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Saturday 18 November 2017

Conor 'could have been a boxing champ'

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor

The referee recruited to teach Conor McGregor the rules involved in boxing believes he would be a world champion if he had pursued the sport instead of MMA.

America's Joe Cortez, who worked four of Floyd Mayweather's fights, including the 2007 defeat of Ricky Hatton, spent six weeks in McGregor's training camp as he prepares for tomorrow morning's fight with Mayweather at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.

His profession means he has observed his compatriot from far closer than most, but having been as impressed by McGregor's conditioning as his ability to adapt, he gives the Dubliner a "good chance" of producing a significant upset.

Many observers believe the match-up, between a debutant and a fighter widely considered the finest of the modern era, will ultimately prove highly uncompetitive.

However Cortez, who cites his presence amid McGregor's preparations as a sign of the 29-year-old's commitment and attention to detail, is adamant he will prove far more of a threat to Mayweather's undefeated record than many expect.

"He would probably be a world champion," he said. "If he was a good as he is in MMA he would definitely be a world champion, he' s got all the ingredients to be an excellent, excellent fighter.

"He has a good punch and a lot of confidence in himself. His conditioning is superb, so you've got to give him a chance. Absolutely a good chance. He can punch, and he's not going to be afraid to go in there and mix it up if he has to.

"McGregor knows how to cut the ring, and get him in a corner. He can catch him and hurt him.

"Mayweather's 40 years old now, so he's not a young Mayweather anymore. In boxing we all know that you can get old overnight, so we'll have to see which Mayweather comes out."

One of the challenges confronting McGregor, beyond that of boxing an all-time great, is the demand for him to adjust to a new set of rules and resist many of the instincts that made him such a success in the UFC.

McGregor has spoken of his belief he has been transformed as boxer throughout the course of his training camp, and Cortez said: "He's doing a good job. He's improved a lot from day one. He's a quick learner, I was impressed with how quickly he learnt, but that's why he's a champion in MMA, because he has something different that other people don't have.

"Some of the fighters in boxing break the rules, but given he's such a good listener I 100 per cent think he'll abide by them.

"He picked up real quick, right from the first class he did very well. McGregor's a good student.

"He has what it takes to be very successful Saturday night."

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