Lessons for Conor McGregor to Learn from 10 Floyd Mayweather Fights

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2017

Lessons for Conor McGregor to Learn from 10 Floyd Mayweather Fights

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Greatness doesn't come easy in any sport, but in boxing it seems even tougher.

    While Floyd Mayweather Jr. is undefeated through 49 professional prizefights, it has been no cakewalk for the future Hall of Famer. As great as he has been, Mayweather was pushed and tested by at least one-fifth of the myriad of names on his resume. Still, winning those bouts, along with all the others, proves without a doubt he is capable of defeating any style placed before him in a boxing ring.

    Therefore, if elite MMA star Conor McGregor is to do the unthinkable and pull the upset on August 26 when he faces the best boxer of a generation, it satisfies reason to suggest McGregor will need to execute a top-notch game plan.

    Some of these selections were tougher-than-expected bouts that forced Mayweather to dig deep. Others looked more competitive on paper than they actually were once the bell rang.

    All of them contain nuggets of information McGregor and his team should note before the biggest fight of his life.

1. Jose Luis Castillo

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    Castillo gave Mayweather all he could handle.
    Castillo gave Mayweather all he could handle.Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Date: April 20, 2002

    Result: Mayweather via unanimous decision (116-111, 115-111, 115-111)

    Analysis: If there is any fighter who fought Mayweather well enough to conceivably win on the judges' scorecards, it was Castillo in a raucous battle between two lightweight titleholders.

    After starting slow, Castillo was an avalanche of controlled aggression, winging power shots from all angles and roughing Mayweather up on the inside. He successfully managed to outwork Mayweather over the 12 rounds to earn the esteem of many fans and media. To this day, some consider him the winner of the fight, though it was no robbery that Mayweather had his hand raised.

    It was a close bout that could have gone either way. In the end, Mayweather's cleaner blows and ring generalship won the day, and he laid all doubts to rest when he more than convincingly won the rematch.

    Takeaway: McGregor needs to focus on Mayweather's body, especially early in the fight, to slow him down as the bout progresses. Mayweather is 40 years old, so his legs should tire sooner than a younger fighter, and McGregor will have more opportunities—just as Castillo did—to land cleaner punches in the second half of the fight.

2. Marcos Maidana

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    Maidana's high-octane offense put Mayweather's defense to the test.
    Maidana's high-octane offense put Mayweather's defense to the test.Alex Menendez/Getty Images

    Date: May 3, 2014

    Result: Mayweather via majority decision (116-112, 117-111, 114-114)

    Analysis: As it will go with McGregor, no one believed before fight night a good but not pound-for-pound elite Maidana could do anything but be an afterthought opponent for Mayweather in 2014.

    But Maidana shocked the world and gave Mayweather a tougher-than-expected brawl that night. Maidana's fundamental pressure fighting techniques were augmented by the wacky angles from which he threw punches.

    In short, Mayweather had never seen anything like Maidana over the course of his career, and the Argentinian was able to exploit it just short of pulling a draw or an upset altogether.

    Takeaway: As great a striker as McGregor is by MMA standards, he is not a honed, professional sweet scientist. Against Mayweather, that isn't a bad thing. The different ways McGregor throws punches versus how traditional boxers might should be one of McGregor's greatest assets. Like Maidana, McGregor's offense could be something Mayweather has never seen or experienced before.

3. Oscar De La Hoya

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    De La Hoya proved the value of a high quality jab.
    De La Hoya proved the value of a high quality jab.GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

    Date: May 5, 2007

    Result: Mayweather via split decision (116-112, 115-113, 113-115)

    Analysis: De La Hoya gave Mayweather one of the toughest fights of his career in what was a semi-brilliant performance by the aging Golden Boy.

    De La Hoya's jab was the key to the fight. The handful of rounds he won were taken due to De La Hoya pumping his stiff, straight jab in to Mayweather's chest and chin until he could wing hooks and uppercuts from in close.

    In the rounds he lost, a tired De La Hoya left his jab on the shelf and was outlanded from both long and short distances. Had De La Hoya not tired over the last six rounds, Mayweather might not be undefeated today.

    Takeaway: The best entry point into Mayweather's defense is the jab. Like De La Hoya did in his best rounds against Mayweather, McGregor should work all his offense behind a stiff jab while moving forward and try to pin Mayweather against the ropes.

4. Zab Judah

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    Like McGregor, Judah fights from a southpaw stance.
    Like McGregor, Judah fights from a southpaw stance.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Date: April 8, 2006

    Result: Mayweather via UD (119-109, 117-111, 116-112)

    Analysis: Judah used his speed and southpaw style to befuddle Mayweather early in the fight, but he was caught with cleaner, crisper punches down the stretch.

    Being a southpaw was a huge asset Judah exploited. Mayweather has seldom taken as many clean shots early as he did against Judah and fellow southpaw Manny Pacquiao. 

    It isn't that Mayweather is less effective versus lefties, but he seldom has faced the tactics of a southpaw.

    Takeaway: A fast-handed southpaw style can create more problems for Mayweather to solve than orthodox fighters. While McGregor doesn't project to have anything close to a speed advantage, the 40-year-old Mayweather might be slowing down just enough to give McGregor a competitive edge, and whatever edge McGregor can muster, he should exploit to its fullest.

5. Miguel Cotto

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    Cotto's bully tactics were on point in 2012.
    Cotto's bully tactics were on point in 2012.FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

    Date: May 5, 2012

    Result: Mayweather via UD (118-110, 117-111, 117-111)

    Analysis: Cotto implemented a near-perfect game plan versus Mayweather. His problem was that Mayweather's defense and counterpunching took the day.

    Still, Cotto laid the groundwork for beating Money and built on what Oscar De La Hoya and Jose Luis Castillo had done in their respective bouts with Mayweather before him.

    Cotto's pressure and bully tactics were key to tiring his opponent, and his short, compact punches made an impression on Mayweather's face and body, bloodying the boxing savant midway through the fight. Still, Mayweather outboxed Cotto over the second half of the fight, particularly the championship rounds, to win the decision.

    Takeaway: Alongside pressure tactics, the key to getting through Mayweather's defense is throwing short, compact punches. McGregor has legitimate power in both hands, but power only counts when punches land. To land against Mayweather, he'll need to shorten some of his strikes and keep his head moving in anticipation of return fire the way Cotto did back in 2012.

6. Shane Mosley

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    Mosley almost dropped Mayweather in Round 2.
    Mosley almost dropped Mayweather in Round 2.GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

    Date: May 1, 2010

    Result: Mayweather via UD (119-109, 119-109, 118-108)

    Analysis: Despite getting outworked over the 12 rounds, Mosley did almost knock Mayweather out in Round 2.

    First, he landed a straight right hand out of his orthodox stance. A few seconds later, his overhand right buckled Mayweather to the point where the brilliant tactician was forced to hold Mosley for the rest of the round. That's a huge accomplishment, especially considering it happened so early in the fight.

    But Mayweather's underrated chin took both thunderous punches without going to the ground, and he weathered the storm, adjusted to Mosley's tactics and went on to win a wide unanimous decision.

    Takeaway: It will take more than one big punch to stop Mayweather, so McGregor should focus on throwing a high volume of punches rather than trying to land one perfect counterpunch. Moreover, if McGregor lands a big punch like Mosley did, he shouldn't abandon his game plan in anticipation of landing another. Mayweather is easily the best defensive fighter of a generation and won't be suckered into another big blow so easily.

7. Canelo Alvarez

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    Canelo provided the blueprint for what not to do.
    Canelo provided the blueprint for what not to do.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Date: September 14, 2014

    Result: Mayweather via MD (117-111, 116-112, 114-114)

    Analysis: Like McGregor, Alvarez was considerably younger and naturally larger than Mayweather heading into their superfight.

    Prevailing wisdom suggested Alvarez would need to crowd Mayweather and fight at a high tempo. Inexplicably, he chose to box cautiously from a distance and allow the masterful counterpunching Mayweather to land the cleaner blows over the 12 rounds.

    Still, one must juxtapose Canelo's gaffe against Mayweather with his ring life since. Alvarez remains undefeated and one of the top pound-for-pounders in the sport.

    Takeaway: No matter how much larger McGregor is on fight night, trying to outbox Mayweather from a distance is a fool's paradise. Alvarez enjoyed similar advantages McGregor will have, so the Irishman should look hard at Alvarez's folly to avoid his own.

8. Manny Pacquiao

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    Mayweather was at his very best when it counted most.
    Mayweather was at his very best when it counted most.JOHN GURZINSKI/Getty Images

    Date: May 2, 2015

    Result: Mayweather via UD (118-110, 116-112, 116-112)

    Analysis: Mayweather-Pacquiao was a dud after Pacquiao's Round 4 shoulder injury, but Mayweather came into the fight the favorite for a reason.

    Mayweather boxed Pacquiao's ears off over the 12-round fight, limiting the Filipino's punch output with precise footwork and an emphasis on being first to throw punches.

    The most impressive aspect of the performance was Mayweather's big-fight demeanor. In the biggest contest of his life—the superfight of the new century—Mayweather remained poised, confident and determined to prove he was the best. And he did exactly that.

    Takeaway: McGregor should expect the best version of Mayweather ever seen. The bigger the fight, the better Mayweather shows up on fight night. No matter what McGregor says during the prefight buildup to get under Mayweather's skin, none of it will matter once they are standing in the center of the ring on August 26. 

9. Emmanuel Augustus

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    Date: October 21, 2000

    Result: Mayweather via Round 9 TKO

    Analysis: Mayweather overstates his bout against Augustus as being the toughest of his career.

    Then known as Emmanuel Burton, it is perhaps Mayweather giving a nod to one of the better journeymen in boxing history. Still, Augustus showed what a skilled, determined fighter is capable of doing on any given night in the sport of boxing.

    He ate Mayweather's best shots, consistently moved forward and threw a high volume of meaningful punches. Mayweather had to work hard over the entire course of the fight to stop Augustus in Round 9.

    Takeaway: Even an all-time great counterpuncher can be counterpunched, but the price is taking clean punches on the chin in order to land shots. Mayweather will land clean on McGregor, so the latter should be prepared to return fire.

10. Jesus Chavez

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    Despite being overmatched, Chavez was a tougher than expected fight for Mayweather.
    Despite being overmatched, Chavez was a tougher than expected fight for Mayweather.JOHN G. MABANGLO/Getty Images

    Date: November 10, 2001

    Result: Mayweather via Round 9 TKO

    Analysis: Chavez showed what even a limited fighter could against Mayweather through sheer determination, toughness and willpower.

    His best work came when he forced Mayweather into the ropes. There, Chavez was able to place his head onto Mayweather's chest and wing hooks and overhands to smother Mayweather's counterpunches.

    For the nine rounds it lasted, it was a highly competitive and entertaining bout despite the huge difference in talent.

    Takeaway: McGregor's mindset should be focused on moving forward no matter how cleanly Mayweather counters him. Before Chavez's corner stopped the fight, the brave, resilient, throwback pressure fighter gave Mayweather just about all he could handle. A larger, equally determined McGregor should be able to do the same or better, especially against a 40-year-old Mayweather.