COMBAT specialist Ross Francis (@ross11ross) shares his betting thoughts on Saturday night's eagerly-anticipated dust-up between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor | Sunday 04:00 | Sky Box Office
So, let me spell this out early – I love Conor McGregor. Unashamedly!
He is the reason I got into MMA/UFC and have spent the last few years overanalysing d’arce chokes AND spinning elbows (whilst trying to look good in chequered suits).
In what has been billed as ‘the biggest fight in combat sports history’, the current UFC lightweight champion, the ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor (0-0-0) takes on what some believe is his biggest test against arguably the greatest boxer of all time, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather (49-0-0).
No chokes, spinning elbows, kicks or any other tricks from McGregor's bag of MMA weapons will be available to him. This Queensberry rules, boxing bout will be for no title (please no-one mention ‘the Money Belt'), no ranking but a hell of a lot of cash.
Dependent on PPV numbers, both fighters are expected to earn upwards of $100M – if you were in any doubt, please make no mistake, money is the reason this fight is happening.
Many in the boxing community believe this is nothing more than a circus show; an event built on bravado and one, which diminishes the sport. Personally, I would respectfully ask those people to bore off!
In the same way that shows like X-Factor do not damage music, this will not damage boxing (for those worried, see GGG vs Canelo and Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux). The crossover appeal of this fight is greater than any other I can remember with seemingly everyone having an opinion and wanting a piece of it.
Yes, there is a degree of sporting integrity missing but I'm happy to be taken along for the ride and enjoy the show.
Get set for an almighty show
And what a show. It's been easy to be caught up with the hype of the world press tour, the flash cars, the big talk, and as much as I’d like to, I just can’t ignore those boxing records and that's the most logical place to start the analysis.
Forty-nine wins for Mayweather, 0 losses vs 0 bouts for McGregor.
Zero. Nil. Zilch.
Add to that, the fact that Mayweather's record boasts victories over some of the best pound-for-pound ranked fighters of the past 20 years, including Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez, you can see why Paddy Power have already paid out on a Mayweather win.
That said, and where the intrigue of the fight comes, McGregor is special. The first man to hold two titles in multiple weight classes in the UFC. The man who knocked out the previous featherweight champion and all-time great Jose Aldo in 13 seconds (NOTE: with a left, not right). What if…
We’ve been here before
As a boxing fan, I've been here before. In 2007, when British welterweight Ricky Hatton was announced to fight Mayweather, the smart money said Mayweather. Too fast, too slick, too good – Hatton's aggressive, come-forward style will be perfect for Mayweather’s defensive style and traps.
Then the hype. Then the press tour. Hatton's complete faith in himself, his unwavering confidence (anything sound familiar?). Sucked into this hype and some Hatton bets later, Mayweather was too fast, too slick, and too good, stopping Hatton in the 10th.
Lacking a knockout punch?
Since that KO victory, Mayweather has only knocked out one opponent in Victor Ortiz, however I'm almost completely ruling this out of consideration as Ortiz was too busy trying to head-butt and talk to the ref, giving Mayweather some free shots.
Mayweather’s never been known as a puncher. His troubles with his knuckles well documented, ice packed after every training session and this would lead me to think the chances of a knockout are slim (currently trading at 8/11 with Ladbrokes).
Add to this, the fact McGregor has not been knocked out in his career – all three of his defeats coming by way of submission – and the chance becomes slimmer. Even if you reference McGregor’s most recent and highest profile defeat to Diaz, the 170lbs Diaz hit McGregor flush with 4oz gloves and didn’t knock McGregor out.
Fight could go the distance
Given the rigours MMA fighters have to put their body through for five, five-minute rounds, I have no worries over McGregor’s conditioning for a 12-round boxing bout.
Mayweather’s fitness has never been questioned so the chances of the fight going the distance, I believe, are significantly better than many are stating.
These factors added together make the 3/1 (Betfair) available for Mayweather to win by decision, a great bet.
Don’t discount Notorious
On the flip side of that coin, the ‘puncher's chance' of McGregor is certainly not one to be overlooked. McGregor has genuine KO power – primarily in his left cross, as evidenced as recently as his lightweight title win over Alvarez.
The aforementioned KO of Jose Aldo will remain in highlight reels for as long as we watch sports. That left hand is concussive and when you add in the decision to use 8oz gloves (as opposed to the standard 10oz for a 154lbs fight), those McGregor KO chances increase (4/1 Betfred).
Those two fighters however lost their composure, fought McGregor’s fight and this is something Mayweather will not do. I just cannot get past the difficulty factor for McGregor in actually catching Mayweather flush.
All of the previous 49 opponents Mayweather has faced have barely made contact with him, never mind truly troubling him. Some would argue rough-house Marcos Maidana did but he was never truly rocked.
Countless replays of ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley catching Mayweather with two right crosses (NOTE: rights, not lefts) have been shown in the build up to this fight to show he can be hit, however if you watch the seconds after, Mayweather recovers, ties Mosley up and is the aggressor in the closing seconds.
If McGregor is to catch him, it must happen early. McGregor’s style is one Mayweather has never faced before. His stance, movement to close distance and create it, potentially even how he holds his gloves almost palm forward as he does in MMA, will give Mayweather new looks to compute.
The betting angles
I believe – as many others have stated – this will take some time for Mayweather to calculate and it is in these early rounds I feel McGregor will, at worst, win a round or more.
It is rare for a unanimous decision to be awarded 12-0 when both opponents are game so the 6/4 offered by Paddy Power for McGregor to win at least one round on two or more judges’ scorecards has been snapped up but the 5/6 still available represents excellent value and one I will certainly be on.
For those who like these early McGregor chances more, the 6/1 generally available for McGregor to win in rounds 1-6 will be tempting (7/1 rounds 1-4; 9/1 rounds 1-3 or a dramatically cut 25/1 round 1). As much as my head tries tells me otherwise, I will be having a small stakes bet on this, solely due to the Buster Douglas theory.
After those early rounds of calculation, I believe Mayweather will work out McGregor’s movements and combinations and start to pick him off. This is what we have witnessed in the majority of Mayweather’s fights and I see no reason to think this pattern will change.
At 49-0, would you take risks to go on the front foot, be the aggressor, forget your defensive skills, which have served you so well, and jeopardise that perfect record?
A dirty fight?
I also believe, given the fight is in Mayweather’s back garden of Las Vegas, the referee will not allow any ‘dirty boxing’ McGregor may bring to the ring.
Much has been made of the videos of sparring sessions between Paulie Malignaggi and McGregor. The most interesting aspect of those videos for me, more so than the knockdown/push, is McGregor blatantly holding the back of Malignaggi’s head and rabbit punching him.
Joe Cortez, who was refereeing that spar, let McGregor away with a lot by all accounts, but he was on the payroll and this won’t be the case on Saturday. If anything, McGregor will be under more scrutiny than your standard boxer.
Equally, when faced with dirty tactics, Mayweather is not short to fight fire with fire (see Ortiz KO) so the chances of a point or points being deducted is a real possibility, making the 11/8 (Paddy Power) available for either to be deducted a point appealing.
The market has been skewed by the amount of money placed on McGregor since the fight was announced (MGM reporting earlier this week that 277 bets have been placed on Mayweather compared with over 6,000 on McGregor).
I would argue this is testament to the showman McGregor rather than reflecting his true chances in the fight. McGregor’s undeniable charisma balanced against Mayweather’s pantomime villain performance (“great in the ring, shitty in life” as Michael Rappaport recently put it) is the perfect good guy/bad guy plotline the general public love.
My main hope it that the hype is justified and the world gets 12 rounds of compelling action. After less than exciting fights in his last two outings, Mayweather is right when he says he owes the fans a performance.
I’ve got to recoup those Hatton losses so my heart will be put to one side, favouring a Mayweather victory but with McGregor making it competitive, we’ll all win!
Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor – Floyd Mayweather to win decision or technical decision (3/1 Betfair)
Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor – Conor McGregor to win at least one round on two or more judges’ scorecards (5/6 Paddy Power)
Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor – Either fighter to be deducted a point (11/8 Paddy Power)