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How to Solve the Mayweather Puzzle

25 Sep

How to Solve the Mayweather Puzzle

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Canelo Alvarez

A little over a week ago, we saw yet another one-sided, pugilistic virtuoso performance by our favorite Gulfstream G5 passenger, Mr. Money Mayweather. The fight was essentially over the day that it was signed, but Floyd was kind enough to step into the ring and act out all 12 scenes for us anyway, and it was indeed a tragedy… for his crimson-headed opponent.

As you may have read here before this fight took place, I was not too keen on the idea of Saul Alvarez being given this fight with any expectation, on our part as fans, that it would actually be competitive. There was no way that Alvarez possessed the style or skill to have been able to fight Mayweather in a way that would overcome the many tactical advantages that Floyd brings to the ring; and now that this fact is no longer a secret to the general public, it’s time for me to explain exactly what kind of fighter it would take to indeed accomplish this seemingly inconceivable feat.  So get ready to receive the blueprint[1] on how to beat Floyd Mayweather.

You see, regardless of what some may believe, no fighter is really unbeatable. Each boxer has his own set of strengths and weaknesses. Some fighters, like Floyd, manage to do a really good job of maximizing their strengths, while covering up their weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be someone who possesses the ability to best him. This someone would have to have a style that Floyd, a natural counterpuncher, has trouble dealing with; however, he would also need to be able to be multi-skilled, so that when Floyd adjusts, he can adjust as well. Most of all, though, this fighter would need to be able to have a really good strategic understanding of what Mayweather will be most, and least, likely to do in a fight, based on his abilities, and how to use that understanding to overcome him. Let’s look at that in a bit more detail as we profile our pound-for-pound king:

Name: Floyd Joy Mayweather Jr.[2]
Nickname: Money
Age: 36
Stance: Orthodox[3]
Height: 5’ 8”
Reach: 72”[4]
Record: 45-0-0, 26 Knockouts
Nearly flawless defense
Superb ring generalship
Faster than Comcast Xfinity™
Always keeps his composure
Unbelievably accurate puncher
Fancy footwork
Completely solid fundamentals
Decades of experience
Unintimidating punching power
Subpar Offense
Afraid of taking risks
Needs to be able to predict opponent in order to be in control


Now, let’s look at a couple of these strengths and weaknesses and see how they can be put together to come out on top against the champ:


Floyd’s Strength: A Learning-Capable Defense

Floyd is one of the best ever when it comes to figuring out his opponent’s moves before they even make them. This is because he spends so much time focusing on his opponent’s every little detail in the beginning of the fight. He’s a counterpuncher, so he has the time to do this, since he’s not trying to launch an offensive, but instead establish a rock-solid defense. Because of this, he always completely figures out his opponent roughly halfway through a fight, so it is pretty lopsided by the end.


How to Overcome This

There are two easy ways that instantly come to mind when considering how to deal with someone who has a smart defense:

  1. Have an even smarter defense.
  2. Force the fighter to go on offense.

The first option would not realistically work in this situation, since only a small few trainers can even teach that level of defense to a fighter, and one of them happens to be Floyd Mayweather Sr., who trained Jr. starting when he was a young child. Thus, no matter how good you are, Floyd will probably be better.

The second option presents a bit more of an opportunity. Since Mayweather is, by far, more comfortable on defense. Forcing him to go on offense takes away his ability to focus on studying you, and the less he studies you, the less he can figure out about you. This will enable you to surprise Mayweather more often, and Floyd HATES surprises in the ring (see: Victor Ortiz). Actually accomplishing this, however, requires some work, because Mayweather’s composure is second to none.


A Current Fighter Who Can Possibly Accomplish This.

Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is one of the leading candidates to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. in this manner. He, like Floyd, is a defense-oriented fighter, so he wouldn’t give Floyd the offensive aggression that he needs from his opponent in order to launch his vaunted counterpunches. In addition, Martinez actually has punching power and he is, at minimum, equal to Mayweather in speed.


Floyd’s Weakness: He Depends on Your Predictability

Some fighters, like Mayweather, have areas where they are prodigiously gifted, combined with other areas where they are quite limited. This disparity almost always leads the boxer to rely tremendously on his gifts. In the case of the great fighters, these gifts get honed to perfection, and the limitations get masked completely. The most visible examples, to the casual fan, are the fighters that are gifted with punching power and use this gift to its maximum potential. Fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones Jr. have electrified fans with their ability to render someone unconscious so much that their weaknesses took a very long time to be seen in the ring by most of the people who were watching them.

Fighters like Floyd follow the exact same pattern, but their strengths are defensive, which make them a bit less electrifying. The upside to this is that it is harder to spot a weakness in a fighter like Floyd. Since you don’t necessarily need a KO to win a fight, a defensive specialist has many different ways to win, no matter how boring these ways may be. In spite of this, there still lies an inherent limitation in all defense-dependent fighters: They always need to know what they’re defending.

Mayweather depends on his defense because he has no other choice. He has brittle hands that are prone to injury, so he cannot be overly aggressive without risking injury. If he knows what he’s defending, then it will be defended perfectly, but he has to ABSOLUTELY know what it is that he is defending.


How to Exploit This

The key to beating a fighter who is dependent on his defense is to take away his ability to defend. There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Stun him with a shot to the head.
  2. Break down his body, causing him to drop his hands and move around slower.
  3. Hit him in the arms, causing him to use them less effectively.
  4. Reduce your own offense and increase your defense.
  5. Constantly switch up your movement, not allowing him to predict you.

With Mayweather’s defense, the first two options will be pretty difficult. The third option, however, actually works pretty well whenever he is in the pocket, but it needs to be combined with at least one of the last two options in order to truly be effective throughout a fight.

Taking away your offense means that his defense also gets taken away. One thing that is often said about Mayweather’s superiority is that “He is capable of neutralizing your best (offensive) weapons.” How is he able to do this? With defense, of course! So, if you take away your offensive weapons and replace them with your own defense, then you also take away his best weapon, forcing him to either switch to offense or dance around and wait for the bell, depending on how the fight is going at that point. There is, however, a catch: You actually have to HAVE a really good defense.

If you don’t, then there is still another way, and that’s option 5. Mayweather is brilliant when he is fighting opponents who are either moving directly towards him or standing still[5], since these are the two easiest movements to predict: If he’s following Floyd, then Floyd always knows where he is going to be. If he is standing still, then Floyd always knows where he is going to be.

However, there really are more than those two choices available for a boxer when they are against Mayweather. A mobile fighter can use his legs to put himself anywhere in the ring that he chooses.

Think of the queen in the game of chess versus the bishop. The queen can move anywhere you want it to move, which places it at an advantage to the bishop, since the bishop’s moves are limited. In the ring, Floyd can move like the queen, yet his opponents usually are bishops, at best. A mobile fighter against Floyd could remove that advantage, making it a queen vs. queen matchup.

If this same mobile fighter were to constantly move in all directions throughout the fight and never establish a pattern of movement or pace, then Floyd would be unable to gain control by predicting his opponent’s movements. He would never be able to set up his defense, which would prevent him from setting up his counters. In turn, Floyd would be constantly open to ambushes from his opponent, which is not a place that Floyd Mayweather likes to be.

Eventually, in order to try and check his opponent’s ambushes, Floyd would have to press his offense while moving around the ring, still frustrated by is inability to gain control, and voila, the boxer has successfully neutralized Floyd Mayweather’s strengths and exploited his weakness, instead of the other way around.

boxing - amir khan

A Current Fighter Who Can Possibly Accomplish This

Welterweight Amir Khan stands out as the fighter, in my eyes, that has the best chance of exercising option 5 on Mayweather. Like Sergio Martinez, Khan’s speed can, at minimum, match Floyd’s. Also, his legs are fast and can carry him anywhere in the ring that he chooses. Also like Martinez, Khan has serious punching power.

Unlike Martinez, Amir Khan is an offensive fighter by nature, so he would not likely go on defense just to bait Floyd. What he can do, however, is zip around the ring and then stop and throw devastating 5-6 punch combinations at will. All he would need to do is make sure to constantly change the timing and the angles of the ambushes, which he physically is capable of doing. Trust me; Floyd has never seen anything quite like this before.


Is that all?

For today it is, but I’ll be back. Next time, we will over a couple more of Mayweather’s strengths and weaknesses, and I will add a couple more fighters to the list that I believe have a legitimate chance against the leader of The Money Team.

Stay tuned!

[1]’s blueprint, not Oscar De La Hoya’s.

[2] His birth name was Floyd Joy Sinclair. It was later changed to Mayweather.

[3] This means that he fights at an angle, with the left side of his body ahead of his right side. Most right-handed fighters use this stance. The opposite stance, used by most left-handed fighters, is known as “southpaw”.

[4] There are two main methods that measure a boxer’s reach. One method is to measure the length from the fingertip of one hand to the fingertip of the other hand while the boxer’s arms are stretched out to each side. The other method, which is often used on TV broadcasts, is to measure the length from the boxer’s armpit to the end of the fist. For this article, the first method’s reach is used.

[5] Which equates to, roughly, everyone that Floyd has fought up to this point.


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