By losing, Conor McGregor could actually win big in his fight against Mayweather

Could expectations be any lower?
Could expectations be any lower?
Image: USA Today Sports/Noah K. Murray
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Conor McGregor goes into his super-fight with Floyd Mayweather as the perhaps the greatest underdog in sporting history.

Mayweather has had 49 boxing matches and won them all. McGregor has had none. Mayweather is the prohibitive favorite; McGregor’s odds of winning are about 5 to 1. All of which suggests that the fight itself, come Aug. 26 in Las Vegas, will be farcical and not even worth watching. But the recently retired boxer Paulie Malignaggi, who has fought at the highest level and was brought in to help McGregor’s training camp in the build-up to the fight, offers an interesting insight into why McGregor is doing this:

Realistically, to ask Conor to win the fight is a big ask. But maybe he can win moments of the fight or certain rounds. If he’s winning certain moments of the fight, even if he loses in the long run, people will talk more about what Conor did than Floyd winning.

The expectations for McGregor are so low that if he was to land a few good punches or come through relatively unscathed, that would be a major triumph. With each of the 12 rounds scored out a maximum of 10, the last time that Mayweather dropped below 115 on any judge’s scorecard was in his first fight against Marcos Maidana in 2014—and that includes his superfight against Manny Pacquiao.

If McGregor was to win one or more rounds against a boxing legend? If he was to wobble the 40-year-old American’s legs? If he could create any kind of “moment” that Malignaggi talked about, like an actual knockdown? That would be something that people would speak about the day after—no matter that Mayweather actually won the fight. It would make McGregor an even bigger star.

But does Malignaggi even believe that’s possible anymore? After McGregor posted a tweet of Malignaggi knocked to the ground…

…Malignaggi left the training camp. They had sparred together twice and Malignaggi had suggested that McGregor had a “game plan” and that there was a “method to the madness.” That has now dissolved into acrimony after McGregor’s tweet. As for the sparring, it sounds like both bouts were fairly robust affairs.