There is little denying that fatigue played some role in Conor McGregor’s defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last weekend in Las Vegas, but one Irish doctor has strongly disagreed with the fighter’s claim that he was merely tired and not hurt during what proved to be the closing moments of the bout.
McGregor started brilliantly in his maiden professional boxing outing, surprising many by winning the first three rounds in the eyes of most observers and one of the three scoring judges seated ringside. One counter uppercut in particular, expertly timed but not quite clean enough to cause Mayweather any real issues, undoubtedly had some within the boxing community wondering if they had underestimated the UFC lightweight champion’s pugilistic prowess.
As the fight continued into the middle rounds, however, it became clear that McGregor was struggling with the pace. He was breathing heavily as Mayweather became increasingly aggressive. By the ninth round, the SBG Ireland fighter looked exhausted and he began to ship a lot more clean punches. He was fortunate to survive the stanza neath a hail of Mayweather shots.
The minute’s rest between rounds didn’t prove sufficient for McGregor to restore his energy levels and he continued to take clean shots early in round ten. Mayweather landed a pair of flush right hands on McGregor with a little under a minute gone in the session, the second of which sent the 29-year-old Pay-per-view star stumbling across the ring. Mayweather pursued his foe and a follow-up barrage inspired an intervention from referee Robert Byrd.
It was the first time in McGregor’s combat sorts career that he suffered a KO/TKO defeat. All of his three MMA losses have come via submission.
Some felt that the stoppage was a little premature. McGregor, unsurprisingly, was one of them.
“I would have liked to see the end of the 10th… I have this patch where I must overcome, I get a little wobbly, but it’s more fatigue. If you look at the [Nate] Diaz 2 fight, I came through that,” the Dubliner said later that evening. “It’s not damage, there’s always a patch in my fights where I go through this fatigue stage… but I wasn’t rocked.”
These comments, however, drew a response from Hawaii-based emergency physician and former ringside doctor, Darragh O’Carroll.
O’Carroll is a regular contributor to Vice website Tonic, which covers “wellness, science and big-picture health issues.” In a piece that he wrote the day after the MayMac showdown, the doctor stated that McGregor was exhibiting behaviour that could not be explained solely by mere fatigue in the tenth and final round of the fight.
“Byrd’s calculation to call a stoppage was likely not based on signs of fatigue, but rather signs of traumatic brain injury,” wrote O’Carroll. “Ataxia, or dizziness and loss of balance, is one of the hallmarks of concussion, a type of mild traumatic brain injury. Fatigue may cause sluggish and slow movements, but does not cause the imbalance and poor coordination exhibited by McGregor in the 10th round.”
“Being wobbly, in the setting of pugilistic trauma, will always be treated as the result of head trauma and not as fatigue. To let a fighter continue on would be grossly negligent.”
“As an Irishman and self-admitted McGregor fan, I would like to believe him, but as a physician and former ringside doctor, I believe the fight was stopped for his own safety. Byrd did an excellent job by stopping the fight when he did, as I’m certain the ringside physician and all members of the Association of Ringside Physicians would agree.”
Byrd, a veteran referee who has been the third man in the ring for almost 700 fights, including for Mayweather’s 2013 scrap with Robert Geurrero, was not only criticized for the timing of his stoppage last Saturday night but also for allowing Conor McGregor to get away with frequent rabbit punches or hammer-fist type punches in close.
At the time of Byrd’s stoppage, McGregor was well behind on all three judges’ scorecards – further perhaps than he should have been. Thus, had he been allowed to continue, ‘The Notorious’ one would have needed an unlikely stoppage of his own or an unfathomable host of knockdowns late in the fight to secure the win. He might, however, have clung on and survived the remaining eight minutes of the 12-round contest, something that many suggested pre-fight would have constituted a moral victory for the mixed martial artist. By winning rounds early on against the best boxer of the last 20 years though, McGregor had arguably already secured a moral victory by the time Byrd stepped in to end the fight.