Floyd Mayweather goes out in un-Mayweather-like fashion: 'With a bang'

LAS VEGAS -- In a moment of honest clarity following his 50th and final victory on Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather admitted something about the tail end of his career that most of his critics had been thinking all along. 

Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs), who returned from a two-year retirement to defeat UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor via 10th-round TKO at T-Mobile Arena, revealed he hadn't quite delivered in terms of entertainment, particularly in a pair of 2015 decision victories over Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto. 

"No. 49 wasn't good enough, No. 48 wasn't good enough," Mayweather said at the post-fight press conference. "So I told you guys that I was going to come straight ahead and that it would be good. I promised everybody. Remember this -- I told you and guaranteed you that this fight wouldn't go the distance."

Promising to fight moving "straight ahead" against the neophyte McGregor (21-3 in MMA), who was making his pro boxing debut, the 40-year-old Mayweather did just that and rallied from a slow start to wear down and stop the brash Irishman with body shots and lead right hands. 

The result was Mayweather's most exciting fight since his May 2014 victory over Marcos Maidana in their first meeting and his first stoppage win since sucker-punching Victor Ortiz in 2011. But more importantly, despite hefty criticism heading in about the circus and non-competitive nature of the fight on paper, Mayweather-McGregor somehow became the rare marquee boxing pay-per-view which actually delivered on its promise for entertainment. 

Admittedly, this is a feeling that has felt foreign for boxing fans in recent years, particularly for the casual variety who only check in on the sport during the one to two high-profile matchups each year that extend beyond the sport's hard-core fan base. And a lot of the credit for that must go to Mayweather, who largely fought in a non-Mayweather style to force the end result. 

This isn't an attempt to suggest, in any form, that Mayweather came back to the sport which made his name simply to end his career on a high note and please fans. Mayweather is a calculated businessman first and foremost and admitted as much after the fight, which is expected to challenge the PPV buy record of 4.6 million from Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015.

"We all do foolish things sometimes, but I'm not a damn fool," Mayweather said. "If I see an opportunity to make 350 million dollars in 36 minutes than I had to do it."

But Mayweather certainly seemed focused on providing more bang for the buck to his many consumers, which is a notion that simply hasn't been part of his narrative over the second half of his career. He did so by becoming the aggressor, walking McGregor down and barely taking a step backward after the first quarter of the fight. 

"Everybody knows in this room that has watched me fight, I could've easily outboxed Conor McGregor, counter punched him all night and made it boring," Mayweather said. "That's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to go out with a bang. I told you guys I was going to come straight ahead and I figured that I owed you guys from the Pacquiao fight." 

From the very beginning of the promotion, McGregor had all the makings to be the kind of opponent Mayweather had only dreamed of for years. A "great white hope" with an ability to talk just as good or better than "Money," McGregor has brilliant business sense and the allure of a legitimate fighting background. 

But what we didn't know coming in, with most critics predicting a one-sided stoppage for Mayweather, was how perfect they ended up being for each other inside the ring at this stage of their careers.

McGregor had better technique and poise than any expert gave him credit for coming in yet lacked the devastating power he bragged about and his fans expected. Mayweather, meanwhile, looked his age for really the first time in his career, lacking the legs and combination punching to blow away McGregor earlier. 

"I'm a multiple-weight [UFC] champion and I was a little taken back by the disrespect that was shown," McGregor said of his critics. "The disrespect for my skill set took me back a little bit but I always knew that when the fight came around, I was going to show up and give a good account of myself."

"He was solid," Mayweather said. "I've been off for a couple years and I'm a lot older now. It turns out I'm not the same Floyd Mayweather I was two years older, but I still have a hell of an IQ and I'm a thinker. As far as his punching power, it was solid. But obviously it wasn't that type of power where I couldn't come forward against. That's why I kept coming."  

We can ponder all we want whether Mayweather carried McGregor for a few extra rounds or the stoppage was too soon or McGregor wasn't given enough respect on the scorecards from the judges for what he did accomplish. All three topics are worthy of debate.

But when all was said and done, the fight turned out to be far better than the farce it was predicted to be. McGregor eschewed a predictable strategy to brawl by actually attempting to box Mayweather and didn't look bad trying to do so. And Mayweather provided his great career with an unexpected and entertaining coda, complete with an exclamation point to boot. 

It has become very rare that boxing gets it right on the grandest stage, when all of its critics and longing former followers reunite to try and find that spark of what they once loved. This fight was far from perfect on paper and certainly non-traditional in its delivery but the fact that it ultimately did deliver and send home fans happy is sometimes all that matters.

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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