Floyd Mayweather: Declining athleticism makes ”Money” mortal again.
By Kwame Cinquez: Let me begin by declaring my admiration for the ability of Floyd Mayweather. He has been the most dedicated professional in preparation to all 43 of his fights, and his been decisive with each fight he has participated in, perhaps with the exception of Jose Luis Castillo in the first fight. I have thoroughly enjoyed the majority of his fights and can appreciate how his marketability has also brought in new fans to the sport. I am not part of the anti-Mayweather brigade, in any way, shape or form. But as an objective lover of the sport, I feel compelled to undertake this piece on one of my favourite fighters of all time.
Father Time however, can be cruel for the pugilist. Mayweather’s defensive abilities are not only world renown and have allowed him to sustain very little wear and tear since his debut in October 1996. Mayweather’s skill set is also so technically sound he is almost a smaller hybrid of two of the best fighters of the past twenty years. The pure athleticism of a younger Roy Jones Jr combined perfectly with the defensive nous of Bernard Hopkins has allowed for shut-outs of opponents who have troubled other elite fighters, or having the ability to distance himself from a Gatti-Ward brawl and instead inflict Mayweather-Gatti decisive victories.
The big question then is this: What is to be done when the very attributes that enhanced your brilliance begin to fade? In Floyd’s most recent fights, there have been enough signs of physical decline for me to take notice, maybe not with alarm but significant enough to penetrate my subconscious pending further review. I begin the analysis of this with the unanimous decision over Shane Mosley in 2010. The second round right hooks by Mosley rocked Mayweather, but were also indicative of a failure by Mayweather to avert what were not exactly lightening fast punches. Mosley, who appeared to not only be extremely rigid and nervous for the whole duration of the fight, also appeared incapable of timing his shots. The shots were not inexplicable but were surprising nonetheless, as the Floyd of 2006 simply wouldn’t have been tagged.
Moving forward to the Ortiz fight, the lack of mobility on Mayweather’s part was also noticeable but it was not surprising. It was the first time in 5 years (With the exception of the limited, outmatched fight with disciplined lifestyle-refusnik Ricky Hatton) that he had faced an opponent younger than himself. Although the fight result was never truly in any doubt, before the disgraceful headbutts, the energetic but rudimentary Ortiz appeared to have a strategy based on outworking Floyd,
The Miguel Cotto fight further enhanced this view. Although Mayweather made the spurious claim that he stayed in the pocket to “Excite the fans”, I struggle to accept this view as sincere. Mayweather has consistently displayed that he no longer has the speed and agility of five years ago. This is more than understandable, given he is now almost 36. Cotto, irreversibly damaged following the Margarito hand wraps in the first fight, managed without exerting that much pressure, to back up Mayweather consistently. Whilst watching this, I refuse to believe I was the only fan worrying about the future of Floyd in boxing. He has great health, a beautiful wife and children, and affluence that was beyond his wildest dreams whilst growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Mayweather’s general brilliance & also his selection of opponents has masked his declining attributes. This however, cannot last forever. Unlike Manny Pacquiao, Floyd has a deeper reservoir of boxing knowledge and ability in his reserves to persevere against the majority of elite opponents, and I would be tremendously shocked to ever see him knocked out in the way Marquez dispatched of the Pacman. That isn’t to say, however, that I do not believe that Floyd is at his premium level anymore. Luckily for him, the developing stars don’t seem to be ready to take the mantle anytime soon. A fight with Martinez, long discussed on boxing blogs, should be taken with a disclaimer. ”Maravilla” throws punches at the most unorthodox of angles, and like Mayweather, is also in good shape for a fighter of his age. It would make for compelling viewing.
Mayweather’s physical attributes negatively correlate with his age, and the mathematical conclusion to that is he may now be deemed a boxing mortal. With this in mind, his next opponents would do well to enter the ring with less trepidation and more confidence in their own ability. Boxing is littered with great fighters who not only stayed on too long, but did so when they were in a position to leave whilst at their peak. For every Lewis or Calzaghe, there is an Ali or Tyson. This is the nature of the sport we love, and I for one hope that this formulaic script doesn’t come to fruition with Mayweather. He may still be the best, but he is no longer invincible, and that may be the most dangerous phase yet….