As a contest it never stood a chance, because Conor McGregor, for all his animal lust and hunger for the action, can’t box, which in a boxing match left him at a disadvantage.
He can fight all right, and while that is a necessary component it is not sufficient in this environment.
Mayweather is an old man, and looked it at times. He had not fought for two years and has fragile hands. But, as arguably the greatest defensive boxer of all time, he needed only to get out of bed to ensure victory would be his.
He barely threw a punch in the first three rounds, which helped swell the feeling of success among the massed ranks of McGregor supporters in the arena and around the world. McGregor created the impression that he was the dominant dog in the fight but strip away the frenzy and he never landed clean.
The best boxers know how not to get hit, how to defuse a punch that might look like a blow to the naked eye but are drained of power by the heightened reflexes of a defensive artist on the move, always just a fraction out of range. Mayweather controlled every element of this fight, even those first three rounds when he allowed McGregor his head. Had he chosen to step into the pocket sooner the fight would have ended earlier.
McGregor thought Mayweather neither strong nor fast, but he was out on his feet at the end, reduced to rubble by a relative pensioner. Mayweather relies not on brute strength but timing, both in defence and attack. When his punches land they are the more spiteful because they look so harmless.
They are not concussive, but wickedly efficient and when they hit the target they are received like a train slamming into the solar plexus.
If it failed in boxing terms, as a spectacle it was a huge success, and they both made a chunk of money, which is essentially what this whole shebang was about. I saw it more like a series leading to a finale, a little like Game of Thrones, a drama of seven parts concluding in a final conflagration, which might or might not meet expectation. Mayweather was the one with the dragons in his gloves, breathing fire when it mattered.
Thankfully there is no appetite for a rematch. Sport does not work when outcomes are known beforehand. If they really wanted to do it again, they should step into a cage, but there is not, and was never, a chance that Mayweather might meet McGregor on the Irishman’s terms.
McGregor understood that and took the best part of $100 million to bed as compensation. That will feel like the biggest victory of his life once the bruises have healed.