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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

McGregor just doesn't have the game to beat Mayweather

Despite McGregor being an unknown quality in boxing terms, it is hard to imagine Mayweather changing a peek-a-boo style that has brought with it nine major world titles across five divisions.

Floyd Mayweather Jr, left, is an overwhelming favourite to beat Conor McGregor for his 50th career win on Saturday. Steve Marcus / Reuters
Floyd Mayweather Jr, left, is an overwhelming favourite to beat Conor McGregor for his 50th career win on Saturday. Steve Marcus / Reuters

Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Oscar de la Loya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Robert Guerrero, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Marcos Maidana, Manuel Pacquiao. All have one thing in common: all came, all saw, all were conquered by Floyd Mayweather Jr. Even Mayweather's own father could not devise a plan to beat his son while mentoring De la Hoya for their 2007 bout.

That honour roll brought with them an arsenal that makes North Korea's nuclear missile programme look like a cache of water pistols and pea shooters. Besides the heavy artillery of Hatton, Canelo and Pacquiao, lightning speed, ballroom footwork, Ivy League ring smarts, and a willingness to test the boundaries of the Queensbury Rules - Mayweather has faced it all and emerged with barely a scratch on him. He faces a different enemy in Las Vegas on Saturday, though, one adept at guerilla warfare.

Mayweather's top five fights

Conor McGregor becomes the 50th opponent to try and take his crown. McGregor is a fighter of nonpareil in his own arena of mixed martial arts, the UFC's undisputed king and box office draw.

That organisation's first simultaneous dual-weight world champion, he leaves the comfort of a ring with eight sides for one with just four for his first professional bout against a man looking to cement his own legend of making it a half-century of wins, seemingly not content with sharing that mantle with Rocky Marciano on 49.

Some say it is suicide, some say McGregor has outgrown his own sport and the next logical step is to conquer foreign lands. Some are calling it a circus. Some say it overshadows what is a genuine and bona-fide superstar fight taking place next month between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo.

Whatever your personal thoughts, if you are reading this the likelihood is that you will be tuning in to watch it.

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It is testament to the Irishman's courage and his business acumen that, untried and untested, he is willing to step into the ring with the greatest boxer of his generation in Mayweather, who returns to the ring two years after his last bout at the ripe old age of 40, 11 years his opponent's senior. A cut of the proceedings will have been a huge motivator too, with Showtime executives predicting this "super fight" will blow the last "super fight" between Mayweather and Pacquiao out of the water when they count their takings on Sunday.

While there is no doubt McGregor is the best with his hands in the octagon - as Jose Aldo and Nate Diaz will testify - it is just one piece of the meat that makes up the stew. Mixed martial arts requires a good ground game and stand up one. At the MGM Grand on Saturday, McGregor will not be able to take Mayweather to the ground should he find himself in trouble. Although don't discount the idea.

Too much talk has been dedicated to the 8oz gloves. McGregor is used to 4oz pads, and the bombastic Irishman has not been shy about letting Mayweather know that this will play to his advantage when they meet. For the uninitiated, gloves protect your hands, not the skulls they are pounding. The suggestion is that Mayweather's hands are too brittle. Whether that is the case, landing clean punches on him has proved elusive to infinitely better boxers than McGregor over the years.

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The only bruising the American has ever suffered has been to his arms, using them wildly to disrupt the bombs of De la Hoya and illegally to irritate Hatton, as well as countless others.

The perception that Mayweather doesn't possess the knockout power to trouble the taller, bigger McGregor is foolhardy, too. He knocked down a monster in Corrales five times and if the ring didn't have turnbuckles Hatton would still be rolling down the Las Vegas strip to this day, although granted this was carried out by Mayweather in his pomp, and not after two years of inactivity in the ring. This fight, like so many others, has Mayweather unanimous decision written all over it, in my opinion.

Mayweather's hands are some of the fastest the sport has ever known. The overhand right has always carried venom and he rarely gets hit clean on the face. A fighter who never abandons his footwork has always been able to manoeuvre himself out of trouble. Every time I watch replays of the 2015 Pacquiao bout, Mayweather wins another round.

Mayweather-Pacquiao fight

Despite McGregor being an unknown quality in boxing terms, it is hard to imagine Mayweather, despite claims he will finish the fight inside four rounds, changing a peek-a-boo style that has brought with it nine major world titles across five divisions. It is hard to imagine McGregor not taking up the invitation to come forward and launch some earth to chin missiles.

What is also harder to imagine is that the 29-year-old Irishman possesses the jab of De la Hoya, the skills of Castillo, the body shots of Hatton, the awkwardness of Cotto, the flurries of Gatti, the all-round game of Mosley, the counter-punching of Marquez, the power of Canelo, the underhand tactics of Guerrero, the mobility of Maidana and the ferocity of Pacquiao to deny Mayweather a record-beating 50th career win.