Floyd Mayweather Jr. has spent years hearing the criticism that he’s too defense-minded, too averse to accept the risk of punishment that others in boxing have embraced.
Yet, in what he maintains will be his farewell fight with an opportunity to close his 21-year pro career with a 50-0 record, Mayweather might be willing to give the people what they want Aug. 26 when he takes on UFC champion Conor McGregor.
“We’re going to fight him,” Mayweather assistant trainer and longtime friend Nate Jones said Thursday at Mayweather’s media day at the fighter’s gym. “We know this is something new to [McGregor], so Floyd’s going to turn the gas on early. We don’t think he can go no farther than four rounds.
“We’ll burn the gas out of him, let him see some things he’s never seen, hit him with some good body shots … I don’t want to say the whole thing.”
Mayweather, who turned 40 in February and is returning to the ring for the first time in nearly two years, played coy on the specifics.
“It comes down to the two competitors,” he said. “My dad [trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.] may come up with a brilliant fight plan, but he can’t fight for me. I’m going to see a fighter, a warrior. … He’s coming forward and I’m not going backward.
“I don’t need to worry about how he fights. I need to worry about what I know. My job is to execute the game plan. … I wouldn’t be satisfied with a victory if I didn’t get the knockout.”
Mayweather’s interest in pursuing a sudden finish in an offense-minded bout certainly raises eyebrows.
Since his 2007 knockout of Ricky Hatton, Mayweather hasn’t knocked out anyone since 2011, when he KOd Victor Cruz, and the blow that set that up has been chided by some as a sucker punch.
And millions still feel burned by his convincing but void-of-excitement May 2015 unanimous-decision triumph over Manny Pacquiao.
That bout generated a combat-sports record $72 million live gate and a record 4.6 million pay-per-view buys, but also spawned a massive backlash. Only one pay-per-view boxing match since has generated more than 1 million buys.
Is this $100 pay-per-view offering going to be the payback?
Said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions: “I’m very confident this fight will end in a knockout.”
Mayweather, who so disdains defeat, said that McGregor should consider it a victory if he can last 12 rounds against the former five-division world champion.
Mayweather’s interest in finishing McGregor, who has shown an openness to absorbing punches against the likes of UFC foes Nate Diaz and Chad Mendes, is one reason that Mayweather has asked the Nevada Athletic Commission for lighter eight-ounce gloves to be used in the bout.
While McGregor has boasted of being the heavier puncher with his four-ounce gloves in the UFC, a master boxer with 26 knockouts on his resume becomes a more destructive force with Mayweather’s belief that he’ll batter McGregor with a greater accumulation of blows.
The commission would have to adjust rules for boxing matches at 154 pounds that stipulate the use of 10-ounce gloves. A vote on the matter is set for next week.
Even Mayweather’s revised training regimen hints that he’s not in this for the long run.
“More rest, but with age comes wisdom,” Mayweather said. “When I was younger, I would train, train, train and never let the body recoup. Now that I’m older, I can train two to three days and let the body rest. I come back rejuvenated with a lot more spark.”
Mayweather said because of the magnitude of the fight he is driven far more by his desire to provide excitement with entertaining action — no matter how short the bout — rather than carrying McGregor into the later rounds.
“August 26, after the fight is over,” Mayweather promised, “everyone’s going to be happy.” .