While having an undefeated record is not the sole barometer by which a boxer’s greatness is measured, it is the accomplishment that merits immediate attention from the casual fan. The initial perception is that a champion boxer who finishes his career with an unblemished record cannot be denied his place in the pantheon of greats.
However, numbers can be deceiving in boxing. Take the case of American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who recently scaled the all-time high 50-0 plateau with a 10th round stoppage of Irishman Conor McGregor. The record books show that by beating McGregor, Mayweather moved past the 49-0 record he shared with former world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano. However, the manner by which Mayweather accomplished the feat leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
While a two-division champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial arts star McGregor was 0-0 in pro boxing going into the Mayweather fight. The showdown was hyped as a “crossover” match, but in reality Mayweather dictated the terms and the fight strictly followed boxing rules; from the 12-round duration to the use of boxing gloves. McGregor had every reason to walk away from such a one-sided offer, but the lure of a mega payday, in the vicinity of $70 million, was too much to resist. McGregor played along and tried in vain to convince the fans that he can make the transition to boxing within three months and beat one of the best defensive fighters of all time.
For about three rounds, McGregor did look like a fighter, until his lack of experience and proper conditioning as a boxer unraveled. It did not take that long for McGregor’s inadequacies to manifest; the jabs he threw were mostly anemic and he could not even concoct the simplest combination. Mayweather’s fight plan was simple: let McGregor take charge on offense in the early rounds, drag the fight beyond the five-round duration of a UFC contest and assume control when the MMA fighter is already breathing hard. True enough, by the 10th round McGregor’s fuel tank was running on mountain dew. A crash landing was inevitable, only the referee’s timely interference saved McGregor from the ignominy of a knockout defeat.
Mayweather easily scaled the 50-0 summit, but his accomplishment was not spared from criticism. The son of Marciano, Rocky Jr., had earlier averred that the fight with McGregor should be treated as a mere exhibition owing to the latter’s clear lack of fight experience. Down the road, when people recall the manner by which Mayweather achieved 50-0, they will point to the fact that he did it by beating a guy with absolutely no boxing experience.
Of course, Mayweather is the least perturbed. For successfully pulling off the charade, he is laughing all the way to the bank. The $300 million Mayweather is likely to bankroll will boost his career earnings past $1 billion; only golfer Tiger Woods and basketball legend Michael Jordan had earned that much.
Mayweather’s choice of McGregor for his last “dance partner” is, sarcastically speaking, a “fitting” ending to his career. He meticulously picked his foes, dictated the terms for his fights and refused to be swayed by public opinion. He stuck to his defensive style and either dodged or waited for the biggest threats in his unbeaten record to grow arm weary. Mayweather avoided a fight with Antonio Margarito back when the Mexican was knocking everybody in his path; he also waited for Manny Pacquiao to develop the killer instinct of a nun before coming within spitting distance of the once feared Filipino slugger. And, oh, people still wonder if Mayweather really won his first fight with Jose Luis Castillo in 2002 and the one with Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.
Mayweather retires with a record of 50-0 with 27 knockouts. Undefeated, but with public opinion divided.
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