In 2009 a boxer from Balbriggan, Ireland set his sights on Las Vegas, hoping to improve his craft and learn what made American boxers so successful. After a touch-and-go start to the trip, Robert Gorman found his place among the stars of the fight game, carving out a name and a living for himself as a quality sparring partner. Eventually his skills in the ring brought him all the way to Floyd Mayweather’s training camp as Mayweather prepared to fight Juan Manuel Marquez.
The similarities in size and style to Marquez got Gorman in the door, and what happened once he got in the ring with Floyd got him infamy. Shortly after their sparring session Floyd Mayweather announced that he had suffered an injury in training, forcing him to postpone the Marquez fight from July to September. As the last man to step in the ring with Mayweather before the announcement, boxing fans and journalists began referring to Gorman as the man who broke Floyd’s ribs.
This brush with fame precipitated a lengthy journey for Gorman, one filled with a number of highs and lows. It also brought him a second helping of time in the spotlight in the build to the mega fight between Mayweather and Conor McGregor. As a man with first-hand experience in the ring with Floyd, a man that injured the undefeated legend, and an Irishman to boot, Gorman’s perspective is a truly unique one when it came to this fight. He did a number of interviews in the build-up to the bout, but here at Gambling.com we wanted something just a little different.
Instead, Gambling.com asked Gorman to take notes on the fight itself and then break it down for us once the final bell had rung. Thankfully he agreed, resulting in a lengthy and wide-ranging interview that can be heard in full below. For those that are more visually inclined, we’ve also collected some of the most illuminating and entertaining parts of our chat and fleshed them out in text below for some easy skimming!
While the majority of Ireland backed their native son, with over 80% of Irish punters laying money on McGregor and rooting for the upset, Gorman found himself torn between two major parts of his identity.
"That’s a tricky one because I am Irish and us Irish always back our own. As well as that you’re talking MMA against boxing and boxing is me heart and soul so of course I wanted boxing to win... so it’s hard to say basically. Of course I wanted my own to win, but I wanted boxing to win over MMA any day. I wanted Mayweather to win for boxing and I wanted McGregor to win for the Irish. So for me it’s yin and yang that answer because I wanted boxing to win and it did win. And if it hadn’t it would have been catastrophic! But I feel for the Irish, I feel for our own community because when we get together there’s no stopping us."
While the experts were very pessimistic about The Notorious' chances in the fight, Gorman saw something in McGregor’s MMA career that made him gave him some reason for optimism. Given how the Irishman surprised fans and pundits alike with his exemplary performance in the early rounds, perhaps more people should have been asking Gorman for his assessment pre-fight.
"I’ve watched Conor in MMA. And any fight he’s won it was through boxing"
That observation gave Gorman a healthy respect for McGregor’s skills that many others didn’t have. It also made it easier for him to dismiss a major criticism leveled at McGregor: his lack of pure boxing experience.
"People say he hasn’t had a boxing [match] in years or anything but he’s a fighter! That’s his style so he has had it. The majority of his fights are won by knockout in his boxing stance basically so it always did give him a chance."
One point that came up repeatedly in our discussion was how much age has affected Floyd Mayweather’s game. When Gorman was in camp with Mayweather, the multi-time world champion was still a relatively young 32, while he entered the ring Sunday night eight years older and slower, and Gorman says that time definitely took its toll.
"When [Floyd] did eventually fight Marquez [in 2009], Marquez didn’t get near him, lay a glove on him."
Gorman followed that up by talking about how readily apparent it was that the untouchable Floyd is long gone, calling Floyd:
"A 40-year-old veteran that still has it, but hasn’t got it to his best ability. He was there but he wasn’t there. His timing and precision wasn’t nearly as accurate. And I’m not blowing smoke up me ass or anything, [but] when I sparred him he was almost invincible and I had to be at the top of me game when I was sparring him. And last night looking at it, he was half that, he was half of the man that he once was."
Gorman jumped at the chance to imagine how his own attempt at fighting current-day Mayweather would have gone.
"Last night if I’d have fought Mayweather it would have been an absolute dinger! It would have been an amazing fight and it wouldn’t have gone nearly all the way. Floyd was a going-forward fighter last night, he went forward and he stayed forward, he didn’t go back, you didn’t have to go looking for him."
Gorman says that such an approach from Mayweather would play right into the Balbriggan native’s hands.
"That is my style, I had to do that against Floyd Mayweather, whereas last night I wouldn’t have had to do that, he was coming to me."
That style change from Floyd led Gorman to fancy his own chances were he able to meet Mayweather in the center of a ring today.
"I stayed in the middle of that ring for six minutes, four rounds when Mayweather was 32 [in 2009]. I can do it today and I do it for longer today. It’s if Mayweather could still do it, that’s the question. And I highly, highly doubt that with the lifestyle he has now."
The overall approach from Mayweather surprised Gorman, as it did many around the world who expected him to employ his signature defensive prowess to much greater effect. Gorman had expected Floyd to keep rangy southpaw McGregor at bay and hit him with Mayweather’s signature quick jabs, but once it became apparent that Floyd no longer had that weapon in his arsenal as he once did, Gorman recognized the strategy behind Mayweather’s approach.
"It was in his plan. He knows McGregor doesn’t do 36 minutes, 3 minute rounds, so he wore him down. He done everything to the book, he done it to a T. Basically it did surprise me, but after watching the whole it made common sense, it made perfect sense. And that’s what makes him the best on the planet."
Time and again Gorman returned to how tired Conor McGregor got as the fight went on, and how that cost him whatever slim chance the MMA champion might have had. When asked if McGregor could have done anything to better condition himself for a 12-round fight, Gorman was critical of his fellow Irishman’s training regimen.
"One of me boxing coaches always said ‘You can get ready for a world title fight in eight weeks if you train properly,’ and this I highly believe. If you want to get ready to box for 12 rounds, you must box for 12 rounds. You must train yourself to be able to box for 12 rounds and the only possible way to do that is 12 rounds of sparring, there’s no other way, it’s impossible!"
From there he was critical of the grab bag of exercise regimens McGregor undertook to prepare for the fight instead of frequent sparring sessions, calling it all "a pure mess."
"If you have 10 weeks to prepare for a fight and you’re sparring three times a week, four times a week you’re ready. No if’s, buts, maybes, because you’ve programmed yourself, you’ve trained yourself to be ready. He didn’t train himself to be ready."
A popular thought exercise surrounding this fight has been to try and evaluate how Mayweather would perform if he stepped into the octagon with McGregor. It is hard for most to see him doing anything other than fail in such an effort, something Gorman agrees with.
"Worse. Worse basically because you’re talking about five different formulas. Why do you think McGregor took the fight so easily? It’s one formula…that’s what makes MMA so hard as well, there’s so many different [aspects]. He’d need years, years to be prepared for a McGregor MMA fight. It’s too much."
Mayweather announced before the fight that he would be retiring once it was over. Despite the fact that Mayweather has retired and un-retired before, many feel that it will probably stick this time due to a combination of Floyd’s age, his record (50-0), and perhaps a little bit due to the fear that Conor McGregor put into him in the early rounds Sunday. Still, Gorman isn’t so sure.
"That scared [Mayweather], I know that scared him. He’s against a fighter that hasn’t got a massive boxing background and he was nearly dead. Plan or no plan, for four rounds [Floyd] got beat, and he got beat fair and square. So I’ll be very, very, very surprised."
That being said, Gorman can definitely imagine a scenario where Mayweather may have no other choice but to step into the ring once more.
"If he comes out of retirement [it will be because] he has to, because he’s a gambling mad freak. And if he has another fight he’s going to ruin his career... Watch it, watch it unfold. He won’t want to come out of retirement but he will have to. Nothing will make him money like him fighting again, nothing."
Having declared his expectation that Mayweather may once again grace a boxing ring, we asked Gorman if there is any opponent out there that could generate even a comparable level of interest to McGregor. He came up with a truly intriguing response.
"The only one you’re talking about right no, you’re talking to the man [referring to himself]. There is no other story to back it up. This would be bigger, and I mean twice as big if I were to fight Floyd Mayweather. The reason being, the rumor has it ‘Robert Gorman broke his ribs’ and there’s this whisper of this and that and everything else, and that is what people would tune in to see... If I can pull out enough feathers in his cap then I’ll get him ruffled, and if I can do that then he’ll know it. I know I won’t stop, and he’ll need to say more than his prayers if he wishes to fight with me, and that’s a fact!"
Gorman knows any such fight is unlikely and would be years off as he himself needs to get back to his boxing roots after some time away from the sport. Still, this interview may well serve as the first minor feather ruffled in Mayweathers direction on the way to what we described as "a real-life Rocky story."
"There it is! Rocky was never an MMA fighter or anything else, he was low-down on the streets with a couple fights and he came up against the greatest boxer in the world. And that is the story of me and Mayweather, and that’s why it has people enthusiastic about reading the story of the young lad that went to America and got in with the best boxer in the world. But the world needs to see it…We’ll let time tell the tale, but one thing is for sure, I will be ready and that’s a fact!"
For more in-depth fight analysis from Robert Gorman, be sure to listen to the entire interview above. We truly appreciate his willingness to stay up until the earliest hours of the morning to watch the fight live and then share his unique expertise with our readers. And for the record, here at Gambling.com we are certainly convinced that a return to the ring for Floyd Mayweather and his long-ago sparring partner would be well worth watching!