It had all the trappings of a big-ticket prizefight: the glitzy Las Vegas backdrop, the arena-rock production values, the small fleet of celebrities and high rollers at ringside in well-cut suits and couture dresses.
But it was an illusion, one that evaporated before the eyes of the countless throngs who believed that the boxing rookie Conor McGregor had any chance in a scheduled 12-round junior middleweight fight against Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated five-division champion and finest boxer of his era.
Mayweather needed three rounds to take the two-division UFC champion’s measure before spending the next seven walking him down, picking him apart and closing the show with a 10th-round technical knockout before a crowd of 14,623 at the T-Mobile Arena. Afterward he announced his retirement with a record of 50 wins in 50 professional bouts with 27 by stoppage. Not since a dubious points loss to Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov at the 1996 Olympics has a Mayweather fight ended without the American’s hand raised.
“Our game plan was to take our time, go to him, let him shoot his shots early and then take him out down the stretch,” said the 40-year-old Mayweather, who ended a bout inside the distance for the first time since a controversial knockout of Victor Ortiz six years ago and only the second time in a decade. “We know in MMA, he fights for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, he started to slow down. I guaranteed to everybody that this wouldn’t go the distance.”
Vegas is a town built on suckers and dreamers and there were no shortage of either in the desert this week for a fight that’s expected to threaten the all-time revenue records set by Mayweather’s megafight with Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Yes, it could have been worse. McGregor acquitted himself nicely, landed a few early punches that raised some eyebrows and precluded the disgrace many pundits expected, but it was still the mismatch augured from day one.
McGregor, the 29-year-old southpaw from Dublin, shot from his corner and tried to swarm Mayweather from the opening bell, landing a pair of body shots and a pawing left upstairs. But Mayweather calmly fought off the back foot and assessed the unknown quantity before him, allowing McGregor to throw clumsy, lunging shots that missed wildly.
Early in the second McGregor was warned by referee Robert Byrd for hitting behind the head early as Mayweather continued to sit back and take the Irishman’s measure. McGregor even switched to an orthodox stance momentarily, which seemed to give the boxer pause. Yet the slow pace prevailed with Mayweather continuing to throw judiciously, mostly leading with jabs to the body.