Floyd Mayweather Jr. is doing his best to become the Michael Jordan of boxing. His titles in five different weight classes and unblemished career record (49-0) might already mark him as the greatest of all time in the sport. Now, like Jordan, he's coming out of retirement a second time to take on an entirely new challenge—namely, taking down a mouthy MMA star who's a veritable amateur in the ring.
Conor McGregor, though, has at least 100 million reasons to look forward to Saturday night, when he and Mayweather will face off a T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. At that point, the wily 29-year-old Irishman will have to put his money where his mouth is against the 40-year-old king of the ring.
There will be three fights on the undercard before the main event. First, Andrew Tabiti (14-0, 12 KOs) and Steve Cunningham (29-8-1, 13 KOs) will face off in a 10-round cruiserweight bout. Then, Badou Jack (21-1-2, 12 KOs) and Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KOs) will duke it out for the vacant World Boxing Association light heavyweight belt. Finally, before Mayweather and McGregor walk out, Gervonta Davis (18-0, 17 KOs) will look to defend his lightweight title against Francisco Fonseca (19-0-1, 13 KOs).
Fight Time: Coverage on Showtime begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, with Mayweather-McGregor starting approximately at 11:55 p.m. ET/8:55 p.m. PT.
On paper, this looks like a no-brainer.
McGregor, who went 21-3 in the Octagon, has never boxed professionally. Mayweather, who's aiming to round out his record at a perfect 50-0, might be the best to ever put on gloves.
But don't underestimate what McGregor brings to the table. For one, McGregor can run his mouth just as well as Mayweather can. It would appear that the former's constant heckling of the latter, particularly on social media, might have played a part in drawing Mayweather back into the ring.
Between the ropes, McGregor has some physical advantages in this 154-pound fight. He's an inch taller (at 5'9") than Mayweather and has a reach that's two inches longer (74").
And while McGregor has never boxed properly as a pro, his native MMA style was never that far off. By and large, he was a stand-up striker in the UFC, fighting primarily out of a southpaw stance. Boxing was always his best skill in the Octagon, and most of his knockouts and technical knockouts came by way of punches.
That all jibes with McGregor's sporting roots, he started boxing back in Ireland when he was 12 and has referred to Muhammad Ali as one of his earliest inspirations.
Still, it's difficult to envision how McGregor will make headway in this bout, outside of landing his signature pull-back left-handed counter. The newcomer is notoriously aggressive, but that approach could play right into his opponent's hands. Mayweather might be the greatest defensive fighter who ever lived and will surely find ways to use McGregor's aggressiveness against him.
Not that anyone should expect a knockout on Mayweather's account. He has 26 on his record but hasn't taken down an opponent before the final bell since September 2011, when he KO'd Victor Ortiz. That came on a controversial combination that some saw as cheap shots.
It's possible that McGregor, as a boxing neophyte, will be vulnerable to a similar slip-up and ensuing slugs from Mayweather. The better bet, though, is that this battle goes the distance, with Mayweather emerging as the unanimous victor on the scorecards.
Scorecard Prediction: Mayweather wins via unanimous decision, 116-112, 117-111, 118-110.