ALL the talk before the fight regarded size. “Floyd Mayweather should get no credit whatsoever if he wins”, exclaimed respected American writer Steve Kim hours before the MGM Grand main event between Floyd Mayweather Jnr, returning from 21-and-a-half months out, and Juan Manuel Marquez, jumping up from lightweight to face “Money” at welter. Mayweather had been forced to pay the Mexican a reported $600,000 after coming in at 10st 6lbs at the previous day’s weigh-in, a complicated scenario, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer explaining that although the contracted weight was always 10st 7lbs (the welter limit), Mayweather had agreed to pay a sizeable forfeit for every pound he weighed over 10st 4lbs. And after being on the receiving end of the first one-sided 12-round boxing lessons of his long career, Marquez, 10st 2lbs the day before and 10st 8lbs on the night, said he felt the extra poundage was a significant factor, stating that, “I think the difference was 20lbs in there.”
Well we will never know the answer to that question, Mayweather having refused to step on the scales on the day of the fight, but although size does matter, it was not the crucial factor that enabled Mayweather to win at a canter. Yes, his longer reach aided a comprehensive victory, but it was more Mayweather’s speed, timing, defensive skills and movement that meant Marquez was on to a loser from the first round.
While Kim, and he’s certainly not the only one, is right to dissuade observers from getting carried away with the result, I disagree that Mayweather deserves “no credit”. Yes he beat a smaller man, who was jumping up two weight classes to fight him, but let’s also remember he defeated a man who was in many pundits’ top five pound-for-pound list and who gave Manny Pacquiao all he could handle, not once but twice. And it wasn’t even close.
The final tallies reflected what was a dominant, yet controlled display from Mayweather. Judge William Lerch scored 118-109.
The truth is that the extended hiatus has done little to change Mayweather’s style, the Grand Rapids, Michigan man (living in Vegas) remains as cautious as ever, rarely throwing combinations of more than two shots and not pressing for a stoppage despite a second-round knockdown and the increasingly one-sided nature of the contest. Maybe I’m being unduly harsh. Marquez has never been halted, after all.
There may have been little urgency in his performance, which he called “rusty”, but there was still plenty to be impressed with: the way in which he avoided or partially blocked every solid blow Marquez threw; his quick footwork, which allowed him to switch from attack to defence in the blink of an eye; his excellent jab, which peppered Juan Manuel to the head and body throughout; and the expert way in which he controlled the fight’s tempo.
You had to feel sorry for Marquez. He never stopped trying but was faced with an impossible dilemma: as a natural counter-puncher, if he laid in wait for Mayweather he would be kept at bay by that superb range-finder; and if he was forced to attack, as he was so many times, he would get picked off by sharp left hooks and straight right counters before Floyd either danced away from harm or, less often, held on. Even the Mexican’s trademark body blows were negated by Mayweather’s tight guard.
Marquez (35) could undoubtedly move back down to lightweight, where he still holds the WBO and WBA Super titles, or 10st.
“I felt strong at light-welter”, he said. But he should not kid himself that this defeat was purely down to Mayweather being the bigger man. I have little doubt that if the two had met at super-feather many years ago, the outcome would have been relatively unchanged.
“Marquez is as tough as hell”, said Mayweather at the post-fight press conference. “I hit him with some shots and thought ‘this one will get him’ but he kept coming. When I dropped him I was like, ‘let me see if I can finish this guy off’, but I couldn’t.”
On the size issue, Mayweather said, “I’m not knocking [Oscar] De La Hoya [who was standing behind him on the podium] but it was okay for him to fight Pacquiao at welterweight. There’s always excuses.
“I weighed 145 1/2lbs yesterday. Jogged for 20 minutes on the treadmill and weighed 145 pounds on my scales, but I ain’t gonna’ cry or complain if it’s the extra money that they want.”
I gave it my all,” said the defeated Marquez, 50-5-1 (37). “If I’d maybe had one or two more fights at the weight, I may have been better, but Floyd is also very fast and a very good counter-puncher.”
As for Mayweather’s future, the fresh 32-year-old insists he is happy in boxing “right now” but sidestepped questions about who he’d like to face next.
Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, who nearly got into a brawl with Floyd in the ring immediately after the fight when accusing Mayweather of ducking him, and Andre Berto were all mentioned as possibilities, but with the latter two lined up to face each other and “Pac Man” taking on Miguel Cotto in November, there appears to be a dearth of marketable “opponents” for “Money” in the coming months.
Perhaps Paul Williams’ skill and physical stature could provide Mayweather with a test if they can agree upon a weight to meet at. For now, Mayweather can bask in the glory of a successful comeback. He defeated Marquez more conclusively than anyone ever has and despite his protestations to the contrary, appeared to have barley missed a beat. At times, it looked like he had got several more gears to go up.
Is he the best in the world, pound-for-pound? “Pound-for-pound is just about opinions,” said the man himself. “They say it’s Pacquiao and that’s fine. I think I can do a lot better next time now I’ve shaken off the cobwebs.”
That is a mouth-watering prospect. Mayweather is not and likely never will be the most exciting fighter in the world. However, with all due respect to Pacquiao, he may be the most complete.
To the fight, which was more an exhibition of Mayweather’s talent than a thrilling contest (go figure, as Americans say). An impressive (though not sell-out) and mostly Mexican crowd of 13,116 vociferously booed Mayweather, accompanied by WWE wrestler Triple H, during his ring walk. Only someone who emits such an arrogant image could get such a negative reaction in the town he has called home for so many years.
Marquez was clearly the crowd favourite, but as the fighters squared up before the bell, Mayweather looked a division or two bigger, taller and broader in the shoulders.
Mayweather was cautious in a feeling-out opener and Marquez landed some left hooks and straight rights, though throughout the fight Mayweather’s reflexes would mean many of these shots were partly blocked or had the sting taken out of them. I gave the Mexican the first but the three judges disagreed.
Every blow Marquez threw was raucously cheered but midway through the second, his fans were temporarily silenced as Mayweather took a sudden step inside and landed an equally swift left hook that dropped Marquez, who unsurprisingly, hadn’t seen the shot coming. Juan Manuel was up quickly, though, and seemed alright. With this being Mayweather, there was no storm to weather.
The same shot wobbled Marquez moments later, leading to “USA” chants for the first time. Marquez came back with a solid left uppercut, however, to show he was still in the fight,
Mayweather made Marquez fall short in the third, landing sharp, accurate jabs. Marquez was already being forced to come forward and had to take the lead left hooks and rights on the way in.
I marked the fourth even, again the judges disagreed, as Mayweather threw only when he was certain to land. He may have made his opponent look inept when avoiding three straight jabs with deft head movement and then ducking and slipping away from a four-punch combination, but Marquez, buoyed by the loud “Me-hi-co” chants, did land some straight rights.
Normal service was resumed in the fifth. Marquez threw more power shots, 295 to 177 by the finish, but rarely landed, while Mayweather’s punches were so consistently accurate. Floyd landed 290 shots all night (to Marquez’s paltry 69), of which 185 (69 per cent) were jabs.
Mayweather was so comfortable on the back foot and with his back to the ropes, rolling and countering.
Mayweather’s defence remained exemplary in round six. He stood very side-on and adeptly protected his chin behind his left shoulder. All the while, that jab arrowed home. Marquez was losing his way.
Marquez tried to flurry as the seventh began but was pinned back by Mayweather’s range-finder. It was becoming repetitive though never boring. We were watching a master at work, albeit more Pernell Whitaker than Arturo Gatti.
One moment saw Mayweather slip a shot to his right and then lean back to make Marquez fall short with the next blow. If you can’t admire that, you are watching the wrong sport. Still Mayweather refused to press his advantage.
Floyd’s excellent concentration continued in the eighth, a round two of the judges gave to Marquez. I felt Mayweather did enough, timing his foe with straight rights, though Marquez did score with left hooks.
At the beginning of the ninth, Marquez tried a four-punch combination, all of which were blocked, before Mayeather’s single jab landed. It was the story of the fight in miniature. By having his right glove pressed immediately beneath his chin, Mayweather took away one of Marquez’s key weapons, the uppercut. Floyd landed a left hook-right over the top, both hard blows to close out the round, but Marquez flurried back. He showed immense heart and commitment.
Marquez had some success with left hooks in the 10th but Mayweather was always in control of the pace and pattern of the fight.
Marquez attempted a three-punch combination at the start of the 11th but only the last shot, a straight right, landed. Mayweather retaliated with a right uppercut-left hook then a right over the top. All landed. And finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for: at the end of the session Floyd unloaded a left hook-straight right-left hook-straight right, quite possibly his first four punch combination of the fight.
The “USA” chants started again in the last and Mayweather responded by taking the round with jabs and straight rights. When the 10-second clackers sounded, Mayweather danced away, confident of victory, instead of going all-out for a big finish. That just about sums him up, but how can you criticise someone that skilful and composed.
Now 40-0 (25), Mayweather may rarely set pulses racing, but I think we can safely say the king is back. Referee, rarely needed, was Tony Weeks.