By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather waited for Conor McGregor to tire Saturday night.
Then Mayweather took him out, just like the aged legend planned.
The undefeated Mayweather overcame a slow start and knocked out a fatigued McGregor in the 10th round of their heavily hyped, 12-round, 154-pound boxing match before a crowd of 14,623 at T-Mobile Arena. Referee Robert Byrd stepped in to stop the action at 1:05 of the 10th round as Mayweather was hammering McGregor with power shots and an exhausted McGregor was slumped against the ropes.
McGregor, a two-division UFC champion who made his boxing debut, excelled early in the bout and overall performed better than most experts expected. Ultimately, though, he tired and couldn’t withstand Mayweather’s superior skill and experience as they moved toward and into the championship rounds.
“Our game plan was to take our time,” Mayweather said, “go to him, let him shoot his heavy shots early and then take him out at the end, down the stretch. … In MMA, he fights 25 minutes really hard. After 25 minutes, he started to slow down.”
Mayweather, who turned 40 six months ago and hadn’t fought in nearly two years, improved to 50-0 by winning what he has repeatedly promised will be the last fight of his 20-year professional boxing career. Mayweather came out of retirement a second time to fight Ireland’s McGregor, a master showman who helped generate incredible interest in what was once seen as a far-fetched fight.
Las Vegas’ Mayweather went off as a 5½-1 favorite at the MGM Grand sports book Saturday night. Published reports indicated that by then there were six separate $1 million bets placed on Mayweather at sports books throughout Las Vegas.
Even though he was a heavy favorite, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) had difficulty figuring out McGregor’s awkwardness and ability to throw punches from strange angles for the first three rounds. Mayweather’s timing also appeared to be off, which wasn’t surprising based on his long layoff and age.
Mayweather wasn’t as effective defensively as usual, either, because he wanted to be more aggressive so that he could stop McGregor. Once Mayweather got a feel for McGregor’s unusual style, he began taking more chances and throwing hard right hands that landed at times to McGregor’s chin.
“He’s a lot better than I thought he was,” Mayweather said. “He used different angles. He was a tough competitor, but I was the better man tonight.”
Mayweather went after him in the 10th round, knowing that McGregor (0-1) was exhausted and couldn’t continue taking powerful punches to the chin. He hurt McGregor with a straight right hand that sent McGregor into the ropes several seconds before Byrd stopped the fight.
“I turned him into a Mexican tonight,” McGregor joked. “He fought like a Mexican.”
McGregor said Byrd stopped the fight too soon, but conceded that he was tired. Despite McGregor’s success early in the fight, Mayweather was ahead by big margins on all three scorecards.
Judge Dave Moretti gave McGregor each of the first three rounds, but still had Mayweather in front 87-83.
Judges Guido Cavalleri (89-81) and Burt Clements (89-82) had Mayweather ahead by even wider scores than Moretti. Cavalleri and Clements gave McGregor only the first round on their cards.
“I don’t know,” McGregor said. “I thought I took the early rounds pretty handy. He had to change his style. … He’s composed. He’s not that fast, he’s not that powerful, but boy is he composed in there. So he was making me throw when he was pacing with his shots. I’ve got to give him nothing but respect, fair play, though, for the great career he’s had. What can I say? I had a bit of fun on this side. Hopefully I entertained the fans on this side.”
McGregor connected with a borderline body blow early in the ninth round that Mayweather indicated hit him on his left leg. With Mayweather backing into a neutral corner and holding his leg, McGregor attacked him.
Byrd then moved in to separate them. As they were brought together, McGregor threw a punch before Byrd gave them the go-ahead to continue boxing. Mayweather spent the rest of the ninth round assaulting McGregor.
A straight right hand by Mayweather with around 50 seconds to go in the ninth round hurt McGregor badly.
McGregor came back to fight reasonably well in the eighth round following an especially easy seventh round for Mayweather. He seemed to gain a second wind in that round and kept Mayweather from connecting with the type of punishing punches Mayweather landed with regularity in the seventh round.
Mayweather picked apart McGregor throughout the seventh round by landing an array of straight rights and left hooks as a clearly tiring McGregor retreated.
The sixth round began with a strange sequence in which McGregor was trying to hit Mayweather several times when Mayweather was turned completely around, with his back to McGregor. Byrd eventually moved into position to break them up.
When the action resumed, Mayweather began firing his straight right hand regularly. McGregor mostly moved backward, but eventually stood his ground to keep Mayweather from pressing him.
McGregor began slowing down during the fifth round, when Mayweather was able to land several straight right hands. After the fifth round, Mayweather shoved McGregor as they headed toward their corners.
McGregor hit Mayweather with a straight left hand early in the fourth round. By then, Mayweather was more aggressive and trying to connect to McGregor’s head, which he did with a straight right hand later in the fourth round.
The second round included several awkward clinches, as on more than one occasion McGregor wound up behind Mayweather, who was covering up. Byrd warned McGregor early in the second round for hitting Mayweather behind the head.
McGregor came out aggressive as soon as the opening bell sounded, but eventually started showboating. Around the midway point of the first round, McGregor put his hands behind his back and challenged Mayweather to come forward.
McGregor connected with a left uppercut later in the first round, the best punch of those three minutes. Mayweather mostly felt out McGregor in the first round and seemed content to give it away without throwing many punches.
Mayweather made a $100 million guarantee for facing McGregor, whose guarantee was $30 million. Once all the revenue is counted from the gate, pay-per-view and other sources, profits from Mayweather-McGregor are expected to exceed the roughly $600 million generated by Mayweather’s win over Manny Pacquiao in May 2015.
Fans that attended Mayweather-Pacquiao or purchased it on pay-per-view were largely disappointed due to the lack of action in their 12-round fight. This time, Mayweather believes he and McGregor delivered the entertainment they promised.
“He’s a tough competitor and I think we gave the fans what they wanted to see,” Mayweather said. “I owed them for the Pacquiao fight. I must come straight ahead and give the fans a show, and that’s what I gave them.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.