Floyd Mayweather Jr. teased Conor McGregor long enough. The grandiose plans McGregor envisioned of disrupting the boxing universe collapsed like a house of straws overtaken by gale force winds.
The best fighter of his generation, Mayweather set the trap early, and gradually wore down an opponent without previous boxing experience.
In what he later announced as his final fight, Mayweather capped a brilliant 21-year career late Saturday. Mayweather scored a 10th-round technical knockout win over McGregor in their highly anticipated bout in Las Vegas, culminating a boxing journey with the enviable 50-0 record.
“You’re not going to see me in the ring [anymore],” Mayweather said in a post-fight news conference. “Any guy that’s calling me out — forget it. I had a great career, tremendous career.”
Mayweather, 40, already was semi-retired when he announced his return two months ago to face McGregor, a mixed martial arts fighter and signature attraction of the sport’s top organization — Ultimate Fighting Championships.
The Mayweather-McGregor fight buildup received instant Super Bowl-like attention. Although skeptics considered it a farce because of McGregor’s lack of boxing experience, the fight is expected to shatter pay-per-view records.
“This fight would not have been made if he weren’t the biggest name in UFC,” Mayweather said.
McGregor, 28, brought a new fan base to the event and for the first three rounds of Saturday’s fight the MMA loyalists imagined the inconceivable portrait of a vulnerable and aging Mayweather.
McGregor landed effectively with lead right jabs and connected with a left uppercut that highlighted McGregor’s early fight performance against an inactive Mayweather.
But Mayweather turned the tide in the fifth round and stepped up his punch activity. Mayweather scored with repeated rights that began McGregor’s downfall. In the ninth round a fading McGregor absorbed additional rights to the head.
After his similarly highly anticipated match against Manny Pacquiao two years ago failed to live up to expectations, Mayweather vowed to stop McGregor, and he saw the finish line in the 10th. With McGregor unable to counter or defend from Mayweather’s additional power shots, referee Robert Byrd stopped the junior-middleweight fight at 1:05 of the round.
“I told you I was going to come straight ahead and take some contact,” Mayweather said. “I just couldn’t box and counterpunch and make it boring. I felt like I owed the fans a last hurrah.
“The whole game plan was to let him start with heavy shots from the beginning, take him down the stretch and do what we do best. That’s what we did tonight.
“He fought a hell of a fight. I found a way to trap him and broke him down.”
McGregor said he deserved an opportunity to continue, claiming Byrd ended the fight prematurely. One of the notable adjustments for McGregor was transitioning from MMA’s five-minute, five-round distance to the three-minute, 12-round duration of a boxing title fight. McGregor’s time in the ring against Mayweather exceeded the MMA limit by four minutes.
“I go to this fatigue phase, it’s not damage I was feeling,” McGregor said. “I feel I should have gone through that 10th round and get my composure again. I always get that second wind. I didn’t get to the 11th or 12th.
“Let me go down on my shield. There was a minute left. Look very, very closely before you stop it. I was not rattled once.”
Pre-fight talk rarely featured McGregor laying a glove on Mayweather. And, although McGregor clearly was the busier fighter the first three rounds, Nevada-sanctioned fight judging again showed why it deals with frequent criticism.
At the time of the stoppage judge Guido Cavalleri scored the fight for Mayweather 89-81, and Burt Clements was not far behind with Mayweather ahead 89-82. Dave Moretti scored it closer, with Mayweather up 87-83.
McGregor, 28, left the opening that his foray into boxing could continue beyond Saturday’s bout.
“I always knew I would give a good account of myself,” McGregor said. “I hit him a few times but then he started reading the shots well.
“People ask me what’s next. I’m not quite sure what’s next. I have multiple titles in the UFC. I can also continue in the boxing game. Boxing wants me. I have to figure out where I am now.”
Around the ring
Four division champion Miguel Cotto won the vacant World Boxing Organization junior-middleweight title with a lopsided unanimous decision victory over Yoshihiro Kamegai on Saturday in Carson, California.