The Question: Was Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor Stopped Early?

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2017

Referee Robert Byrd, right, stops the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor in a super welterweight boxing match Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Eric Jamison/Associated Press

It's become the Zapruder film of the combat sports crowd.

And depending on which side of the Floyd Mayweather Jr./Conor McGregor debate you find yourself, chances are your impressions of their Saturday night fight's climax are a bit different.

Those running with The Money Team watch the final 65 seconds at T-Mobile Arena and see their man battering a helpless McGregor across the ring until referee Robert Byrd rescues the bratty Irishman.

Meanwhile, those aligned with Team Notorious insist their guy was merely reeling from fatigue, still in full possession of his senses and in no way near a state that warranted a fight-ending intervention.

Truth told, the answer may be somewhere in between.

But it's closer to one side than the other.

A clinical review of the fight's final stages indeed reveals McGregor looking exhausted in the corner before the arrival of the 10th, and barely acknowledging his trainer's exhortations.

He gamely began the round by flicking punches as Mayweather trudged forward, but was unable to either back his man up or tie him up and soon found himself vulnerable in a corner.

It was there where he took the first in a series of chopping right hands, about 45 seconds into the round, that drew gasps from the broadcast team on Showtime and sent him reeling along the ropes.

A second right buckled his knees and drew another failed attempt at a clinch, which resulted in yet another clean right and yet another awkward stumble backward.

Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

A pouncing Mayweather initially missed with a quick series of looping shots, but connected soon after on an overhand left that prompted a non-replying McGregor to lurch forward along the middle strand, where he took one final flush left before Byrd leapt in at 1:05.

From end to end, the decisive sequence took just 20 seconds, during which Mayweather threw about 17 punches and cleanly landed six, while McGregor offered only one, a missed right uppercut, in return.

So, statistically speaking, it hardly qualifies as an evisceration.

And if your contention is that a knockdown would have been a more satisfying end, you're correct.

But when you consider optics alongside numbers, it's easier to see why Byrd pulled the plug.

Though McGregor maintained afterward that he'd been more tired than buzzed, his unstable legs and lack of return fire made him look the part of a beaten man.

And as he bent forward under Mayweather's final barrage with hands down and head exposed, it wasn't the referee's job to gauge the reasons for the position—or to wait for a flatlining EEG to validate it. His job was to protect a fighter who was no longer providing any competitive resistance.

Unlike with a baseball manager, where failing to remove a spent pitcher might result in a spiked earned run average, a referee allowing too many unfettered blows to a spent fighter hoping to "wobble back" to his corner is risking far more dire consequences.

In that light, McGregor's suggestion that he deserved more time falls flat.

"The stoppage was spot-on, nothing wrong with it," said Randy Gordon, former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and current SiriusXM radio host.

"I really believe had that been Mayweather instead of McGregor, Byrd would have done the same thing. I have no problem with the stoppage."

Additionally, while there's no consensus playbook for how fighters should act if they feel a referee ended matters too soon, there was precisely zero demonstrable debate from either McGregor or his corner as Byrd made his call.

In fact, it wasn't until several minutes later, during a mid-ring debriefing with Showtime's Jim Gray, that the beaten man indicated even the slightest issue with the closing scene.

Byrd's decision counts for something more than marketing.

A point with which Mauro Ranallo, the Showtime blow-by-blow man who built his brand behind an MMA mic, agreed on air.

"I think the referee did the job that he was assigned to do," he said, "protect McGregor."

        

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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