Floyd Mayweather's Fire Returns to TKO Conor McGregor in Compelling Final Fight

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2017

Floyd Mayweather Jr. poses for photographers after defeating Conor McGregor in a super welterweight boxing match Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

The fans. The media. The other assembled experts.

Nearly everyone who'd entered the T-Mobile Arena with an open mind Saturday night seemed to share a similar viewpoint as they headed back into the Las Vegas desert.

Floyd Mayweather gave the people their money's worth.

At last.

After a decade in which his paths to victories were paved by full-time defensive mastery and intermittent violent intent, the version of Mayweather that squared off with boxing newbie Conor McGregor was almost unrecognizable by comparison.

From the moment he emerged for a Mortal Kombat-inspired ring walk to the moment he forced referee Robert Byrd to rescue a sagging McGregor along the ropes, Mayweather displayed the sort of fire his detractors had been clamoring for since the moment Money became his primary obsession.

"I wanted to go out with a bang to give the fans what they wanted to see," Mayweather told Sal Paolantonio during ESPN's post-fight coverage. "I didn't want to give the fans a boring fight."

There was little chance of that given the strategy offered by McGregor, who didn't charge forward in the early rounds but instead put Mayweather in the uncomfortable position of setting the pace. The 29-year-old Irishman had his best moments during those early periods, out-landing Mayweather in Rounds 1, 2 and 3 before his 40-year-old foe began taking over.

Both men landed 16 shots in the fourth, and Mayweather connected on more in each subsequent round until Byrd jumped in at 1:05 of the 10th.

Eric Jamison/Associated Press

Overall, he landed 170 punches to McGregor's 111, including 152 of 261 power punches—a connect rate of 58 percent.

"I kept my composure. I knew I would take some shots," Mayweather said. "We came on in the second half. We had a game plan. Our game plan worked tonight."

Andre Ward, one of the few fighters capable of ascending to the pound-for-pound heights that Mayweather has long staked out, agreed in his Saturday night role as an ESPN analyst.

"This was the best you could ask for," he said. "McGregor overperformed and Floyd Mayweather did exactly what he was supposed to do."

It resulted in the first non-asterisked stoppage for Mayweather since his 2007 demolition of another European import, Ricky Hatton, who, like McGregor, led a raucous band of countrymen to Nevada and had some good moments before also failing to get out of the 10th round.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

In his nine fights between Hatton and McGregor—not including the controversial knockout of a distracted Victor Ortiz in 2011—Mayweather rarely lost a round but scored only one knockdown, against Juan Manuel Marquez, and rarely raised pay-per-view buyers to anything approaching titillation.

In fact, his 2015 megafight with Manny Pacquiao, whose PPV sales record of 4.6 million may be in jeopardy by the time the final Saturday tallies are totaled, is remembered more for the feeling of buyer's remorse it created rather than the compelling competition it yielded.

That won't be the case this time around.

Or at least it shouldn't be.

Though some will focus on McGregor's lack of ring experience and others will insist any stoppage is early if it comes before a flatline EEG, the correct takeaway is recognition that Mayweather had a young, strong lion in front of him and employed the right strategy to deal with him—delivering a suitable career swan song with some action and a far more entertaining event than he had recently provided.

"This is a part of history," he told Paolantonio. "There are so many champions that paved the way for me to be where I am today."

A 50-0 record cements his boxing legacy. A $1 billion bankroll certifies his business acumen.

And, perhaps most importantly, not many will lament the money spent to see it.