Understanding the Mindset of a Mayweather Opponent
By Eric Johnson: On September 14th we saw yet another young promising boxer come up short against the #1 P4P boxer in the world. Every year it seems that someone will rise to the occasion, and every year they fall just short of the finish line.
There is always talk of Mayweather fighting older opponents or unworthy opponents, but his last four fights tell a different story. In those fights his opponents have had an average youth advantage of seven years, and have had an average rank of second in their respective divisions. Canelo, and Cotto being rated as the top Junior Middleweights leading up to their fights with Floyd, and Ortiz and Guerrero rated as 3rd in the Welterweight division pre-fight. Also, three of the four fighters were champions in their divisions. Although Robert was the exception, he was also Mayweather’s mandatory challenger to keep his belt.
What always intrigues me is the preparation for these fights. As fans all we have to do is wait for the date that was announced, and even we feel the electricity in the days leading up to the event. Before today, I never once considered what his opponents must be going through. Before they get in the ring and after they lose. So I decided to write an article about it. Of course, this is just my view on it. I am not a boxer, nor do I have what it takes to be one. I’ve never been in the ring and I’ve never been through a grueling training camp. I have the utmost respect for all athletes who partake in the sport because they all put their lives on the line each time they step inside the ring. I understand that since I’m not involved in the sport I could never really understand what it’s like, but this is my estimation.
The Announcement: You get the call from your manager. You got the fight. Not only do you have the chance to make an insane amount of money, you get the opportunity to dethrone Money himself. You are excited, you make a promise to yourself to be dedicated to the grind and to give your all in training camp so that it’ll show in the ring. You tell your family about the good news. They all congratulate you, and it feels good to know that they are all going to support you. Seeing their dedication to your success gets you even more amped, even more motivated to get the job done. Your trainer tells you that it’s your time, and your promoter follows suit. You look in the mirror and you see the chosen one, the one that’ll defy odds and dethrone the king. You’ve waited your life for this moment. They say success is where preparation meets opportunity and the opportunity has arrived. Are you prepared?
Training Camp: You keep your word. You give your all every day. You do all the reps your body can handle, and then you do five more. The sit ups, the pushups, the deadlifts, the shadow boxing. All for countless hours a day. You’re focused, locked in, and more confident than ever. You get up at 6AM to run every morning after eating your balanced breakfast. You run with sun, wiping the sweat off of your forehead every few minutes so it doesn’t burn your eyes. Your body tells you to stop, but you keep on. After you reach your destination you fall to your knees in pain. Good pain, pain that will bring triumph. When you’re at the heavy bag you show it no respect. You envision Mayweather as the bag. You envision that every time you land a shot he screams in agony, that every shot lands right on the money, no pun intended. Everyone in your camp has embedded their faith in you. You are the man to take them to the promise land. You’re not just giving this camp your all, you’re giving in your soul. Seven weeks of hell all for one day of heaven. You hope.
The Media: Things were a little different at this camp. There was always someone around with a camera. Floyd has been taking not so subtle shots at you. Repeating his famous slogans “I know what it takes”, “It’s just another day for me”, “There is no blueprint on how to beat Floyd Mayweather”, “This amount of people have tried, and this amount of people have failed”. You take his confidence as an insult. How could he treat you as if you’ve already lost? How could he treat you the same way he’s treated people who have already fallen to him. In your interviews you get the same questions. Everyone wants to know what makes you so different. Why are you going to be the guy to shock the world? You point out your advantages. Your size, your youth, your skill, your heart and desire to win. Floyd mocks you as if he’s heard it before. He has. You watch is laser focus in the All Access videos leading up into the fight. He takes jabs at your skills, at your looks, at your record. He’s always laughing, and completely writing you off. It makes you wish the fight was tomorrow. You’ve been getting more attention than usual. People are stopping you at the supermarket. “Go Champ” they all say. They all want pictures. You find yourself taking pictures with dozens of different people, and you always use the same pose. You smile with your fist up. Articles are swarming the internet, of why you aren’t the guy, and why you could be the guy. So many people writing you off it makes you want to prove them wrong. It makes you want to show the world that you aren’t just another number. So many things changing, but your focus is the same. Fight time is approaching and you are all too ready. Right?
The Weigh In: You wake up in the morning and your weight is made. You’re excited for the weigh in, and to see Mayweather face to face finally. You arrive at the MGM Grand ready to step on the scale. Jimmy Lennon Jr. announces you and the crowd goes wild. They’re chanting your name. Screaming their support. You step on the scale, you stare to the crowd with your eyes out of focus until your weight is announced to the crowd. You’ve made weight. Jimmy Lennon Jr. then announces Floyd Mayweather. The rap music blasts through the arena. He comes in with his security guards, while wearing a sweat suit and a hat. He takes off his outfit and steps on the scale. He puts a huge smile on his face, and flexes his muscles. His confidence gets under your skin. He makes weight and comes in a pound under the limit. As he steps off the scale, he screws up his face to make it look tough. You two face off in the middle of the stage. Your face is solid stone. This is the day before the most important day of your life. Mayweather on the other hand is smiling, he’s smiling directly in your face. He’s belittled you in the media, on camera, and by showing up fashionably late to all of the events, and now he’s smiling at you in your face? You think it’s unbelievable, but it’s happening. You can’t wait until tomorrow. Nothing else matters now, all the work is done. Everything is done except for the job. Are you prepared?
Prefight: You watch all the undercards, all the upsets. Your team is around you and there is an element of confidence infesting the room. Everyone is determined, everyone believes in you. Your hands are a little shaky. Not because you’re scared but because fight time is almost here. The referee comes inside to give you the instructions. You give head nods to all his demands and Leonard Ellerbe comes to watch you get your hands wrapped. Even he gives off this worry-free vibe. As if he knows what’s about to happen. The representative from your team who watched Mayweather’s hands get wrapped comes back to let you know that everything is a go. The singing of The National Anthem has begun. It’s your time to walk out. You walk down the main hall and with every step you take the crowd’s roar gets louder. You hear the footsteps, and the clapping. Once you reach the entrance you feel the change of sound. It’s comparable to when you hear music in another room with the door closed. It’s the sound you hear once the door opens. That, tenfold. You walk out to thousands of fans cheering your name. They’re all reaching out for high fives and handshakes. You walk into the ring throwing subtle hooks and jabs. You’re ready. Mayweather’s name is announced and he comes out with some mega superstar rapping their most popular song. He’s sporting a hat, and a green leather vest with green and black snakeskin trunks. They walk into ring, he’s slowly jogging in place and you both take off your robes. Jimmy Lennon Jr. announces you first. Your resume sounds pretty impressive. You’re the champion, and you haven’t lost. The crowd goes insane. Jimmy Lennon Jr. then announces Floyd Mayweather. His entourage goes wild. They insult you, they tell you that you have no chance. You hear his accomplishments. Former Super Featherweight, Former Lightweight, Former Super Lightweight, Current Welterweight, Current Super Welterweight Champion of the world, eight time champion in five weight divisions, Floyd “Money” Mayweather. The ring begins to clear out, you both walk to the center of the ring as the referee gives you instructions. Mayweather’ face is solid. No smiles, no laughter, he’s game and ready to go. On the way back to your corner you start to feel it. The moment hits you, it finally hits you. You look over to the opposite corner and you see him jogging in place with an emotionless face. The bell sounds, you’re fighting Floyd Mayweather.
Round 1: You meet in the center of the ring and within the first few seconds you notice he’s a little slower than you thought. You flash your jab a couple of times and they just miss him. One of your jabs just grazes his face and the crowd goes wild. You notice he’s very patient and very cautious. He’s landing his jab every now and then. As if he’s trying to figure out when to time it perfectly. You outwork him the first round. The bell sounds. You’ve won the round. You’re up 10-9. Good Job.
Round 2: A little more of the same. He’s not doing anything but watching you and staying out of harm’s way. You push the attack a little more but connect with nothing but his arms. Still you’re outworking him. He’s flashing his jab a little, but nothing that seems effective. Nothing that has your hurt. Your confidence is building. You get the feeling that he’s a little overrated. The bell sounds. Another round in the bag. Good Job Champ.
Round 3: Your confidence is booming. There’s no way you’re losing. As you ease into the round you throw your signature left hand, only to get countered with a right hand lead. It doesn’t really hurt, just a good sting. You push the attack a little more, he shoulder rolls your left hook, straight right combo. He tags you with another straight right that he set up with his jab and then moves out of the way. The round ends. You’ve clearly lost it. However, it’s one round and you’re still up. No biggie… Champ.
Round 4: You come out for the round, fresh off your corner telling you to stick to your game plan, whatever that may be. You meet in the center of the ring. You think hard about throwing, but hesitate because you don’t know when the counter is going to come, and every time you make a sudden movement, he moves with you. It almost seems like he knows what you’re going to throw before you throw it. What happened to the guy from the first two rounds? You trap him in ropes. His eyes are on you, anticipating something. You throw your left hook to the body and counters with a right hand. You go for it again, nothing lands. He walks to you shaking his head, with a facial impression that reads “Try Harder”. You go to work on the inside, he catches all your punches and counters with an uppercut that rocks your head back. Round over. Tie game. Hang in there.
Your corner scolds you. Urging you to wake up.
Round 5: More of round 4. Right hand leads that you know are coming, but can’t seem to dodge. It’s not the speed of the punch, it’s the timing. He uses his footwork, you have to move with him. He moves as if it’s a pattern, but it’s an unpredictable one. He moves left, then right, then right again, and then jolts left. He hangs his head in front of you, daring you to throw. Not believing in your speed. He throws a right hand lead that lands right on the button, you try to counter with a left hook only for him to duck under it. Round over. Stay calm, it’s still close.
Round 6: Your corner tells you to try to work on the inside. You approach Mayweather. He starts to flash his jab. It doesn’t hurt but it’s ruining your timing. Every time you think the moment is right, there’s the jab again. It’s like a huge fly that just won’t go away. It’s pesky. Its effectiveness doesn’t stem from power, but in rhythm. He knocks your head back with another right hand lead. That damn right hand lead. It didn’t look as fast on tape. It seemed like it would be so easy to avoid. You go the inside to try to rough him up, because you’re the bigger man. Only he’s not so weak. He’s stronger than he looks. You two clinch and the referee breaks you. At the first opportunity he throws another right hand, you try to counter with your left hook and he goes under it. Again. Your eye is beginning to swell, and so is insecurity. Round over.
Your corner is furious. They’re telling you wake up. It’s just they don’t understand. Only you do. You can’t explain it, and you can’t describe it. It’s just different.
Round 7: You’re beginning to tire. You look across the ring, and he still looks as if it’s the first round. No heavy breathing, no panting. Just the same emotionless face. You come out with a vengeance. You know you’re behind now. You start to think of the people supporting you. How you can’t let them down. You throw right hand that lands pretty well, and he does the unthinkable. He smiles. The same smile that he’s been flashing over the last two months. The smile from the weigh in, and the smile from the interviews. The smile that you take as disrespect. He went from being all game to all smiles in a split second. It throws you off your game, kills your temporary confidence and opens you up to another right hand. This one you feel, it stung a little more than usual. Or maybe exactly the same as the other ones, only when you took the other ones, there were no other ones before those. He starts to pressure you, you’re out of breath. Left hand to right hand. Left hand to right hand. Your guard is up. He’s punching between your gloves. You throw back, and you hit air. He’s already out of harm’s way, and his work is scored. Round over.
Round 8: You feel the fight slipping away. You’re still breathing heavy because that minute in between rounds wasn’t nearly enough for you to actually catch your breath. You look over at your supporters and they have a look of doubt on their faces. They believe in you, but they start to feel as if the inevitable is going to happen. You take their facial expressions as disappointment. You’re wrong but you don’t know it. He’s motioning his head in front of you again. You throw. He’s gone. He’s back. Jab. Jab. Jab. All landing. He’s walking you down again. Not throwing, but just asserting his dominance. You
try throwing a jab to relieve the pressure. He just rolls up and nods his head to say “no” again. Round over.
Round 9: You’re exhausted. Mentally and physically drained. Your gun shy. It’s not your fault, its simple human trial and error. If you do something with little to no reward, while receiving high punishment, you don’t want to do it anymore. You’re just not ready to give up the fight yet. You work hard to win the round. Throwing as many punches as you can even if they don’t land clean. It seems you’re winning the round. You’ve expended so much energy into your flurry. Displaying volume but not efficiency. With a minute left in the round, he starts to turn it on. He’s landing almost at will. The effectiveness that you thought you had seems like a distant memory, although it was only a minute and a half ago. He steals the round. That hurts.
Round 10: You get off your stool with your eyes out of focus. You look over to see a blurred out figure coming toward you. The fact that it’s blurry doesn’t make it any less real. You just want to survive. You just don’t want any more right hands. You already feel as if you’ve let your team down. Every time you go back to your corner, they sound a little more disheartened. The round begins slowly, he’s still leading with his jab. He doesn’t have appeared to have slowed down. Up until this point he has taken significantly less damage than you and seems to be on a new pair of legs. His punches still have the same sting, but that lump under your eye has just gotten worst. The crowd tries to build you up. Their chanting your name, but you know it’s too late. Round over. Pride shot.
Rounds 11 & 12: You start to believe it was all for nothing. He’s motioning around you, barely throwing. You and he both understand that the fight is over. The lights seem a little dimmer. The crowd seems a little more feint. Some of your loved ones are crying, and your ego feels dissected. Rounds Over. Fight Over.
Post-Fight: The scorecards announce what was already known. Mayweather comes over to you to hug you and console you. To tell you that you fought your heart out and performed like a true champion. You can only respect that, because sportsmanship isn’t mandated. He was the better man. People don’t know how good he is, how quick he is. You do. You wait for Jim Gray to come over to you. To ask you what went wrong. You tell it how it happened. Holding back your tears and your discontent. Oh if the eyes could speak, the things they would say. You leave the ring and start the long walk back to your dressing room. Some fans console you, some fans scold you. Some call you a champion, some call you a bum. You keep your head held high for the cameras, but inside your mind you are broken. Your team holds you, they tell you that the best is yet to come. You nod even if you don’t agree. You head for the showers, and you start to think about when you got the call. When you promised yourself to win, to grind and to succeed. You start to remember how your family was behind you. You start to remember the training camp. The sit-ups and pushups, and deadlifts. You start to remember the long mornings running with the sun. You start to remember punching the heavy-bag and envisioning Mayweather’s face. You start to remember the pictures with fans. The articles of why you would come up short. You start to remember his slogans, and his taunts. You start to believe that you’re just another number. You reminisce about the weigh in. The way he smiled in your face at the faceoff. You start to remember the undercards, and the hand wrapping. You remember his stone face as you met in the center of the ring for the referee’s instructions. You began to wonder if you’ll ever again make it to this stage. Most likely you won’t. The shower isn’t soothing, because all you want is another chance. You take your left hand and touch the lump under your eye. You begin to relive all of those leads, and counters. You know the night is over. You know you came up short. You get dressed, and do your post-fight interviews. Doing your best to be as vague as possible and hide the shame that you’re feeling in your heart. You only wish you could tell the next guy what it was really like. That it’s different inside the ring. They say hindsight is always 20/20, but you still don’t understand what happened. You leave the arena, and behind you leave all the blood sweat and tears you put into your dream. Blood, sweat and tears that are nothing more than a memory. Maybe things would have been different with a different game plan. One thing is for sure though. Success is where preparation meets opportunity. You weren’t prepared.