While the Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight is expected by many to be an easy victory for Mayweather, a Wednesday ruling will inject a bit of intrigue to the equation.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to allow the fighters to wear 8-ounce gloves in their junior middleweight bout.
NSAC regulations stipulate any fight contested at or above the junior middleweight division (154 pounds) must feature 10-ounce gloves, but both fighters’ camps submitted requests to use 8-ounce gloves. The NSAC approved this as a one-time-only experiment.
This will be closer to both fighters’ comfort zones, with Mayweather having fought at welterweight for most of the past decade and McGregor’s sport using 4-ounce gloves.
The Association of Ringside Physicians had cited concerns for the safety of the fighters at this weight class, saying a reduction in the glove size could set a precedent for future fights.
Mayweather raised the issue of the smaller gloves Aug. 1, when the 40-year-old, former five-division champion floated the idea on Facebook to use 8-ounce gloves. Both fighters soon submitted waivers to the NSAC to allow this.
Smaller gloves increase the possibility of knockdown-inducing punches. That would play into McGregor’s hopes for a stunning upset since the MMA superstar is unlikely to win a decision over the accomplished boxer.
“If we are in 8-ounce gloves, he will be floored multiple times in the first round,” the 29-year-old McGregor told ESPN last week. “I believe first-round KO in 8-ounce gloves. The fact I can’t follow through in MMA and pound the head into the canvas and there’s a 10-count in boxing, maybe I’ll give him second round. But 8-ounce gloves, he will be done in two.”
Mayweather has fought at junior middleweight three times — against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Miguel Cotto in 2012 and Canelo Alvarez in 2013 — so he has experience with 10-ounce mitts. But Mayweather fought his other 46 professional fights under the junior middleweight threshold. While he’s not a knockout artist, having not scored a legitimate KO victory since 2007, he’s plenty experienced with the approved gear.
“Floyd wanted Conor to be as comfortable as possible, so there wouldn’t be any excuses,” Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe told ESPN.com after the ruling. “I have no reason to believe he’s not feeling very confident, and I want him to continue to have that confident attitude.”
Mayweather insisted that foam gloves to be used, as opposed to Mexican horsehair gloves, which are sometimes referred to as “puncher’s gloves.”
Wednesday’s ruling increases the referee’s responsibilities for the fight. The commission approved Robert Byrd to officiate the bout.
A veteran referee who is known to be a bit more lenient when it comes to inside roughhousing, Byrd hasn’t officiated a Mayweather fight since the 2012 Robert Guerrero mismatch. Kenny Bayless, an official known for separating fighters frequently in clinches to prevent inside activity, referred four of Mayweather’s past five fights. The last time a referee other than Bayless officiated a Mayweather fight, Argentinian brawler Marcos Maidana came close to a shocking upset victory in 2014.
Byrd came under scrutiny for his most recent high-profile fight, however, by allowing Andre Ward to hold frequently during the American’s widely disputed decision win over Sergey Kovalev in the duo’s first light heavyweight title fight in November of last year.
Given that inside tactics may be an avenue for McGregor to excel, the selection of Byrd is notable.