COMMENTARY | "It's different when it is on this level," Floyd Mayweather said to media after vanquishing Robert Guerrero and improving to 44-0 in his illustrious career. "The pressure when you come to this level is unlike any other pressure. You have to be mentally prepared because this can really mess with you...I think that they think they can win but it is really different on the outside. They watch tape of me and say that they can hit me with their best shot, but they can't. This is chess, not checkers."
Floyd Mayweather turned in yet another dominant performance on May 4th as he picked apart Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero en route to a unanimous decision victory. At this point, no dominating performance is all that surprising even though most of the public tries to manufacture fictional scenarios that are about as unlikely as being struck by lightning. Still, we need reason to believe that this fight will be more competitive than the last. At this point most lean heavily on the idea that Mayweather will one day turn old and his skills will deteriorate.
That has yet to happen.
Even the stories journalists conjure are tiring. We know what Mayweather is capable of and unless we get some shocking finish to talk about (i.e. Victor Ortiz' hug and kiss followed by kissing Mayweather's fists and then the canvas), we are left scrambling for creative ways to say "Mayweather dominates…again."
So, for fun, let's take a look at a Mayweather fight from an opponent's perspective and how it all goes wrong the moment they sign on the dotted line.
It all starts well before the two actually step into the ring. Even before victim 'x' gets the call that he will be next in line to face Floyd Mayweather, the fighter has already been staring at countless hours of tape and suggesting to themselves that they could beat Mayweather. They start stripping Mayweather down, citing that he doesn't hit that hard and they could wear him down. And from the start, the fighter's first words to the press are along these lines: "Floyd Mayweather's other opponents weren't anything like me."
Well, actually, yes they were.
The simple fact that a fighter goes out of his way to say that he has something to offer that Mayweather hasn't seen in his 17 year career is ludicrous in itself. He's seen it all in the ring with very few exceptions. And those exceptions are the Zab Judah and Diego Corrales fights. It would have also been Manny Pacquiao but, unfortunately, that fight never came to fruition. Judah was the only opponent that could match Mayweather's blistering hand speed and athletic ability while Corrales' height, power and reach was supposed to present a then 24-year-old Mayweather a world of trouble. As we all know, Mayweather put together a virtuoso performance against Corrales and made the proper adjustments midway through his fight with Judah to earn a dominant unanimous decision. So, unless you offer a sizable height and reach advantage or possess the natural athletic ability, Mayweather has seen you before.
Strangely enough, these aren't the two fights that Mayweather opponents pay the most attention to. When it comes to the so-called blueprint of beating the pound-for-pound king, everyone points to his April 20, 2002 battle with Jose Luis Castillo. Although Mayweather earned a unanimous decision, it would end up being his most controversial of his career as Castillo kept the pressure on him throughout the lightweight affair and used a nine-pound size advantage to bully him along the ropes. It is one of the few times that Mayweather clearly looked frustrated in the ring for an extended period of time. To this day, many think that Castillo won and penned the "How to Beat Floyd Mayweather" manuscript. But here's the problem with this so-called blueprint:
A) Mayweather clearly hurt his shoulder and couldn't throw the left jab to set up the straight right.
B) It was written in 2002. It is now 2013 and any document explaining how to beat a man in 2002 should be burned.
C) Mayweather is still undefeated.
Starting with Mayweather's shoulder, it was evident that something was wrong in that fight. Mayweather's jab is his range finder and without it he has trouble gauging distance and keeping his opponents from rushing in. Castillo took advantage of hurt rotator and was able to barge into the front door whenever he wanted to. Mayweather still fought valiantly with one arm and did enough in the judges' eyes to beat Castillo. Although it was an unpopular decision, it was a decision won by a one-armed fighter. Mayweather had surgery on his left shoulder prior to the rematch and claimed another unanimous decision as his jab and footwork neutralized Castillo's aggression. So, unless you plan on fighting a one-armed Mayweather, pointing to that fight 11 years ago is useless.
Which takes us to the next point: it was 11 years ago.
For any fighter's team to believe that Floyd Mayweather would be the same fighter today that he was over a decade ago is foolish. But, for some reason, every single fighter and his team believe that pressure will beat Mayweather. When you take a look the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, they all deployed a similar strategy that focused on closing the distance and firing punches from close quarters. They all lost. Robert Guerrero had a similar strategy that he figured would work considering that Miguel Cotto was able to bust up Mayweather last May. Never mind that Mayweather won a wide decision in that fight. Guerrero saw that Mayweather could be hit and decided that bulldozing his way inside would give him his best chance. But Mayweather, being the brilliant ring tactician that he is, turned back those efforts with movement and a straight right hand that couldn't miss.
For some reason, every fighter thinks they have the vaccine to rid the world of the Mayweather virus. They all mirror each other with that statement and spend the months building up the fight by saying that they know what it takes and focusing on that singular strategy that was effective three years before YouTube existed. Mayweather has since evolved to a 1080p 3D capable smart TV while his foes still make plans around a floor model television with a DVD player.
As the fight draws near, most Mayweather opponents have to deal with the rush of media attention that they have likely never encountered before. While important, it has to become a distraction when the time that was supposed to dedicated to training is spent telling the world why they are going to be the one to put the first blemish on Mayweather's record. It is an exercise that Mayweather has mastered but other fighters have to try and get used to. Meanwhile, Mayweather begins to play with the psyche of his upcoming foe by telling the press things like he has never heard of nor watched his opponent before. By dismissing his upcoming opponent and saying that he never watches tape, the foe begins to think that Mayweather is taking them too lightly and is disrespecting them. In their mind, they are going to make this heinous villain pay for not giving them the attention they believe they deserve.
Then, fight night happens.
Mayweather's mind games may have already gotten to his opponent but the biggest mind game has yet to come and that is once they take in the gravity of what it is like to be in a Mayweather fight. These are the moments that fighters dream about. It's not just a fight, it is an event that rivals some of the biggest nights in the entire sports world. Nothing can truly prepare an opponent for the rush of emotion that overtakes the body as they head to the ring.
As for Mayweather, it is truly just another day at the office. While the opponent demonstrates his version of "extreme focus" on his way to the ring, watching Mayweather make one of his grandiose entrances is a spectacle that makes them realize "Holy [expletive], I'm fighting Floyd Mayweather." All of the appetizing trash talk and pre-fight hype is a thing of the past and the only item left on the menu is the main course.
The bell rings and Mayweather opponents lurch forward to take on the role of the "aggressor." Little do they realize, they've already lost. By putting their cards on the table, it only takes a matter of moments (usually three to six minutes) for Mayweather to break down their strategy. Mayweather is immediately faster than they imagined. That strategy torn from Castillo's book of bulling forward swiftly becomes a bad idea because, you know, Mayweather prepared for your archaic blueprint. The punches they thought they could land on Mayweather now whizz through the air as "Money" dances away. That power that they believed Mayweather lacks becomes a stinging reality as the speed of his punches surprise and discombobulate. This isn't what they expected and that plan their team spent so much time working on has gone up in smoke with no backup. It's all or nothing.
As the fight progresses, Mayweather does strange things like stand motionless in front of his opponent, hands at his side, with his eyes fixated at nothing in particular. It's that brief pause that causes an opponent to blink and just as the eyelid shuts, a right hand greets the face. By the middle rounds, it has to be frustrating to realize that they are in a fight that they cannot win and there are still another 4-6 rounds to go.
In a Mayweather fight, the opponent's corner has become practically useless but they continue to spout words of encouragement to try and keep their fighter from mentally checking out. It's all bad and it is only going to get worse as Mayweather knows the will is broken. As a matter of fact, this is worse torture than being knocked out. A knockout is quick. Being dominated for 12 rounds ruins a man's pride. In a Mayweather fight, you don't get to go to sleep. All you can do is lose your mind by being trapped in the ring with the greats tactician of this era.
Now the opponent is both frustrated and embarrassed. Here he is, in the biggest fight of his life and he's putting up a dud. Everything he's tried has failed and fans begin to boo because they want him knocked out. Sure, they are mad at Mayweather for not taking him out of his misery, but they are also upset that they were sold all of these wolf tickets and by a guy who will be forever known as "just another victim unable to crack the Mayweather code." This is unfortunate because the guys Mayweather fights aren't bad fighters at all. They are just not in his league.
The final bell rings and the result is a foregone conclusion. If they are bold, they'll be like Guerrero and raise their hands in victory. Not because they really think won, but because they don't want to look like a complete fool that has been surgically picked apart. They usually don't look too upset when the results are read because they know it's not even close. Mayweather wins, rakes in a bunch of money and begins contemplating which baby to steal candy from next. As for the opponent, they are simply another victim and can find solace in the biggest payday they've ever had.
That's the story of a Mayweather fight from an opponent's perspective. And stop acting so surprised when you see this very cycle of events repeat itself when Mayweather fights again. At this point, it is not up to the champion to change, it is up to the challenger.
Andreas Hale lives in the boxing capital of the world and has covered the sport for mainstream media outlets such as MTV.com and Jay-Z's LifeandTimes.com, as well as die-hard websites including FightNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@AndreasHale).
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