Conor McGregor is an elite-level striker with the strongest boxing fundamentals in Mixed Martial Arts. However, he does have unusual traits that you wouldn’t typically find in a boxer. This means its quite hard to judge how he would fare if he entered the boxing ring once again.
The timing and precision McGregor has shown in the octagon are better than some world-champion boxers. However, he is by definition a counter-puncher and would need to get comfortable with the shorter boxing range and the more sophisticated punches. His boxing works extremely well in the octagon when he can incorporate it with all his other weapons.
However, as we saw when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2017, it can be difficult to translate those skills efficiently into the boxing ring. But to answer the question, Conor McGregor has some excellent boxing skills. However, he isn’t comparable to elite professional boxers.
Why McGregor Is Good At Boxing
McGregor comes from a Western Boxing background so he has some good fundamentals. However, as he became a Mixed Martial Artist, he had to adapt a lot of those boxing rules to better suit MMA. When McGregor first entered the UFC he used a wide Karate stance with lots of hook kicks and switch kicks to confuse his opponents.
He would then use his boxing to finish them off, often with a big left hand. However, what is right for one sport is wrong for the other which is why its so difficult to compare MMA and boxing.
This bouncing Karate approach won McGregor world championships in the UFC. However, the same approach got him TKO’d in the boxing ring. Since fighting Floyd Mayweather, McGregor tightened up his guard and stopped feinting and bouncing so much. This technically made him a much better boxer but it hurt his MMA career.
When McGregor returned to the octagon against Dustin Poirier, he looked like a pure boxer and was probably much better suited to the ring. However, it was an MMA bout and he got his leg kicked in from underneath him resulting in a TKO loss. This was likely due to the fact he had a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao in the works.
His higher guard we saw in McGregor vs Cerrone and McGregor vs Poirier 2 is much more efficient from a boxing perspective and it can still be effective in MMA. But Conor’s original approach to boxing in MMA is so much more versatile.
Mayweather vs McGregor – What Did We Learn?
This boxing match taught us so many new things about McGregor and reminded us about the many qualities of Mayweather. Firstly, we learned that McGregor is very awkward. His punches and combinations are very unorthodox and he’s very energetic at the beginning of fights. Andre Warde highlighted this brilliantly. He said during the first few rounds, you’ll see a competitive and interesting fight between these two because of McGregor’s speed and unconventional style.
I think a fight between a young Mayweather and McGregor would have been much shorter but we need to also bear in mind that Floyd was 40 years old at this time. McGregor was enough of a danger during the early rounds for Floyd to stay defensive and slow. Floyd has always been a slow starter but there was really no point for him to stand toe-to-toe with a younger and stronger man. However, as soon as he saw McGregor’s work rate decrease, he increased the pressure and walked him down with a high guard.
McGregor got tired during that match because he isn’t a boxer and he’s not an endurance fighter. His conditioning would need to be better if he was to box again and he’d have to be more efficient at managing his gas tank. Firas Zahabi explained this perfectly. McGregor has something called the “touch of death”. When he hits people with his left hand, he shuts their lights out.
This is because he has a high concentration of fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, this comes at a cost, he can only exert this power for around 10 minutes with translates to around 2 rounds in MMA and 3-4 rounds in Boxing. After this period, the power dwindles.
How Would McGregor Do In Boxing
McGregor probably wouldn’t do too well in boxing at this stage in his career. He seems to have really focused on Mixed Martial Arts after suffering from his leg break and looks determined to make a comeback.
During his peak years, he could have had some good boxing matches and perhaps won national titles. However, he’s a fighter, not a boxer. This means his traditional Karate style isn’t suited to the Marquess of Queensbury Rules. We don’t what he could have achieved if he had chosen boxing as a sport instead of MMA but there are various clips of him holding his own against seasoned boxers.
McGregor showed some good skills against Chris Van Heerden during sparring and he even knocked down Malignaggi during a sparring session. That being said, I think the main hurdle McGregor would have to overcome in boxing is endurance. He’d need to be conditioned to fight for 12 rounds at a grueling pace without dwindling.
He’d also have to keep developing the boxing stance he used against Dustin Poirier in their second fight. His traditional Karate stance works well in MMA but as we saw against Floyd, it uses far too much energy in the boxing ring. McGregor’s boxing has become much closer to the textbook technique in recent years. Particularly his hooks which look much more powerful and explosive and would be much more useful in the boxing ring.
Conor McGregor is a generational talent. But in my opinion, his striking is much better suited to MMA than boxing and he absolutely made the right decision pursuing MMA over boxing.
While his boxing skills are elite compared to most MMA fighters, it’s very difficult to make a case for McGregor against the elite boxers that weigh roughly the same as Conor. If McGregor were to become successful in boxing he would have to greatly improve his conditioning and change his style to better suit the boxing ring.