Last Saturday night in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather turned in one of the most exciting performances of his career in a fight that turned out to be much better than expected. It was a fight that wasn’t even looked at as a fight, but as an event.  The word “spectacle” was thrown around to substitute the word “fight”.  And while those definitions certainly were applicable, in the middle of everybody’s event, everybody’s Saturday night guilty pleasure, a real fight broke out.

It wasn’t as good a fight as say, Badou Jack and James Degale’s unification bout earlier this year, or Anthony Joshua’s epic TKO victory over Wladimir Klitschko this past April, but it turned out to blow past it’s own seemingly atrocious expectations.

Photo: Esther Lin (Vox Media)

Certain Boxing aficionados (such as myself) worried about the reputation of the sport as it pertained to the outcome of the fight.  If McGregor made it competitive, or worse, won, would it not spell disaster for the sport?  Many people within the sport I interviewed canned the idea, believing it was a fight between two men and not two sports.  As sensible as that may sound, the truth is fans pit Mixed Martial Arts against Boxing all the time.  As Mikey Garcia put it to me Thursday before the fight “It’s funny that the people doing all the debating aren’t fighting for a living”.  But such is life.

Fortunately, I think what happened, as corny as it sounds, is that all parties won.  One hundred dollars is a good chunk of money to fork over for a fight for most people, but the two combatants gave a good show.  Each gave a good account of themselves in different ways.  There were plenty of Boxing minds (most famously Max Kellerman) who thought McGregor wouldn’t win a round against Floyd Mayweather.

Photo: Esther Lin (Vox Media)

Instead he won about 3 rounds against Mayweather, showing his talent, athleticism and skills impressively early on for a man who had never fought professionally as a Boxer.  He certainly implored some rough housing and illegal tactics, but he never did anything to truly try and get himself disqualified like some speculated he would once Mayweather began lighting him up.

It would have been nice for him to speak less about wanting the referee to not stop the bout, considering he was taking punishment for a minute on end without returning fire and wobbling badly throughout the ring whilst taking clean punches.  But even with that being said, Conor McGregor gave himself, and his sport of Mixed Martial Arts a good account of themselves.

Boxing was able to win as well, as fans that ordered the fight were treated to a good show and a good scrap between two of the biggest names in sports. Some would criticize that the sport’s best in Floyd Mayweather lost some rounds to a man making his professional debut, and I suppose thats understandable but I would ask them this:

Photo: Esther Lin (Vox Media)

How old is Kobe Bryant?  How old was Peyton Manning when he retired?  The answer to both of those questions is 39 years old.  What do both have in common?  They weren’t competing anymore at Floyd Mayweather’s age of 40, let alone taking punches.  I think people love to watch a good fight so much that they forget Boxing is a sport, and Floyd Mayweather like practically any other athlete in almost any other sport is past his prime at 40 years old.

Both Manning and Bryant are considered two of the greatest American athletes of the past who-knows-how-many years.  The same goes for Floyd Mayweather.  Keep in mind that at his age, each man was retired.  And in their final years both Manning and Bryant were two of the worst players at their positions in the pros.  So keep that in mind when assessing Floyd Mayweather’s performance, or before you take McGregor’s landed punch count to the bank as an accomplishment over fighters like Pacquiao or Cotto.

Despite being off for 2 years, past his prime, reportedly looking so-so in sparring (I saw it for myself back in June), and being outweighed by 20 pounds or so, Floyd Mayweather walked down a man 11 years younger than himself and got him out of there to close his career on a TKO.  He went after a man who vowed to not take a step back in the ring, and hunted him down until his pressure bursted the pipes of Conor McGregor.

Photo: Esther Lin (Vox Media)

Last Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather got to showcase the things his critics always tried to take away from him: His heart and grit.  This fight wasn’t so much about the main things that made Mayweather the best fighter of his era.  It wasn’t so much about his virtuoso skill (though he still displayed plenty of that) or the blinding hand speed he had for such a long time, or his perfected shoulder roll.  This fight was about Floyd Mayweather biting down on his mouthpiece with his hands held high and going out getting the job done even when he no longer nearly had his best.

After hearing for so many years that he was too defensive, or the ignorant accusation of being labeled a “runner” Mayweather went out not taking a step backwards until the man in front of him couldn’t take anymore.

The legs were no longer there, and I know Floyd says that they weren’t showcased due to his game plan, but thats only half the story.  Floyd got ti right when he said “I’m not the fighter I was 2 years ago” a version of himself that was already considered by some to be past his prime.  And his speed that he maintained for so long had finally taken a noticeable dip.  2-4 years ago he would have dominated McGregor in easier fashion.  But again, then maybe fans wouldn’t have gotten as intriguing a fight, and Mayweather wouldn’t have gotten to showcase the heart, determination and composure he put on display.

Photo: Esther Lin (Vox Media)

Some will dispute Mayweather’s 50th victory in terms of it’s legitimacy in breaking the record of Rocky Marciano’s hallowed 49-0 mark.  But the truth is, Marciano fought a lot of bums in his first 40 or so fights, and finished with 6 world championship bouts, all of which he won of course.  That is not to take away from the great Marciano, but Mayweather has fought in world championship bouts for the majority of his career for 15 plus years since 1998 in only his 18th professional bout.

Of course when Rocky fought there was only one world title as opposed to the 4 titles now.  But Mayweather has beaten several hall of fame fighters going from 130 to 154 pounds.  You could debate the legitimacy of Conor McGregor all you want, but is he really that much of a worse opponent than Gilley Ferron?  Or how about Bill Hardeman?  Those are two of the names that Rocky Marciano received an official victory as a professional for defeating, just as Mayweather received an official victory for TKO’ing McGregor.

And as Teddy Atlas said, Floyd had to show a little bit of Rocky Marciano in his game to get to number 50, how fitting.  The rock use to break his opponents down to the body and then the head after getting off to a slow start, kind of like Floyd did with Conor.

I’m not trying to say this was an amazing accomplishment, I’m saying this was a good ending to a career full of amazing accomplishments.  Like most of his career, a lot of people will take Mayweather’s brilliance with a grain of salt, but make no mistake he’s displayed just that in the ring for decades: brilliance.  And even when he wasn’t nearly as brilliant as he use to be, he still got the job done and made good on his promise that the fight wouldn’t go the distance, and that he would come forward all night long.

All in all, he retires undefeated and as one of the greatest fighters, Pound-for-Pound, of all time.