Oscar De La Hoya lost a razor-thin split-decision against Mayweather in 2007
Conor McGregor need only follow the blueprint put forward by Oscar De La Hoya and Freddie Roach if he ever fights Floyd Mayweather and he could turn the bout into a surprisingly competitive affair.
Mayweather has proven to be boxing’s defensive enigma. His elusive style has seen him amass a perfect professional record of 49-0.
He has won world titles across five weight divisions and has beaten some of the best names of his era including Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao.
Of course, being undefeated sometimes throws up more questions than it answers. As masterful as he has been in the ring, his business acumen outside it has arguably been more impressive.
In 2007, he bought himself out of his promotional contract with Bob Arum’s Top Rank to go solo.
It proved to be a masterstroke and he has guided his career expertly ever since. Instead of being paid an upfront fee by his promoter, Mayweather was able to demand a cut of all the revenue generated from his fights – ranging from a huge % of all pay-per-view sales to gate receipts and advertising revenue.
Floyd Mayweather dodges a punch from Andre Berto. Picture by: Gene Blevins/Zuma Press/PA Images
It also empowered him to be selective in his choice of opponents. The ruthless Antonio Margarito was avoided at all costs as was Kostya Tszyu. Manny Pacquiao was put on the long finger until it was evident age had finally caught up with the Filipino slugger.
The bout with Pacquiao should have happened in 2010 but the fans didn’t get to see it until 2015, by which time the "Pacman" had lost twice in the interim.
If Conor McGregor is to truly challenge the undefeated boxer, he could do worse than talk to former Mayweather foe, Oscar De La Hoya and his then trainer, Freddie Roach.
In 2007, Mayweather took on De La Hoya, America’s “Golden Boy”, named after his success at the Barcelona Olympics, in one of the biggest fights of all time. The bout set a then ppv record of 2.4 million buys which stood until 2015’s “Fight of the Century” between Mayweather and Pacquiao.
Mayweather has always bragged about how if it makes money, it makes sense. There was a rematch clause in the contract with De La Hoya so why didn’t the man who calls himself “money” sign up to do it again?
He was pushed to the brink and he knew it. He markets himself on his unbeaten record and De La Hoya had his number.
At 34, “The Golden Boy” pressed Mayweather from the off, keeping him at distance with his jab and forcing him onto the back foot, rather than being enticed there by Mayweather.
From an orthodox stance, De Le Hoya peppered his challenger with left-hooks to the body and the face – constantly alternating the point of attack. He kept the tempo high and didn’t allow his opponent to settle.
In doing so, he won three of the first four rounds.
Mayweather eventually began finding his range and swept rounds five and six on all three scorecards.
De La Hoya won the seventh and with five rounds to go, he was ahead by a point on two of the judges’ scorecards.
However, he struggled down the stretch as the younger Mayweather (30) dominated the tail-end of the bout.
De La Hoya had his moments though, particularly in the final round where he won the 12th according to two of the three judges. Had the third judge, Jerry Roth, felt the same as his compatriots, the fight would have ended in a draw.
Instead, Mayweather was awarded a split decision and he was never to face De La Hoya again.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a punch on Oscar De La Hoya. Image: ©INPHO/Getty Images
Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana pushed Mayweather close as well in their first fights but they resorted to a more frenzied approach when pressing “Money”.
Their chaotic attacks looked like they were doing more damage than they were and the crowd reacted to every punch thrown – whether it landed or not.
They both made it uncomfortable for him but were ultimately both outclassed in their attempts. The rematches with Castillo and Maidana saw lopsided decision wins for the American.
The McGregor Fight
De La Hoya had the height and weight advantage going into the bout, as will McGregor, who will also be over a decade younger than Mayweather.
The Dubliner has a southpaw stance and uses his power left hand to floor opponents in the UFC regularly.
His cleanest stoppages have been his left-hook TKO wins over Dustin Poirier and Jose Aldo so if he were to switch to an orthodox stance and follow De La Hoya’s lead – he could well make a proper fight out of it.
Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan
The Irishman has shown he is able to follow an opponent-specific game-plan after he targeted the standing leg of Nate Diaz relentlessly in their rematch at UFC 202.
De La Hoya only landed 21% of his total punches thrown that night in 2007 and still pushed Mayweather to the brink. McGregor need only up the ante marginally and a highly unlikely fight could play out.