It was as if he knew what was expected of him, which wasn’t victory so much as justification.
The people who bought this fight and opted in to this seemingly bizarre cultural moment took something of a chance. They had to be willing not only to part with nearly $100, but they also had to be willing to risk feeling like idiots for doing so. After all, what reason did we have to think that this would be a good fight? Mayweather isn’t known for being exciting even when he’s perfect, and McGregor’s boxing skills were a void into which we could only project our hopes and fears.
But Mayweather, too, seemed to know what was expected. In this fight the defensive mastermind remembered how to charge forward and attack. Afterwards, he would say it was because he owed the fans a debt. That last “Fight of the Century” against Manny Pacquiao? No one but the accountants remembers it fondly. This time Mayweather gave us offense, and with a little cooperation from McGregor he gave us a show.
That the better boxer won in the end shouldn’t be a surprise. That the journey to get there was fun without being ridiculous is.A few factors helped out there. Mayweather was older, slower, maybe even rustier than expected. He took plenty of time warming up, and even then he was occasionally at risk of being shoved around by the bigger, younger man.McGregor’s power, that mythical left hand that, depending on which promo you believed, was a weapon caught somewhere between excalibur and nuclear missile? It never really materialized. It flashed here and there, mostly in the early rounds, then disappeared for good. What he was left with then was regular old boxing skills, of which he actually had some, to the surprise of many.
What he didn’t have was the kind of ring savvy to deal with Mayweather’s sustained offense. As the pressure cranked up, McGregor’s wind gave out. He didn’t know how to buy himself space or time and, denied of both, he soon melted under Mayweather’s heat.
Which isn’t the worst thing that could have happened, honestly. He didn’t quit. He didn’t get dropped. The fact that that alone can feel like a kind of victory is the benefit of low expectations.
Still, it’s not like this fight was about any precious or high-minded ideals. We should have known that much just by looking at the prize, a gaudy, jewel-encrusted hunk of leather and metal with the words “The Money Belt” stamped right there on its face. Because who has time for subtext or subtlety these days?This was curiosity leveraged for cash. It fed off our attention and grew so big that it attained a gravity all its own, which in turn only attracted more attention. That we also got an actual boxing match out of it in the end is just a bonus.If you wanted something more than you got, that’s probably your own fault. Mayweather made a underdog folk hero out of McGregor, and McGregor made a fighter, rather than merely a boxer, out of Mayweather. For their trouble, they’ll both be rewarded with the gross domestic product of a small island nation.
As for us? We got what we paid for, and more than we had any right to expect. If we’re not satisfied with that, we have only ourselves to blame for not knowing any better.
For complete coverage of “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Events section of the site.