THOUGH Angel Manfredy claimed boldly he was going to be the biggest attraction since Muhammad Ali, young Floyd Mayweather appeared more likely to fill the former three-time heavyweight champion’s boots as he pounded out a stunning victory with only 13 seconds left in the second.
Unbeaten Mayweather, the first member of the 1996 US Olympic team to win a ‘world’ title, retained his WBC super-featherweight crown for the first time and notched his 19th win in succession.
Manfredy (9st 4lbs) wearing silver sequin trunks and white leggings, made a dramatic entrance. He flung his red devil’s mask into the crowd, then pointed theatrically to the roof of the 3,000 capacity pavilion at the Miccosukee Hotel Casino as though he was beseeching God.
But Mayweather, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, landed a hard left before the bell to signal the start had barely died and Manfredy wisely brought his hands up.
Both tried to box, but Mayweather’s punches were traveLling like lasers. Manfredy, who early last year floored and stopped Arturo Gatti on cuts, tried to advance and landed some effective blows as he forced the champion around the ring.
Before the bell, though, Floyd hit back, ripping home a fast left hook, and in the second probed with a darting jab to the body.
Manfredy tried to defend himself as best he could, but it became obvious Floyd’s speed was going to be a huge factor.
Yet as Angel, 25-3-1 (20), advanced, he began to catch the gifted Mayweather as the champion was forced to the ropes.
One particular hard left hook to the body, which followed an impressive flurry, stood out. Mayweather (9st 4lbs), now based in Las Vegas and trained by his father, Floyd Snr, was backpedaLling.
He was under pressure for the first time as a professional. Manfredy was having a decent round, working behind his jab and landing with flurries, while Mayweather tried to slip and slide along the ropes.
Suddenly, Mayweather unleashed a fast right as he was still moving. The shot landed flush on the temple and Manfredy’s legs sagged, making the challenger lurch.
Mayweather, 21, still moving in the opposite direction, tore ahead immediately, firing with both hands, blinding, thudding, powerful punches. Manfredy ducked a big right as he fell back drunkenly into a corner, but Mayweather was too fast and clubbed home a second right.
As Manfredy tried again to move, he ducked into a whizzing left hook which slammed against the challenger’s head and nearly put him through the ropes.
As the lightning bombardment continued, a second left-right caught Manfredy trying to bob back up against the ropes. In one blinding sequence, a right, left hooK and another right landed and almost dropped the 24-year-old.
Many of Mayweather’s uninterrupted 32-punch attack missed, but Manfredy was in such trouble that his head went through the ropes twice.
As Angel stumbled away with his head down and only seconds remaining in the session, there was a chance he might survive the round, but referee Frank Santor jumped in. Manfredy, a born-again Christian, complained bitterly. “I wasn’t dazed at all,” complained Manfredy, even though he was walking around as though he was in an earthquake.
“It was all politics – all rigged for him. He didn’t hurt me. Knock me out to win the fight!”
That kind of machismo may work on the streets, but it didn’t fool Santore. “Manfredy was not answering back,” said the referee. “I said, ‘Angel, you’ve got to fight back’ and he didn’t respond. You have to be concerned with a fighter’s safety.”
Mayweather agreed. Some will contend the stoppage was premature, but this was a fight, not a beheading, and it seemed correct.
“I was throwing combinations and he wasn’t throwing back,” said the champion. “It was a good stoppage.
“Manfredy’s a good fighter, but a lot of people don’t believe in my knockout power. He wasn’t coming back with nothin’.”