45 seconds. For about 45 electric, on-your-feet, hand-clenching seconds on Saturday night, it looked like the hype might have been of all things an understatement. And it even looked like those who had picked Mosley to win might be celebrating early.
45 seconds. About how long it took after that initial cracking right hand landed cleaner and harder against Floyd Mayweather’s jaw than maybe any punch he ever took in his career for boxing’s most skilled technician
to regain control and go about the methodical business of dismantling his 41st opponent.
For a brief moment on Saturday night, Shane Mosley was closer than he will probably ever get again to regaining the spot he once held as boxing’s best. And for that same brief window, all the fans who had continuously challenged Mayweather to take on the best competition must have thought, finally, that they were going to see the undefeated ‘Pretty Boy’ in a real fight.
So much for that.
The next 30 minutes would be nothing more than yet another display of Mayweather doing what he does best dismantling a fighter with cool precision and unmatched effectiveness. Going up against a man regarded as one of the most dangerous in the sport, with the best resume in the division, and taking him apart like a car engine in the shop.
Mayweather has always claimed that he never watches any tapes of his opponents, preferring to study them in the ring instead, so as to avoid any stylistic changes they might try to surprise him with. A questionable strategy, maybe, and certainly not recommendable for anyone else.
But for him? It works.
In the first several rounds of any of his fights, we can almost see the gears whirring as Mayweather analyzes his opponent from behind the shield of his virtually impenetrable defense; prodding, poking, tinkering, to see what makes the man in front of him tick.
Then he spends the next two-thirds of the fight making the other guy in the ring stop ticking.
He doesn’t rush; doesn’t get excited. Even when his laser-like right straights begin landing, even after his blinding counter-hooks begin jolting his opponent’s head like a speed bag, he doesn’t get carried away. People have confused clinical with cautious; fans have berated him for not trying for the knockout, not engaging in punch-outs, not going for the kill when he smells blood.
Sometimes they have a point. But with Mayweather, we watch a fighter who is truly intellectual in his boxing process, and nowhere else can we see intelligence and savvy blended so effectively with raw athletic talent.
Bernard Hopkins once called himself a professor of pugilism. The same could be said of Mayweather. And for anyone who needs to see heads roll in a fight, maybe he is not your man. But those willing to sit back and marvel at a technical virtuoso can glean a different sort of appreciation.
In the last five years Mayweather has fought nine times, and with the exception of the Zab Judah and Oscar De La Hoya fights has practically never lost a round. No doubt part of this is due to the quality or size of his opposition. Although we will probably never know, we can reasonably speculate that a prime Miguel Cotto, or Paul Williams, would offer Mayweather a far greater challenge than welterweight versions of Ricky Hatton or Juan Manuel Marquez.
Going into this fight, Mayweather predicted that his detractors would point to Mosley’s 38-year age when he won (for Mayweather, it is never ‘if’ he will win). And he had a point. But we should remember that Mosley was widely judged, after the beating he gave Margarito at the start of 2009, to be maybe the most dangerous 147-pound challenge out there. The betting odds were 4:1 against him, but many were picking him to win or at least give a real fight.
It is undeniable that after the second round Mosley never looked good, either physically or mentally. He appeared slow, tentative, tired. He feinted excessively, threw a shockingly low number of punches, and was very hittable. Mosley never had the jab of an Ike Quartey, but on Saturday his left arm had all the effect of one of those blue foam noodles we saw him hit during training.
Even more surprising, his strategy was equally useless, as he threw one or two shots at a time in a seemingly-desperate hope that one would land and give him his golden parachute for the evening. Nazim Richardson, his trainer, pleaded with him to let his hands go, to fight smarter, all to no avail.
As for Mayweather, he controlled the ring the same way he controlled the pace of the fight. And for most of the fight it was him backing Mosley up something few would have thought going in.
Every now and then, we see a fight where one of the fighters seems to grow old before our eyes. As though all those accumulated years of taking punches, the brutal training camps and sparring, the injuries as though everything seems to take hold at once. It happened to De La Hoya, against Pacquiao. And it happened again on Saturday night, to Mosley.
He walked into the ring as one of boxing’s most feared men. A fighter who, though undoubtedly past his prime, was coming off one of the signature victories of his career.
He walked out of the ring not only a beaten fighter, but an old fighter.
Afterwards, he was at a seeming loss to explain what happened, saying only that he had felt “tight” throughout. If so, how much of this was due to overtraining (thanks to the cancelled Berto fight that was to have taken place in January) we’ll never know. Same goes for how much he was affected by his age, by his nearly two-decades-long career, or by the rust from his 18-month layoff.
Probably all those things were factors.
But the only factor that ended up mattering? Floyd Mayweather Jr. And he should get full credit for fighting the man that people wanted him to fight.
Will Mayweather and Pacquiao ever meet? Who knows? We can only hope so. For any other match that either one of them could make seems downright boring.