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Watch: Kellerman Admits He Was Wrong, Heaps Praise On McGregor For Heart And Fight I.Q

During the build-up to Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor, a promotion that was predictably strewn with sound bytes from both the fighters and the media, a comment from HBO boxing commentator and ESPN First Take co-host Max Kellerman was among the most widely discussed.

Kellerman, one of the boxing media’s most highly-respected and eloquent speakers, claimed on multiple occasions prior to the bout that McGregor would not land a single punch on the elusive Mayweather. Like everything about this fight, the comment was divisive. Some felt that Kellerman’s was a perfectly reasonable prediction, while others wrote it off as ludicrous hyperbole infused with a healthy dose of boxing bias; former UFC heavyweight and current Showtime analyst Brendan Schaub thought it was so ridiculous that he was willing to bet $100,000 that McGregor would not only land punches but also win rounds.

On Saturday night, McGregor rubbished Kellerman’s prediction by landing some 111 punches on Mayweather(according to CompuBox) – 30 more than Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao managed to land on Mayweather in May of 2015. In line with Schaub’s prognostications, McGregor also won three rounds on one judge’s scorecard, one on each of the other two judges’ cards, and even more on the unofficial cards of many observers.

With McGregor surpassing his unflattering prediction so spectacularly, Kellerman had little choice but to heap praise upon the Irishman and that’s what he did during a conversation with colleague Stephen A. Smith on a subsequent edition of First Take.

“That was the best version of what that fight could have possibly been,” said Kellerman. “And I want to start out by saying Conor McGregor deserves enormous credit. He is an exceptional fighter – an exceptional fighter.

“Even among champions, he stands out. And what stood out to me for Conor the boxer; first of all he is making his pro debut against one of the best fighters ever – I’m going to get to the age thing in a second – and he’s, early on, doing enough to stay in the fight. That’s amazing. Even the fact that he went ten rounds in his pro debut is amazing.

“And how is he able to have any success at all? He is not only incredibly determined with a huge heart and athletic – by the way when you see one fighter get around another fighter as Conor did to Floyd and actually step behind him, that means his feet are faster, it means he’s younger, or at least more athletic – that’s a huge thing. Conor is athletic, energetic, determined, his preparation is clearly there, but more than anything Stephen A., it’s his fighting brain.

Some felt that McGregor’s punching-power did not live up to it’s prior billing. He came into the fight with a fearsome reputation, having scored 18 KO/TKO’s in 21 professional MMA victories, and most felt that his big left-hand was the only thing that gave him any chance against the more skilled Mayweather. The punches McGregor landed, however, didn’t seem to make any real dent in Mayweather whatsoever. Interestingly, Kellerman said that he felt this was because McGregor made a tactical decision not to throw with real force.

“Conor McGregor, as most great fighters have, has an extremely high fighting I.Q. It’s the reason that he didn’t really hit Mayweather with anything hard. He didn’t load up on any punches, he had the uppercut in the first round. I know I said that he would not even lay a glove on Mayweather – not a clean punch – and I have a lot of people on Twitter saying he landed 111 punches – no he didn’t. But Conor did land about ten or a dozen punches over the course of ten rounds, which is actually more than most fighters land cleanly against Mayweather. Jabs and body punches included, maybe two or three of them had a little something on them but they were basically quick-handed arm-punches, which in boxing that means you don’t get your body behind them, because Conor is smart enough to know that, ‘If I load up on anything, I’m not going to hit Floyd’. So, he quick-punched him, he used his speed and hit him with arm-punches.”

Though Kellerman was effusive in his praise for McGregor, he did add that he felt the SBG Ireland representative’s efforts were aided somewhat by Mayweather’s age-related deterioration as a fighter.

“What we saw was Conor McGregor’s exceptional quality as a fighter on the one hand and Floyd Mayweather’s age – secondarily,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Conor,” Kellerman added, before going on to state, “But also Floyd at the age of 40 has to stop fighting.

“There are a lot of young fighters, several at least, who would have knocked Floyd out on Saturday night. I know he wouldn’t have fought them the exact same way but that Floyd doesn’t go the distance with Terence Crawford, maybe not with Errol Spence. There are a bunch of young guys who would have beaten him up that night. That’s enough, he’s retiring at the perfect time.

“So, the big take away from me is, that was the best version of the fight it could have been. I was wrong to say Conor wouldn’t land a punch – he landed several actual punches cleanly. He won a few rounds early when Floyd hadn’t started fighting yet, which is amazing to me. But ultimately he didn’t really have a chance to win the fight and Floyd won in the way he did partly because he is an older, flat-footed fighter now.”

Mayweather, who fought a more aggressive fight than we are used to seeing from him, finished an exhausted McGregor with a barrage of punches in the tenth round. The UFC lightweight champion was still on his feet when referee Robert Byrd stepped in to call a halt to the action. He may have lost via stoppage, but McGregor walks away from the fight having gained a great deal more respect from the boxing community than he had before Saturday night.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.