Aside from the short-lived Paulie Malignaggi experiment, the team surrounding Conor McGregor ahead of his Aug. 26 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather has largely stayed the same as it has for most of McGregor’s UFC fights. SBG coaches John Kavanagh and Owen Roddy have run point on the camp, while longtime McGregor teammates like Artem Lobov have remained a constant supporting presence as the Irishman prepares to face the 49-0 boxer.
The fact that McGregor did not bring an outside boxing mind into camp has drawn widespread derision from the boxing community, as have McGregor’s unorthodox training methods and techniques. But as Kavanagh explained Monday on The MMA Hour, all of Team McGregor’s decisions have been calculated, and the loudest detractors from the boxing world are missing the point of what makes McGregor unique compared to Mayweather’s past 49 foes.
“What a boxing coach is going to try and do is make him move like a boxer. That’s not what we’re trying to do,” Kavanagh said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I’ve used this example before, but Freddy Roach is an absolutely old-school trainer. I’ve actually been reading quite a lot about boxing trainers recently, and he’s been one of these guys from a time gone past where he could do everything in the corner — he’s a cutman, he’s a trainer, he was a great fighter himself. But ultimately, his southpaw wasn’t able to really do much with Floyd.
“What was really going to come of bringing in someone (like Roach), other than introducing confusion? So Owen Roddy has, I believe, come up with a really solid gameplan for this fight, an approach that has not been brought to Floyd before. As opposed to just trying to mimic what other boxers have already done, we’re trying to do something a bit different. ... Paulie (Malignaggi), for example, that was more of a fight than it was a spar. And we got to see some of our ideas work in that situation. None of us saw any benefit to bringing a voice that was just going to be not one that we’re used to.”
McGregor’s camp wasn’t wholly exclusive. The team did bring in Hall of Fame boxing referee Joe Cortez to oversee all sparring sessions and McGregor was joined by a variety of sparring partners, including Malignaggi and Dashon Johnson.
But aside from that, McGregor’s preparation leading into Aug. 26 has been different than any done by a past Mayweather opponent before, and the team remains steadfastly confident that they’re going to shock the world, even as the boxing community makes McGregor and his coaches the butt of jokes across the globe.
“To me, it really is fascinating,” Kavanagh said. “Let’s look at the last fight, the Eddie Alvarez fight, and his trainer had a bit of back and forward. ‘My guy’s going to do this, your guy’s going to do that,’ and so on, but we both still expected it to be a fight, at the end day; whereas with this one, these guys don’t even think we are — I get messages that we’re lacing the gloves up wrong, so we literally can’t even lace up a pair of gloves.
“It’s like they’re so caught up on some of the cultural or ritualistic aspects of boxing, as opposed to — a great example was, I just came across a video there with ... Freddie Roach, who is obviously brilliant, fantastic in all aspects of what he’s done. But he was asked about the video of the Paulie spar, and there’s a left hand in that spar that — say whatever you want, everyone has their opinion on the knockdown — but there’s a straight left that lands, it’s a really cracking shot, head whips back. It’s big gloves on and the guy is wearing a head guard and you still see the head whip back. It was a really nice shot, and the guy says, ‘Is that good technique?’ [Roach] says, ‘No, that was bad technique.’
“Now I don’t know how you describe good technique, but if the object of boxing is for your fist to hit the guy in the face, that was an effective technique,” Kavanagh continued. “A fist hit his face very fast and very hard. Because of, I believe, decades of their vision wanting to see things done a certain way, [Roach] could — without being sarcastic — say that was poor technique. There may be other things you can criticize us on, but how anyone had a criticism for that straight left — I just had to scratch my head and think, ‘What are they seeing?’
“Even, like you said, Mayweather had his workout day, and he’s kinda just tipping the bag, he talks to the crowd and then he tips the bag. I didn’t watch it all, but I watched some of it, and it’s just, I don’t know, are they seeing something incredible I’m not seeing? And then Conor gets in and he’s hitting the bag, and they’re completely dismissing that, but Mayweather’s little shots on the bag were mind-blowing? One of us is living in a huge balloon. That would appear to be a fact. One of us is seeing something, or not seeing something, maybe some sort of cognitive dissonance or some sort of blinding — as we have a solar eclipse today, maybe some sort of mental eclipse has crossed one of us. Saturday night we found out who that person is.”