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'He is an exceptional fighter': Max Kellerman changes his tune after spirited McGregor effort

‘I was wrong to say Conor wouldn’t land a punch – he landed several actual punches cleanly.’

HBO AND ESPN boxing analyst Max Kellerman has admitted he was partially wrong about Conor McGregor ahead of his professional boxing debut in Saturday’s ‘Money Fight’ with the now-retired-again Floyd Mayweather.

Kellerman had previously stated on a number of occasions that the UFC lightweight champion had a ‘precisely zero per cent chance’ of upsetting the best boxer of the past two decades, but speaking on ESPN’s First Take, Kellerman changed his tune on the Irishman, paying ‘The Notorious’ his dues for hanging tough for 10 rounds against the four-time lineal world champion.

“I want to start out by saying Conor McGregor deserves enormous credit,” Kellerman began. “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, it’s his fighting brain.

Conor McGregor, as most great fighters have, has an extremely high fighting IQ. 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.

Kellerman, however, did echo the sentiments of many fellow boxing pundits in suggesting the time was right for Mayweather to leave behind his sport and never return, maintaining younger welterweight contenders and champions would have minced the self-proclaimed ‘best ever’ on Saturday night.

While admitting he was wrong to claim McGregor wouldn’t land a punch on the undefeated, long-reigning pound-for-pound kingpin, the revered analyst attributed much of McGregor’s success to Mayweather’s age, and in particular the deterioration of his foot speed having returned to the ring aged 40 after two years spent in retirement.

“There are a lot of young fighters, several at least, who would have knocked Floyd out on Saturday night,” Kellerman said. “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.”

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