Modesty hasn’t exactly been a cornerstone trait for Floyd Mayweather Jr., at least not during the second half of his career.
The polarizing icon’s “Money” years featured a drastic pivot from his earlier “Pretty Boy” moniker and helped make him boxing’s biggest pay-per-view attraction despite his fights delivering less action. Mayweather knows how to sell a fight.
While it would be difficult to shift from the relentless obnoxiousness of his press tour with Conor McGregor, Mayweather is certainly trying.
He’s now making an effort to diminish his own current skill set and hype up McGregor’s, going as far as to say the MMA kingpin — a massive underdog, per Las Vegas — has the advantage.
“When you look at myself and Conor McGregor on paper, he’s taller, has a longer reach. He’s a bigger man from top to bottom. He’s a lot younger, so youth is on his side,” Mayweather said during an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “And I’ve been off a couple of years. And I’m in my 40s. So, if you look at everything on paper, it leans toward Conor McGregor.”
The 40-year-old Mayweather has the three highest-grossing pay-per-view fights ever. His fights against Manny Pacquiao (2015), Canelo Alvarez (2013) and Oscar De La Hoya (2007) top anything Mike Tyson produced during the PPV era.
Now that he is up against by far the least experienced opponent of his career, Mayweather is going the other way to promote this fight by pointing out ways in which he could be perceived as the underdog.
“I lost a step,” he said. “A fighter like Andre Berto [Mayweather’s most recent opponent, whom he fought in September 2015] isn’t even supposed to go the distance with Floyd Mayweather, but remember, I was 38. It’s obvious I’m slipping a little bit to even let a fighter like that go the distance with me.
“I’m not what I used to be.”
It’s true McGregor is far younger, will be bigger on fight night and is one of the rare fighters who has a reach advantage on the long-armed Mayweather. Of course, the betting favorite is leaving out one key element here: McGregor is not a boxer.
These critical statements of Mayweather’s present skill level may be accurate, and the 29-year-old McGregor would probably be the favorite if this was a street fight.
But make no mistake: Mayweather is still a massive favorite to defeat an MMA fighter in a boxing ring.
A large segment of the Aug. 26 bout’s PPV audience might follow MMA and not boxing, and might not be familiar with how stark the differences are. But it’s highly likely the skill disparity will be evident from the opening bell.
Mayweather said wants to deliver a higher-action fight for fans who order this makeshift card. His best action days are well in the past, but Mayweather was once a volume fighter in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
His careful, defensively geared style isn’t exactly comparable to a prime Pacquiao or some of the boxing’s current greats when it comes to punching output.
But in finding an opponent who may struggle to defend himself because of obvious inexperience, Mayweather could well deliver more action since punching windows could well be wide open.
“This can’t be a defensive fight. I have to go to him,” Mayweather said. “I owe the public because of the Pacquiao fight. They weren’t pleased with that. They’re going to be pleased with this fight here.”