It was a boxing contest that, if you ask Floyd Mayweather, went down almost exactly as planned.
With no intention of making quick work of his opponent Conor McGregor, Mayweather and his "Money Team" said they were going to approach this fight with a boxer versus a non-boxer mentality. Like riding a bike, even an aged boxer who hasn't fought a professional fight in almost two years has the endurance to last 12 rounds if needed. Mayweather spent an entire professional boxing career going the distance. On the other hand, a professional MMA fighter, used to going five rounds or less, will get gassed. Mayweather knew this, and he took advantage.
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Credit to McGregor where credit is due, there were some in the professional boxing world that believed McGregor wouldn't even land one punch. Their thought was that having a UFC star try to take on one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet meant total disaster within a couple rounds. That was not the case, and those who watched the fight will tell you McGregor took the first three rounds and did MMA proud by landing more punches in 10 rounds of action that many professional boxers had done in 12. Still, McGregor needed to end it early to have a chance and he didn't.
On both the official and unofficial scorecard, Mayweather lost the first few rounds simply by playing defense. The more aggressive McGregor tried to take the fight to Mayweather and the 40-year-old boxer played shy, avoiding McGregor's attack and waiting for the right moment. A younger boxer, with more aggressiveness, might have gone a different way, but Floyd stayed steady in his approach. By the later rounds, McGregor was clearly tired and that's when Mayweather saw his opening.
Unlike many of Mayweather's previous fights, which were a showcase of counterpunches and defense, Mayweather brought the goods the moment he sensed exhaustion in his opponent. Realizing the fight was probably closer than he would have liked, he began to put the second phase of his plan into action — offense.
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If the first few rounds went to McGregor, the rest went to Mayweather. The 29-year-old Irishman had "shot his load early", out-landing Mayweather in the first three rounds before his 40-year-old foe began taking over. By the fourth round, both men landed 16 shots and by the fifth, Mayweather connected on more than his opponent and continued that trend in each subsequent round until referee Robert Byrd jumped in at 1:05 of the 10th.
When asked by Sal Paolantonio during ESPN's post-fight coverage of how Mayweather described his final flurry that put McGregor into the ropes and ended things, "I wanted to go out with a bang to give the fans what they wanted to see. I didn't want to give the fans a boring fight."
Overall, Mayweather landed 170 punches to McGregor's 111. When those numbers started to become too much for McGregor, he began to back into the ropes, tried to avoid punishment, and offered very little defense, and as any boxing enthusiast will tell you, a referees job above all else, is to protect the fighters in his ring. Once McGregor couldn't defend himself, that fight was a foregone conclusion.
Some viewers will tell you that the $100 they spent on this fight wasn't worth it. Still a defensive demonstration, Floyd Mayweather didn't offer much of an attack and letting McGregor go 10 rounds with him is more than he should have allowed. The argument is that a younger boxer who wasn't in it for the money would have finished this fight a lot earlier. Others will tell you the fight was far more entertaining than expected.
However, the fight is described by the millions of people who saw it, Mayweather will tell you this was his plan all along. The idea was to go into a boxing match with a non-boxer and let him get tired. It might be boring, it might not be as entertaining, but it worked.