Is Mayweather ripe for the picking?
- Updated: September 23, 2014
The word “perfection” has to be one of the most ambiguous words in the English language. What does perfection even look like? If you happen to be a boxing fan, you would be hard-pressed to find either a fellow fan or reporter who would argue against the theory that, as far as the sport of boxing is concerned, Floyd Mayweather is about as close to pugilistic perfection as it comes. Sure, many will criticize the pound for pound king for his flashy “Money Mayweather” persona that has taken center stage during several documentary series such as HBO’s “24/7” and Showtime’s “All Access” , or his seemingly boring yet dominate wins over established stars such as Juan Manuel Marquez, Saul Alvarez, and Robert Guerrero. However, these critiques appear to be firmly planted in personal preference as opposed wins and losses.
Last Saturday, Mayweather returned to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the site of many of his conquests, for a rematch with Argentina’s Marcos Maidana (35-5, 31 KO’s). Their first encounter in May of this year proved to be a pleasant surprise for fight fans and an unwelcomed epiphany for Mayweather and his camp. During the bout, Maidana, who seemed to be taking a page out of Miguel Cotto’s playbook, was able to successfully pin Mayweather on the ropes for several rounds, and apply pressure to the Grand Rapids, Michigan native that so many others had failed to do over the years. And while many of Maidana’s punches failed to connect, and he was thoroughly dominated in the center of the ring by Floyd’s speed, Maidana’s pressure tactics and incredible stamina won him over many fans who were sick of paying $60.00 to see Floyd’s opponents frustrated, embarrassed, and lethargic. Not surprisingly, many actually felt that Maidana had won the fight, despite the judges awarding the bout to Mayweather by majority decision. Maidana’s camp, his fans, and Maidana himself cried foul after the decision was announced. The seeds of a rematch were already beginning to sprout.
Fast forward to last Saturday, and everything was as usual at the MGM Grand. Floyd Mayweather found himself in the company of everyone’s least favorite douchebag, Justin Beiber, as well as billionaire Warren Buffett. Maidana, on the other hand, found himself in the company of his trainer, Robert Garcia. Garcia, as usual, was psychologically pumping us his fighter. Almost everyone had Mayweather picked to not only win again, but do so in a far more dominate fashion than he had back in May. Mayweather is known for his uncanny ability to adapt and adjust his style during the course of a fight in order to ensure victory, and many believed that Mayweather would, wisely, stay off the ropes at all costs this time around.
As the bell rang, it was obvious from the get-go that Floyd was making every effort to move around the ring and stay away from the ropes. Mayweather made every effort to keep the fight in the middle of the ring, where there was little contention, and pot shot Maidana with right hooks and seamless jabs. And yet, something seemed a bit off about Floyd. Where as many of Floyd’s critics have scoffed at his conservative style and unwillingness to exchange punches with his opponents over the years, somehow, Mayweather’s style seemed even more conservative last Saturday. Mayweather slipped off the ropes, shuffling his feet in the process, and was even more conservative regarding his punch output. Each shot the champion threw appeared to be a calculated and isolated decision on the part boxing’s most cerebral star. In essence, Maidana perfectly played the part of Carmen Basilio to Mayweather’s Ray Robinson. Game? Yes. Better? No. Maidana landed a solid right hand on Mayweather at the end of the third round that might have crumpled a lesser fighter. However, Mayweather was able to utilize his underrated chin, and shake off Maidana’s best punch of the night.
Maidana was successfully able to pin Floyd on the ropes in the fifth round, firing off the same kinds of punches that won him so much admiration during their first encounter. However, these moments were few and far between this time around. Instead, the excitement of Maidana’s bull-rush tactics back in May were substituted for a bizarre incident that took place in the eighth round. About midway through the round, Maidana leaned into Mayweather, which resulted in the two combatants clinching. Mayweather, who was hunched over the challenger with his with his left glove over Maidana’s mouth suddenly winched in pain and dashed away from his opponent. As it turned out, Mayweather complained to referee Kenny Bayless that Maidana had bitten him on his left hand. Shades of Tyson-Holyfield II suddenly loomed over the very same arena where the infamous “bite fight” had taken place eighteen years ago. However, cooler heads prevailed and the fight continued without the need or desire for a riot.
By the tenth round, Maidana appeared to be a beaten man. He was docked a point by Bayless for shoving Mayweather to the ground, and his frustration was evident.
By the final round, Mayweather played defense, and coasted by. And who could blame him? The decision this time around was anything but ambiguous. Whereas Maidana had landed more punches in their first fight fight (221) than any of the other 37 fights Mayweather had that were recorded by CompuBox, this time around Maidana was only able to land 128 of 572 punches (22 percent). Mayweather, on the other hand landed 166 of 326 punches at an exceptional 51 percent. Needless to say, the decision was unanimous this time around for Floyd.
And while many saw Mayweather’s victory as a one sided, dominant affair, Mayweather ended up being his own harshest critic. Upon reflection of what had just transpired, Mayweather stated “I felt sharper in the first fight. My rhythm was a little off. I gave myself a C, C-minus. I thought I could have done a lot better. I got hit with some shots I shouldn’t have.” When asked what the difference was between the first fight and this one, Mayweather said “I think the difference was I didn’t stay on the ropes and I did a lot of movement and turning. He’s a tough competitor. I do have some bumps and bruises but I listened to my dad [trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.], who always says hit and don’t get hit and that’s how you last in this sport.”
And after Floyd’s own critiques of his performance, one might ask if Mayweather is ripe for the picking. In order to answer that question, one must first come to some realizations. First, no fighter, regardless of how great they are, is as good in their late thirties as they were in their prime. With age comes dulled reflexes, and with dulled reflexes comes unnecessary punishment. It’s a fact of boxing that rears its ugly head when a fighter, regardless of their greatness, sticks around for far too long. Greats such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Ray Leonard would support this claim, as this sad fact made the twilight of their career’s sorry spectacles that were hard to watch. And yet, Mayweather continues dominate younger opponents, even as he draws closer and closer to his fourth decade of life. Mayweather has remained sharp due to his speed, reflexes, and incredible defense capabilities. I have little doubt that Mayweather’s defense is what has kept him so sharp as he nears the end of his career. And while maybe Mayweather’s speed and reflexes aren’t what they were eight years ago, they are still more than adequate when it comes to dispatching younger opponents.
What can’t be overlooked is that Mayweather, even with his millions of dollars and fame, is still hungry. I truly believe Mayweather wants to be the best ever, and his dedication to the sport is second to none. And in order to fulfill this desire, Mayweather is going to have to push himself a little farther. And while knockouts always look good on a fighter’s record, Mayweather seems to be far more content outsmarting and befuddling his opponents on his way to an easy decision. After all, why take the risk? Fight fans have come to expect this from Floyd, and they won’t stop buying his pay per views because of it.
So is it possible that a fighter could come along before Mayweather hangs his gloves up and knock him off his pedestal? Yes. And many feel that Manny Pacquiao is just the man to do it. However, that particular fight is yet to be made, and The Money Team sits firmly in the driver’s seat as far as the direction of Mayweather’s career is concerned. Should the champ play it safe, which would be the smartest and easiest decision, he will most likely remain unbeaten until retirement. Should he fight Pacquiao, which would present his greatest opposition, the future becomes a little murkier. It all really depends on Mayweather’s mindset. Does he satisfy the fans with a fight versus Pacquiao or does he continue to fight the Marcos Maidana’s of boxing’s ranks and keep his perfect record, presumably, intact?
I believe that the few chinks that have been discovered in Mayweather’s armor during his past two fights with Marcos Maidana are nothing serious in nature. Mayweather was able to adapt and adjust to Maidana’s “bull in a china shop” style, and came out the victor in dominate fashion. It wasn’t exactly parallel in nature to his fights with Diego Corrales or Arturo Gatti, but it was a dominate performance none the less. Floyd’s next opponent would be wise to not count on Mayweather’s age as being a factor, whoever that may be.
When asked about his next fight, Mayweather stated “I’m gonna go and talk to my team and see what the future holds. I don’t know who I’m fighting in May but I expect to fight in May. Manny Pacquiao needs to focus on the guy in front of him. Once he gets past him, he can look to the future. If the Pacquiao fight presents itself let’s make it happen.”
Let’s hope a Pacquiao fight does present itself. Surely, if Floyd Mayweather is a ripe fruit waiting to be picked off a tree, Manny Pacquiao might be the only fighter who can reach the branch.