PULLMAN – Even in this tiny pocket of southeastern Washington, it was practically impossible to escape the buzz surrounding Saturday night’s mega-bout between boxing icon Floyd Mayweather Jr. and MMA star Conor McGregor.
It certainly wasn’t by coincidence that theme music from the major motion picture Rocky blared over the loudspeakers as the Washington State football team finished a light practice inside Martin Stadium Saturday afternoon, just seven days shy of the season opener against Montana State.
From Pullman to Poland, millions of television viewers around the world tuned in to watch Mayweather defeat McGregor by technical knockout in the 10th round. Experts and bettors predicted the lopsided victory for Mayweather (50-0), who’s foe was a Mixed Martial Artist making his debut in the boxing ring.
Cougars boss Mike Leach called for the same result – Mayweather in a landslide.
“I guess the way I handicap it really is, this isn’t an MMA event so immediately McGregor’s at a disadvantage,” Leach said Saturday afternoon, roughly 6 1/2 hours before the first bell rang at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “Even though I think McGregor’s a good boxer, he’s not the best boxer in Ireland and he’s boxing the best boxer in the world.”
Leach continued: “You have to give it to Mayweather. His style has served him well. It’s not my favorite style to watch, but people have been trying to hit him for a long time. Some very fast people have been trying to hit him for a long time and they can’t consistently hit him. And then of course they negotiated smaller gloves, which makes some sense because McGregor’s best shot is to hit the home run.
“I mean he’s got to sting him bad enough that he can close in and finish him, because if it comes to outlasting one another, he can’t beat Mayweather at that because Mayweather goes 10-12 rounds routinely.”
Mayweather needed only 10 Saturday, scoring his second career knockout in what most expect to be his last career fight.
Leach didn’t have plans to watch the bout – the coach said he may pop his head in to a neighbor’s house if it was on – but a number of the Cougar assistants gathered for a viewing party. A few of the defensive aides are pretty big MMA nuts, so the evening probably proved anticlimactic.
“It’s probably one of the biggest fights,” defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said. “I’m not a big boxing fan. I’ll go out and watch quite a few MMA (fights) since I’ve been here in Pullman. The defensive staff, they’re definitely MMA guys, but I think it’ll be a great fight.”
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is the staff’s resident UFC fanatic.
“He loves it and I think he would be one if he could,” Phelps said. “If he wasn’t spending time coaching, maybe that’s what he does on the off-time.”
Many of the WSU players congregated to watch the boxing match and shared their takes on the action via Twitter throughout the evening.
Safety Rob Taylor and cornerback Darrien Molton made their rooting interests clear, both re-tweeting a photo from Mayweather’s account.
Running back Jamal Morrow also let it be known he was on Mayweather’s side of the fence.
Another corner, Marcellus Pippins, indicated he’s not willing to spend money on the pay-per-view cover and suggested someone should stream the fight via Periscope. Plenty tried, but a handful were shut down within minutes.
Other Cougars weighed in on the result…
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