Conor McGregor will consider remaining in boxing despite being thoroughly outclassed and stopped in 10 rounds by Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas, writes Declan Warrington.
Following a fast-paced start in which he landed few punches of significance, he could do little to resist the effects of both fatigue in his professional boxing debut and Mayweather’s unusually aggressive approach at the T-Mobile Arena.
The fantasy fight between the highest-profile figures from boxing and the UFC swiftly proved a mismatch in which McGregor repeatedly avoided punishment from referee Robert Byrd for punching behind the head.
By its conclusion he was an exhausted fighter, impressing only through his resilience and determination to remain on his feet amid Mayweather’s hurtful right hands, and until Byrd’s intervention in what the American insists will be his final fight.
“I’m not sure what’s next,” McGregor said after the light-middleweight match-up that will earn him a reported minimum purse of €30m, rising to a possible €100m, by some distance a career high.
“I have multiple world titles in the UFC to think about as well as the boxing.
“I’m a student of the game and I’ve studied Floyd and it was an honour to share the ring with him.
“I will get back into my jiu-jitsu and freestyle wrestling training and we will see what’s next.
“I have many options in the sport of MMA. I’m young, I’m fresh and I’m ready. I was just bollocksed, the term we call it in Ireland.
“It was an honour to come over and showcase my skills. I’m a multiple-weight freestyle world champion and I was a little bit surprised at the disrespect I was shown (in the fight’s build-up). The disrespect for my skill took me back a little bit.”
McGregor, 29, had walked into the post-fight press conference drinking whiskey, and following the often foul-mouthed exchanges between the two, spoke of his respect for his conqueror.
“You’re a composed individual,” he said. “You didn’t get rattled; you made three game changes during the fight and that’s what a true champion does. I would have liked to see the end of the 10th and where it brought us, but he’s one hell of a competitor.
“I thought I put him out there and hit him a few times but then he started reading it and he began parrying a lot. I enjoyed the fight; it was a great contest and I’ll take a lot of stuff with me into my training.”
Mayweather remained adamant that this will be the final fight of his decorated career. He has previously insisted he is retiring before being lured back, most recently by McGregor, but with this latest victory improved his record to 50-0 and, in doing so, ensured he surpasses the great Rocky Marciano.
Though dominant, his performance was not to the polished level he demonstrated at his very peak, and he claimed afterwards the recurring problem with his “brittle” hands prevented him from sparring for a month.
“You won’t see me in the ring no more, so any guy that’s calling me out, forget it, I’m OK,” said the 40-year-old, who also revealed he plans to become a trainer, following his uncle Roger and father Floyd Sr into their professions.
“I had a great career, a tremendous career.
“I just want to help these fighters. I look forward to becoming a boxing trainer. My dad’s a hell of a trainer, he taught me the sport, and I want to help other trainers and help make fighters better, teach fighters to become a superstar not just in the ring but on the outside.
“McGregor was solid. I’d been off for a couple of years. For the last month, I didn’t do any sparring. Not an injury, but I wanted my hands to be 100% for the fight. My hands are brittle, everybody knows that: I wanted my hands to be solid. If I got a serious hand injury I wouldn’t be able to punch as hard.
“I knew he was going to be awkward from the beginning. He lasted a little longer than we expected, but I stuck to the gameplan.
“I told the referee, ‘He’s going to be doing a lot of rabbit punching’. My only concern was him hitting me in the back of the head, but he’s tough.
“He was throwing some awkward shots from awkward positions; landed a couple of uppercuts.
“I told (McGregor), ‘You still ain’t got me out yet; I thought it wasn’t going past four’.
“I’m not here to bash the referee. You know what’s going on: A lot of rabbit punching. (But) I’m not here to bash anyone.
“Rocky Marciano’s a legend. He paved the way for me to be where I’m at. Every fight counts to me, not just one fight.
“After 21 years in the sport of boxing, I had some great fights, I had some boring fights, but I will always be
remembered as a winner.
“I know how to dissect an opponent, go out there, and stick to the gameplan.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.