.  The proclamation was in recognition of Golovkin's generous support of the victims of the earthquake.  The highlight of Golovkin's trip was an extended visit to the Moctezuma Pediatric Hospital to give hugs, high fives and toys to children who are battling cancer.  He also spent time with the relatives of the children, accompanied by the head of the Ministry of Health, Armando Ahued Ortega, and the president of the World Boxing Council (WBC) Mauricio Sulaiman.  

"It really touched my heart to visit the children in the hospital, it was nice to bring them a special moment for a day," said Golovkin.  "I have so much respect for the doctors and nurses who treat the children and their families every day. I am just thankful to God that I am in a position to be able to visit them and bring a smile to their faces.

It was a big honor to receive the official declaration from Governor Mancera, recognizing me as an official guest and International Ambassador of Mexico City.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we should all give thanks for the blessing we have received. My trip to Mexico certainly did that for me."

"Gennady has won the hearts of Mexican people and is considered one of their own," said Sulaiman. "His kindness and much love given to those little champions fighting for their lives was humbling and brought tears of joy to many of us. I'm so proud to have GGG as the WBC middleweight champion.  He truly represents the best of boxing in and outside the ring."

"When we walked onto the field in front of 100,000 fans at Azteca Stadium and they were chanting 'Triple G,' it was one of those moments that you will remember forever, said Loeffler. "The secret to his success is GGG does more promoting of his career on a world-wide basis when he is not fighting than most fighters do when they have a fight coming up.  Last week he was in China with Jack Ma and this week he was in Mexico at the invitation of the president of the WBC."

Source: Sternberg Communications [Press Release]

By Behind The Gloves 22 Nov, 2017

On Saturday night in Madison Square Garden, New York, former IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev returns to the ring to face Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for one of his old belts, the WBO strap left vacant by Andre Ward in the wake of his retirement from boxing. Ward of course claimed the aforementioned trio of belts with a narrow and controversial points decision over Kovalev in November 2016, one which many felt should have gone in favour of the Russian, who knocked Ward down in the second round. The closeness of the fight begged for a rematch and Ward put a definitive stamp on their rivalry by stopping Kovalev in the eighth round. There were complaints from Kovalev’s side of repeated low blows from Ward leading up to the stoppage, but the reality is that Kovalev had already been badly hurt by legitimate punches to the head and body and had nothing left in his tank.

The past year has been as torrid and unforgiving as the Russian winter for Kovalev. He lost his unbeaten record, all his belts and was stopped for the first time in his career. He split acrimoniously with his long-time trainer, John David Jackson, amidst an exchange of insults and accusations over who was to blame for the reversals suffered in the ring. Moreover, he lost the aura of menace and invincibility that he carried with him to every bout. Lest we forget that, before the fights with Ward, the ‘Krusher’ was regarded as one of the most feared men in boxing; a formidable boxer-puncher with devastating power and a notorious mean streak which carried him to a record 30-0-1 with 26 knockouts, three world titles, a career-defining win against the legendary Bernard Hopkins and a place in most pound-for-pound rankings. He now has the opportunity for redemption, albeit against a lesser foe.

By Behind The Gloves 22 Nov, 2017
The world of social media was put on alert yesterday by Duco Events - promoters of WBO World Heavyweight Champion Joseph Parker (24-0-0, 18 KO's) - after the New Zealand-based company teased the boxing community with an impromptu press conference, promising to shock the world with a video of "[Anthony] Joshua getting dropped repeatedly by little known opponents".

With such a bold, and seemingly definitive statement, Twitter was sent into overdrive, with a swarm of publicity leading to many boxing fans logging on to Duco Events Facebook page for the earth-shattering announcement. 
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