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Watch: Conor McGregor vs. Paul Malignaggi sparring footage

By Jeff Aranow: It looks as if Conor McGregor REALLY did give former 2 division world champion Paulie Malignaggi a thrashing during their 2 sparring sessions. UFC president Dana White released some of the edited footage of the sparring sessions showing McGregor hitting the 36-year-old Malignaggi at will with shots to the head.

Malignaggi got handled during the sparring video that was released. What seems pretty clear from watching the video is Malignaggi was genuinely knocked down by McGregor. It wasn’t a push like Malignaggi said. McGregor was hitting Malignaggi with shot after shot when he finally fell down after taking a right hand to the head. That was a legitimate knockdown.

Yes, Malignaggi was off balance at the time, but only because he was taking withering fire from the 29-year-old McGregor without letup. Anyone would have been knocked down if they were taking the nonstop punches that Malignaggi was by McGregor. There’s no shame in Malignaggi getting flattened by McGregor. Malignaggi should just have admitted that he took too many consecutive head shots, and he just could not stay on his feet with that many shots hitting him cleanly.

This new footage of the McGregor-Malignaggi sparring sessions shows that McGregor is going to be a real problem for Floyd Mayweather Jr. on August 26 in their fight on Showtime pay-per-view at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. If the 40-year-old Mayweather doesn’t have any answers for McGregor’s short nonstop punches on the inside, this is going to be a slaughter. McGregor could make Mayweather look like an old man inside the ring on the night. McGregor is a lot better inside fighter than anyone Mayweather has fought before during his career. It’s not the ideal time for Mayweather to be fighting someone like McGregor with him now 40, and coming off of a 2-year layoff from boxing.

“The spars were not good for him. He took a lot of head trauma. Straight after it we were worried. He was flattened against the ropes – multiple times the ropes kept him on his feet,” said McGregor about Malignaggi.

It’s evident from watching the video of the McGregor-Malignaggi sparring that Malignaggi took a lot of head shots in a short space of time. With the first sparring session going 8 rounds and the second one 12 rounds, it’s not surprising that Malignaggi’s face was so badly reddened and swollen looking. He’d taken too much punishment from McGregor.

With the amount of head shots Malignaggi appeared to be taking, he needed a face guard to keep him from getting hit on the front of his face. That still wouldn’t have protected Malignaggi from the jarring shots that McGregor was hammering him with over and over again. There was too many shots coming from McGregor for Malignaggi to have any chance at all during the sparring session footage. Malignaggi likes to fight at a slow pace, throwing jabs and single pot shots like Mayweather does, albeit a lot slower than him. McGregor’s shots were nonstop, raking Malignaggi with blistering punches.

Here’s what Malignaggi said on his Twitter on Saturday morning in response to the video footage of his sparring with McGregor being released by White:

”Pushing my head down with right hand as he’s dragging me in that direction by it, then throwing the left, the push down is with right hand.”

Malignaggi originally said that McGregor pushed him down instead of knocking him down. The video footage refutes that, showing that Malignaggi was in fact knocked down by a short right hand to the head. There was no push. It’s understandable why Malignaggi might have been confused about how he ended up on the canvas, as he was getting hit with a firestorm of punches. There was no way that he could know what was happening because McGregor was hitting him with punch after punch to the head.

To say that Malignaggi was in distress is an understatement. Malignaggi was in retreat, taking too much punishment to the head without letup, and he had no way of escaping. Earlier, Malignaggi had tried to clinch McGregor to get him to stop hitting him with shots, but that didn’t work out too well. McGregor hammered Malignaggi was repeated left hands to the head one after another while he was holding him. I counted 5 head shots that Malignaggi took from McGregor during the clinch. They looked like hurtful punches.

It’s not surprising that Malignaggi chose to stop holding after getting hit with shots. It looked like McGregor was hitting Malignaggi with shots rather than holding him down or dragging him.

From the outside, McGregor was able to land hurtful looking straight lefts to the head of Malignaggi that were connecting cleanly. On the inside, McGregor was staying busy, hitting Malignaggi with short punches with both hands that were catching almost every time. Malignaggi had no inside game to compete, and he was just taking a real beating.

McGregor says that Malignaggi left his training camp because “he was looking for an exit”.
In looking at the brief video footage released, it might be true that Malignaggi did leave McGregor’s camp because he was getting worked over in camp. That was NOT competitive sparring. That was a massacre. McGregor was destroying Malignaggi like he’s been doing against his UFC competition in the last year. There no competition for McGregor during the footage was released. Malignaggi didn’t have the inside game or the size to give McGregor any problems.

It’s for the best that Malignaggi left McGregor’s camp, because the UFC star needed a better sparring partner than what he was getting. It was too one-sided for McGregor to get anything from the sparring. Malignaggi was about as useful for McGregor in helping him get prepared for the Mayweather fight as bringing in smallish Vasyl Lomachenko. McGregor already said no to the idea of having the 2-time Olympic gold medalist Lomachenko used as a sparring partner in his camp due to the size differences between the two fighters and because of Lomachenko’s southpaw stance. McGregor needs sparring partners that are more “applicable” to his scheduled fight against Mayweather. Malignaggi is not good enough to give McGregor the sparring he needed to adequately prepare him for the Mayweather fight in this writer’s opinion.

The only negative you can possibly say about McGregor’s form against Malignaggi in the sparring was that he was throwing a lot of slapping punches. It looked at times like McGregor was slapping with the inside of his glove and not hitting Malignaggi with the knuckle portion. McGregor’s form didn’t look good at times. He was so focused on hitting Malignaggi with as many punches as he could that he forgot about putting power on his shots and emphasized instead just hitting him as much as possible. I’m not sure if that style of fighting will work against Mayweather or not. I’ve never seen anyone fight like that against Mayweather. It would definitely be a new experience for Mayweather, as he’s mostly been fighting guys that have tried to take his head off with power shots.

What we learned from watching the McGregor vs. Malignaggi sparring footage:

– McGregor REALLY did knock Malignaggi down. Make no mistake that was a legitimate knockdown of Malignaggi that McGregor scored. This video exposes Malignaggi. It would have been better if the compete video was released of the entire 2 days of sparring McGregor and Malignaggi had, but that would be unheard of. Fighters don’t release full video of their sparring sessions when they’re preparing for a mega-fight like McGregor is for his big money match-up with Mayweather. That would be a crazy move on McGregor’s part to do that unless he was trying to attract more boxing and MMA fans to purchase his fight with Mayweather. It might actually work. If the fans can see that McGregor dominated Malignaggi in both sparring sessions, they might be more inclined to purchase the fight. You have to admit that McGregor looked awfully good against Malignaggi. He was dominating him better than anyone else has done. Even Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton weren’t working over Malignaggi the way that McGregor wad doing during the short clips of the sparring footage.

– Malignaggi was really getting worked over by McGregor in what appeared to be noncompetitive sparring

– McGregor DOES have a very real chance of beating Mayweather if he fights like he did against Malignaggi

– McGregor could connect with his shots despite Malignaggi’s constant movement around the ring. McGregor EASILY could close the distance and nail Malignaggi with pinpoint left hands to the head. McGregor’s hand-eye coordination and accuracy are quite extraordinary for a fighter in either sport.

– There is no question that Mayweather is going to get hit the same way Malignaggi did. If Malignaggi couldn’t avoid McGregor’s incoming fire when he was trapped frequently, then you can bet that Mayweather will have the exact same problems.

The release of some of the video footage of the McGregor vs. Malignaggi sparring sessions will no doubt help attract more interest in the boxing and MMA fans to purchase the Mayweather-McGregor fight on Showtime PPV. However, it’s not good that the video was released in terms of McGregor getting the jump on Mayweather with his fighting style. With the sparring video now out there in the public domain, Mayweather has time to study it and prepare to stop McGregor from being able to fight like that against him. That’s the one major drawback of Dana White releasing the video. Yes, it’s probably going to help bring in more PPV buys for the Mayweather-McGregor fight from the boxing and MMA fans that see the sparring footage, but it’s not going to help McGregor surprise Mayweather.

What the video shows is McGregor was crowing Malignaggi and hitting him with short repeated punches. What Mayweather will likely do to negate McGregor’s high volume attack is to stay on the outside, use movement, throwing mostly jabs and pot shots. Mayweather will make sure that McGregor doesn’t get close enough to land his nonstop shots. That’s the obvious move Mayweather will make to negate McGregor’s fighting style. It’ll be up to McGregor to prove that he can adapt to deal with Mayweather’s movement, jabbing and frequent pot shots.

If McGregor can solve that puzzle, then he’s going to have a very good chance of beating Mayweather. The last tool Mayweather will have at that point is for him to use a lot of holding to keep McGregor from getting his punches off. We saw Mayweather hold Jose Luis Castillo repeatedly in round after round in their fights 15 years ago. Mayweather got away with the clinching due to the referee choosing to let the fighter’s workout things among themselves. If Mayweather can’t keep McGregor off of him by using movement and staying on the outside, there’s a very good chance that he’ll try and slow him down by clinching repeatedly and waiting for the referee to separate them.

Malignaggi quit McGregor’s training camp last week after 2 photos were leaked showing him looking in a compromised position. Malignaggi felt that the photos didn’t represent a clear picture of what went on during the sparring session with McGregor, as he maintains that he got the better of him in the second spar. Malignaggi admits that he got the worst of it during the first sparring session due to him being tired from a long plane ride. If the video is from the first spar between the two fighters, then it would explain why Malignaggi looked so bad. There was no time stamp to show when the sparring session took place. That would have been something interesting to know, because it would have helped strengthen or weaken Malignaggi’s argument that he got the better of McGregor during the second spar.

The sparring shows that McGregor has enough boxing skills to give a former world class fighter more than he could handle. If McGregor can do this to Malignaggi, then there’s a chance that he’ll be able to do the same thing against Mayweather. You have to remember that Mayweather is 40-years-old and is coming off of 2-year layoff. Mayweather has been living high on the hog for the last 2 years since he last fought spending money like it’s going out of style. Like anyone with millions in the bank, Mayweather has been living the easy life, not sweating or struggling like real fighters do.

Mayweather is not going to be able to beat McGregor if he backs up against the ropes like he did against Marcos Maidana, Andre Berto and Manny Pacquiao. McGregor throws too many short punches for that style to work against him. McGregor seems to have heavy hands, and his short punches appear to be powerful. Mayweather isn’t going to be able to absorb that kind of punishment in close without getting hurt. There’s no question that Mayweather is going to get hit a lot in this fight. He’s too old to run from McGregor.

It’s going to be extremely tough on Mayweather’s 40-year-old body to take the punishment that McGregor is going to dish out on a steady basis on August 26. The boxing world could see a lesson taught by McGregor in this fight. The lesson is when you’re a rich, old multimillionaire, you don’t return to the ring after sitting out of the ring for 2 years. If you’re going to retire at that age and with that kind of wealth, you stay retired. You don’t comb through the UFC ranks to find a guy that you think you can outbox to get a big payday. McGregor could teach Mayweather and other aging boxers a lesson in this fight. If McGregor attacks Mayweather with the same kind of withering fire that he was attacking Malignaggi with, this fight won’t last long.

The 8oz gloves that are being considered for the Mayweather-McGregor fight could make it difficult for Mayweather to make it past the first 6 rounds. If McGregor attacks him all out in the first 5 to 6 rounds like he was doing against Malignaggi, Mayweather might take too much punishment to get to the second half of the fight. Father time will have caught up to Mayweather. Hopefully, we won’t see Mayweather make yet another comeback. This is his second comeback to the sport. Mayweather’s first comeback was after he knocked out Ricky Hatton in 2007. Mayweather got a big payday in that fight, and he stayed out of the ring spending the money until he returned to action 2 years later against Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009.

It wouldn’t be a good idea for Mayweather to make a third comeback if he takes a beating against McGregor. Unfortunately with Mayweather’s business nose, he likely will continue fighting after he scouts out a popular fighter in either boxing or the UFC for him to fight for a big payday. I don’t know how much interest there will be from the boxing or MMA fans to see Mayweather continue to fight if he gets beaten by McGregor. Mayweather might end up looking like an old man the way that Sugar Ray Leonard looked when he made the mistake of making one too many comebacks against Hector “Macho” Camacho on March 1, 1997. Leonard was knocked out in the 5th round by Camacho. After that loss, Leonard retired and never returned. If Mayweather loses to McGregor, he should take that as sign that he needs to hang up his gloves for good and stop handpicking opponents for paydays.

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