The Sweetest Scientist? Money Mayweather
I can't even say I told you so.
Heading into Saturday's welterweight superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley most of us knew certain events would unfold. We knew, for example, that Mosley would make his punching power a factor in the fight, and we also knew Mayweather's caginess would make life tough for Sugar Shane.
We all expected Mayweather to have answer questions about his chin and heart, but did any of us expect him to turn this fight into a blowout?
Did any of us expect Mayweather to make Mosley look like Carlos Baldomir?
To pitch a near shutout despite nearly hitting the canvas early on?
To hurt Mosley worse than any opponent aside from the late Vernon Forrest?
Nope, but Mayweather delivered all of that and more, and behind that performance if you don't believe he's the best boxer on the planet you're either blind or biased...or blinded by bias.
Boxing is the Sweet Science, and nobody in the world fights with more sweetness or more science than Mayweather, who grossed $22.5 million for Saturday's fight, and that's before collecting his percentage of pay-per-view revenues.
Of course Mayweather haters still abound and I'm sure plenty of them will point out that Mosley was 38 years old at the time of Saturday night's king-sized beatdown. But at 33, Mayweather isn't exactly young either, and at an age where most fast fighters lose just a little zip (see: Whitaker, Pernell), Mayweather has managed to blend speed and savvy into a nearly unbeatable combination.
Besides, even at 38 Mosley posed enough of a threat to Manny Pacquiao that trainer Freddie Roach steered his superstar in another direction rather than face him. He entered the ring Saturday night with plenty of speed and knockout power in each fist, but couldn't deal with Mayweather's skill, speed and smarts.
It really is that simple.
Mayweather really is as skilled as his supporters have maintained, and is much tougher than his detractors ever allowed themselves to admit.
One of the big knocks against Mayweather before this fight was that he had never had to deal with adversity. His detractors pointed out, correctly, that we had never seen him in real trouble in the ring, and that he had never had to pull off a Leonard-Hearns I type late-round rally to rescue a victory.
I, meanwhile, maintained that none of that was his fault. It's not his job to give away rounds simply to reel in opponents from behind, nor is it his responsibility to take hard shots to the chin just because it's entertaining. You can't blame him for outclassing quality opponents any more than you can blame Usain Bolt for lining up against the second-fastest man in history and making him eat dust.
Yes we all prefer the drama of a close contest but we also need to appreciate a virtuoso when we see one.
Nevertheless, Saturday's second round presented a test many people doubted Mayweather would pass.
Mosley cracked him across the jaw with a thunderous overhand right, and Mayweather would have toppled if he hadn't held on to Mosley's arm. He smiled and covered up, but that shot hurt. Bad.
Later in the same round another right hand, this one to the temple, left Mayweather splay-legged and staggering forward to smother Mosley's power.
The pain Mosley dealt was real and Mayweather's responses to it were sensible, subtle and telling.
Instead of running from Mosley, Mayweather tied him up.
Instead of folding, Mayweather fought back.
But instead of engaging in a desperate exchange of punches, Mayweather measured his shots, firing short, sharp uppercuts to the ribs and momentum-deadening left hooks to the chin.
Mayweather may have lost that round on the scorecards but he won it in the mental fight that runs parallel to the physical one. The look on Mosley's face when the bell sounded was the look of a man who has delivered his best shot and realized it wasn't good enough.
That moment marked the end of Mosley's best chance to win and the beginning of a boxing lesson more lopsided than even the most ardent Mayweather fan would have predicted.
*** Big exception: Quency Phillips, college classmate and CEO of Fuzion Marketing Group, who said on Friday that this fight would be a replay of Mayweather-Judah. Hats off to him.***
So what does Mayweather's emphatic win over a future Hall-of-Famer mean?
Not sure it means that he's better than the original Sugar Ray, as Mayweather proclaims these days, but it certainly means Mayweather belongs in the discussion of all-time greats.
The group of guys I talk boxing with have often speculated about how Mayweather would have fared in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when a group of welterweight legends (Leonard, Hearns, Benitez, plus former lightweight champ Duran) came of age simultaneously. We can talk all day about who would have beaten whom and solve very little, but the fact is he stacks up just fine against the best welterweights of that era or any other.
But what about today?
The win clearly places Mayweather back at the top of the welterweight division (see the Nature Boy Theory of Welterweight Dominance) and gives him leverage in his ongoing poker game against Manny Pacquiao. He saw Pacquiao's Josh Clottey and raised him a Shane Mosley. Saturday's performance pushed the stakes higher for everyone involved and Mayweather still holds all the cards.
Negotiations between Mayweather and Pacquiao collapsed in January because Pacquiao didn't want to accede to Mayweather's drug testing demands, and Saturday's blowout gave Pacquiao and Freddie Roach few reasons to change their minds.
Last year Roach as much as admitted he wanted no part of Shane Mosley (fast forward to 6:58 to see what I mean), and Mayweather just made Mosley look like an amateur.
Along the way he also showed strength in every area his critics perceived as a weakness.
Check. He took Mosley's best shot and answered emphatically.
In the video above Roach dismisses Mayweather as frail, but he was the stronger of the two men Saturday night. He manhandled the man who manhandled Antonio Margarito. That takes muscle, period.
And punching power?
He didn't score a knockout but Sugar Shane's face tells the story, and so does the post-fight trip to the ER to check for damage to his neck from the constant whiplashing Mayweather's punches caused. Pitty-pat punchers don't put fighters in the hospital. Especially not guys as tough as Shane Mosley.
In short, Mayweather staked a legitimate claim to the pound-for-pound throne and proved that his quickness, in-fight adjustments and underappreciated power make him a nightmare matchup for any fighter in the world.
Again, this isn't to say Pacquiao has no chance against Mayweather. He has proven repeatedly he's capable beating very good welterweights.
But Mayweather's a great one, and the skills and versatility he showed Saturday likely showed Roach and Pacquiao that whatever game plan they envisioned working against him now needs a massive overhaul. Getting to Mayweather requires a better jab than Pacquiao has shown, and fighting your way inside is a much more appealing option when your opponent can't hurt you.
The truth is Mayweather upped the ante with his resounding win over Mosley, and if Pacquiao still thinks Mayweather is hiding behind drug test demands to avoid a showdown he can simply call Mayweather's bluff.
If he can't do that he can concede the pound-for-pound crown to the guy who showed on Saturday he deserves it.
Either way, it's Manny's move now.
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