Could Conor McGregor ever be a world boxing champion?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is liffey-crane-hire-1.jpg

Could Conor McGregor ever be a world boxing champion?

It’s a question we asked and tried to answer just over two years ago – and one people are asking themselves again after comments made by ‘The Notorious’ this week.

In the build up to his first fight in 15 – a UFC 246 top of the bill fight against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone – the MMA star has not only claimed he will return to boxing, but predicted he would win a world title.

Before McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather and was stopped in the 10 round by ‘Money’ we explored if winning a world title would be possible – and all of the talking points and arguments remain the same.

Take a look below:

Could Conor McGregor ever be a world boxing champion?

29 year old Irishman Conor McGregor makes his professional boxing debut this month.

The Dublin light middleweight fights five-weight boxing champion Floyd Mayweather in a mega-money clash at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday August 26th.

The mixed martial artist and two-weight UFC champion jumps straight into a twelve-round non-title bout.

It’s obvious that money and intrigue are the two main factor driving the bout. The Irishman is not attempting to become a full time boxer and not trying to claim or defend world titles. The fight will provide McGregor a huge amount of money that will guarantee his family security for generations to come.

It’s also fair to argue that, despite the skewed betting odds, a McGregor win would be the biggest upset in the history of sports – at least in terms of a single event.

However, delving into ‘what if?’ territory, how would Conor McGregor fare in the boxing world if he went about things ‘the right way.’

See, the past few months have seen varied arguments being made about his credentials. Some honestly believe that ‘The Notorious’ will dominate and stop Mayweather early, and that it wont be a surprise or a shock – which is a shame for McGregor if this does somehow happen as he would not receive nearly enough credit.

Others feel that the bout is an intriguing one, with issues such as Mayweather’s age, the use of 8oz gloves, and McGregor’s size and awkwardness ensuring it is not a one-horse race.

Then there are those who feel it is a mismatch. Looking objectively, this cohort are probably closest to the truth. However many, perhaps due to a personal dislike of McGregor or MMA, go too far with their dismissal of the bout and the abilities of the Irishman.

With the range of views and opinion circulating, we look into how Conor McGregor might fair as a boxer – rather than as a participant in a one-off ‘event.’

A Different World

Imagine the Floyd Mayweather fight isn’t happening. Imagine Conor McGregor, as a two-weight UFC champion decides to ditch the octagon. However, instead of calling out Erislandy Lara, or Jermell Charlo, or Jarrett Hurd, the SBG fighter notes how he needs experience, needs to build, and that he will be a world champion someday.

Would he be written off by many? Probably. But could Conor McGregor, at 29 years old, ‘properly’ move to boxing and become a world champion?

The arguments for No? He’s not good enough and never will be good enough to win a title.

This stance however falls down quite quickly should one look throughout boxing history

Indeed, it is relatively common at heavyweight for boxers to start later in life – with Rocky Marciano, Deontay Wilder, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton and Anthony Joshua all being examples of fighters to take up the sport in their late teens or early twenties. Former world title challenger Tony Thompson was even older, at 27.

At the lower weights, Sergio Martinez, a two weight world champion and future Hall of Famer only picked up the gloves when he was 20. Another champion, Nate Campbell, was 24 before he stepped in the gym. Then there is Anthony Mundine who, after four amateur fights as a 17 year old, focused on rugby league before returning to boxing as a 25 year old where he would claim a world title. Jason Sosa, who recently fought Vasyl Lomachenko, was a pizza delivery man before picking up the sport at 20.

If dozens of fighers can wander into gyms at an advanced age and reach the top with little support, why couldn’t McGregor, with some of the biggest backing in sport, do the same?

His Credentials

In comparison to above McGregor has plenty of boxing, and fighting, experience. Between the ages of 12 and 16 he diligently boxed out of the famous Crumlin BC gym under Phil Sutcliffe Sr and won the Dublin Novice Championships as a 16 year old. He continued at the club after this but his commitment would dwindle as MMA took hold

While it is by no means elite amateur experience, McGregor is not starting off as a complete beginner.

Then there is his time in mixed martial arts over the last twelve years. The amount of weight you can give this in terms of boxing is up for debate. While the stances and ranges are vastly different, he is still aiming to hit and not get hit. Over the years he has sparred and acquitted himself well with professional boxers, at the Celtic Warriors Gym, with top Irish amateurs, and with the likes of Chris Van Heerden and Paulie Malignaggi.

Indeed, many comment on the comparative level of McGregor’s boxing talent when in the octagon and his first round knockout of Jose Aldo to win his first world title, a step back left hook, was described as “a Crumlin punch.” As McGregor says himself, “Phil Sutcliffe is a phenomenal boxing coach and my time under Phil in Crumlin Boxing Club, I learned so many fundamentals that I still carry with me today.”

Away from the technical aspects, it’s undeniable that McGregor is a physically gifted athlete. Over the last few years too he has trained (and recovered) on a full time basis, a crucial perk very few boxers have. McGregor has unbelievable backing – with the best dieticians, medical professionals, and sports scientists at his disposal to ensure he is a finely tuned machine. While his “oh my God” power may be questionable, McGregor certainly packs a punch, has good timing, and is known for his intense dedication. Add in a top boxing coach and who knows how quickly he could improve.

Boxing is a business, and with McGregor’s clout, backing and fan appeal, his hypothetical journey to the top would be different to most other late-starters – indeed most other fighters full-stop. Instead of struggling for opponents and fight dates, he would avail of the best matchmaking possible. Everything would be laid out and tailored to help build McGregor up to title level. Should he approach the upper echelons of the division, there would be no chance that he would be avoided by champions or messed around by sanctioning bodies. Once McGregor and his team feel he is ready, a title opportunity would doubtlessly soon emerge.

With his background and this laundry list of advantages and perks, could Conor McGregor becoming a boxing world champion if he went about it the ‘right’ way? Of course he could.

Sadly though we’ll never get to see it.

dpg

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]