Rumors of a potential boxing match between retired boxing star Floyd Mayweather and UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor have grown some legs recently, but the possibility of this happening seems remote. However, talks about the fight, and its possible result, have boxing and MMA fans more intrigued than ever.
Let's pretend for a minute that Mayweather and McGregor agree to meet in a boxing match. While McGregor was a good boxer as a youngster, for him to beat the best fighter of this generation and one who has never lost a fight in his professional boxing career -- Mayweather is 49-0 -- would be a long shot.
We asked boxing trainer and ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas to play the game and create a plan for McGregor to get ready to fight Mayweather.
Can McGregor win? Atlas has some good advice, but what it would take may surprise you.
1. How would you train Conor McGregor to fight Floyd Mayweather?
First off, I wouldn't. He has no chance in a traditional boxing match. His only chance would be with MMA rules, where he could try to bring Floyd to the mat where he could, of course, easily be the victor.
He would need about five years -- and I'm being very generous and conservative -- of boxing training and experience to even entertain the thought of being competitive with any A-plus-level boxer.
But I will play this imaginary game with you for a couple of minutes because I love ESPN. So if I did train him, at this point I'm not sure what I'd have him do, but I'm sure of what I would not have him do: I wouldn't have him just attack like the caveman he tries to act like. Being aggressive [although there are many who would believe that is his one and only chance] would not be my advice. He would simply bring on his demise quicker, and you don't attack a great defensive counter puncher, especially when you are so crude.
I would have [him] try and get Floyd to come forward. Teach [McGregor] how to step back and counter, hoping to get Floyd to perhaps be so overconfident that he might be drawn into a trick punch. In other words, a sneak punch.
Also, if you are going to hit someone as smooth as Floyd, it has to be approached like a football team playing against a fast defense: You need misdirection plays, like Shane Mosley did a few years ago [in 2010] when he faked a jab to Floyd's body and instead threw a right hand up top. After that I would pray.
2. How long would it take McGregor to get ready based on what you've seen of him?
I think I answered that already -- but I will again more directly: years. Think in terms of Social Security.
3. What are McGregor's chances of beating Mayweather in a boxing match?
Once again, I believe I have already answered this -- but again, to be more definitive: none. If I were a Vegas oddsmaker, I would not list a betting line on this.
4. How would you approach coaching such an underdog. Have you ever been in that situation?
Actually, some years ago [former light heavyweight titlist] Henry Maske flew in from Germany to beg me to train him after 10 years of being retired at 42 years of age (I think he was 42, maybe 41) to fight the one person who had beaten him, [former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder] Virgil Hill. I told him that if he fought Hill as he had planned, he would lose and lose badly because he had no way of truly believing he could win after being away for so long.
Not only did he have a physical hill to climb, as does McGregor, but also that mental one. So he said to me, "Is there any way you could conceive a way of when I could have a chance?" And I said, "Just one."
"If I was going to do this, I would need a year [turns out we did it in about eight months] in which I would train you for three months -- then have a fight in a gym. In other words, create the entire atmosphere of a real fight -- pay a pro fighter [of my choosing] to come into the gym and fight with small 8-ounce gloves and no head gear, a referee and judges and doctor and an ambulance on the ground and a weigh-in -- create the conditions of a real fight [six rounds]. Then, after that, take a week off and go right back into training, this time for two months and then do the same thing, this time an eight-round bout (of course these are all non-sanctioned fights that are not on the record). Like sparring sessions except you are experiencing what you would physically and emotionally in the ring. Then after the eight-round fight, take a week off and again go into training, this time a seven-week camp for a 10-round gym fight. After that, then you would have a chance because you could believe you have a chance." I put that plan into action with Maske. Very few people knew about it and halfway through it he screwed me and went back to Germany, finished following the plan, had a lot of gym fights and then fought Hill and won.
This would be what I would do if I trained McGregor for a Mayweather fight.