Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather the only ones enriched by this fight | Kevin Mitchell

There was little to be learned after a predictable outcome to this money-spinning contest in Las Vegas between two proponents of very different disciplines

A bar is, on reflection, the best place to watch a bar fight. Ultimately, for Conor McGregor, there was time for neither much thinking nor a lot of what the Irishman would regard as proper fighting. He roughly doubled his Warholian 15 minutes of fame and considerably enhanced his wealth, while retaining a good deal of dignity in defeat.

Yet, from our noisy spot in front of a screen in the Lansdowne Road Bar (where else?) in New York City on Saturday night, it was clear that what mental and physical space Floyd Mayweather allowed the mixed martial artist on his grown-up debut in a squared ring in Las Vegas was way more intense than anything McGregor can have imagined during his youth back in Dublin. His diddling about during a handful of teenage amateur boxing bouts in Crumlin, topped up by preparation for this fight that had its infancy in sparring a year ago, was the most uninformative preparation for what engulfed him from the midway stages of the nine-and-a-bit rounds it lasted.

As Jake LaMotta is alleged to have spluttered through bruised lips at Sugar Ray Robinson in the 13th round of the last of their six fights, in Chicago in 1951: “Ya never put me down, Ray. Ya never put me down.” And so it was for McGregor, slapped so sharply and with such inevitability from the sixth to the 10th, but left with the compensation of perpendicularity at the end.

Of course they smiled and embraced. Metaphorically that is what they had been doing in an elongated buildup that took in a publicity tour of the UK – where pay-per-view numbers on Sky were expected to be stratospheric – and the United States, where punters paid nearly $100 for the privilege of watching this unique occasion at home or $40 in bars like the Lansdowne Road on 10th Avenue.

Mayweather made way north of the rumoured $100m and is now a billionaire. McGregor went home with a kitty close to the $30m figure that leaked out from sources. Showtime and other outlets cleaned up too. It was, as they claimed, the biggest fight in history, financially at least.

And that was the point of it all for the fighters. Contrary to the wider perception, they cared not a lot for the integrity of their disciplines. They very much appreciated giving appearances to the contrary, however, which left the altogether false impression that boxing’s future was in the hands of its maestro and Dana White’s rolling UFC circus was going to depend on a McGregor miracle.

But miracles happen only in the Bible and Hollywood. This was neither a sermon on the mount nor a movie. There were few lessons learned but the obvious ones. As every worthwhile expert – almost exclusively from the world of professional boxing – had been saying for months, McGregor stood no chance.

That does not mean boxing is better than MMA. If McGregor had won, neither would it have proved the opposite. They are as different as rugby league is from rugby union.

Boxing is a sport conducted directly over the leading leg, with the weight held there as a fulcrum through which all meaningful blows are launched, with spontaneity and speed; MMA, a sport of punching, kicking and grappling, relies on the mutual agreement of distance and pausing and is conducted in staccato bursts of flying legs, gloves and lunging. So fair play to Ireland’s finest exponent of the mixed arts for even attempting to compete with the finest boxer of this generation while leaving most of his weapons at home.

All the Dubliner’s good work arrived in the early rounds when Mayweather traditionally inspects his prey for signs of weakness. As he slipped and slid, gliding in and out of danger with that lethal right hand cocked, the 40-year-old who had not fought in two years shipped the odd shot but was merely fattening the calf. The scientific slaughter took him only as long as he chose. McGregor had his moments: the odd uppercut here, a southpaw right hook there. But, as in his own sport, they arrived with all the speed and transparency of a postcard. When McGregor discovered the cost of postage, the correspondence dwindled.

As Mayweather pasted McGregor with one searing shot after another in the 10th round he looked nearly as commanding as he did in the same round in the same town against Ricky Hatton nearly a decade ago. That, significantly, had been his last proper knockout victory (discounting his sneaky, barely legal stoppage of Victor Ortiz in 2011). Hatton, though, had fought 43 times without losing; McGregor had never fought, not at this level in this sport.

Mayweather has aged, certainly. Yet, two years after walking away from boxing with a perfunctory points win over Andre Berto, he returned with an acceptable performance against a manufactured opponent to inch past the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano. That statistical highpoint, though, should be regarded as The Rock’s son, Rocky Jr, described it: bogus. This was, Junior said, “an exhibition match”.

It is a minor outrage – and not one worth bothering a lot about – that Mayweather should stand above Marciano as an unbeaten and retired champion. Rocky did his work in the Sugar Ray era, against many fine heavyweights; Mayweather, too, has beaten a lot of excellent opponents; McGregor, for all his bravery in a strange sport, was not one of them.

A proper boxing match will take place in three weeks. What Mayweather-McGregor did was distract briefly from what should be the fight of the year when Gennady Golovkin and Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez go to the same T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to decide who can be regarded as the best middleweight in the world.

Mayweather gave Álvarez a boxing lesson across the road at the MGM Grand four years ago, the Mexican’s only setback in a career that began when he was 16, about the age young McGregor had abandoned the gloves to earn a living as a plumber.

As Mayweather’s career wound down, he should have crowned it with a fight against Golovkin, the wondrous Kazak who seemed unbeatable until he flirted with defeat in his 37th bout, against Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden in March. But he denied us that fight. Instead it was McGregor.

All praise to the loser. He did as well as his skills allowed. Yet the lingering emotion as the bar crowd spilled out into the New York night was one of paying for a steak and getting a hot dog. The Guinness was good, though.


Kevin Mitchell in New York

The GuardianTramp

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