Right On The Button!
Blogging on Boxing
By Bill Gray
May 2, 2010
Mayweather vs. Mosley / Jones vs. Hopkins
Within the last three weeks, four of the premier boxers of the last twenty years: Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roy Jones, Jr. and Bernard Hopkins climbed into the ring to settle old scores. As expected, it was not Shane Mosley’s night in Las Vegas (May 1). Facing Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Mosley won the first round and he had one (and only one) strong moment when he connected with two right hands to Mayweather’s head in the second round. The first right surprised and stunned Mayweather and the second right buckled Mayweather’s knees. For a moment the bulletproof Mayweather was in trouble but he grabbed Mosley, held tight and his head cleared quickly. Mayweather came back firing at Mosley as the round ended and he claimed the initiative in round three with some hard shots to the head. From that point Mayweather pitched a shutout and he cruised to a lopsided decision.
In an earlier column I said that I expected Mayweather to win but last night Mosley seemed to grow old before our eyes. He may have been stale after months of training, first in preparation to meet Andre Berto last January 30. Berto pulled out of to join the relief effort in earthquake ravaged Haiti and Mosley was given a crack at Mayweather in the aftermath of the collapse of a Mayweather ‘s bout with Manny Pacquiao.
Whether or not he spent too much time in the gym doesn’t matter. If Mosley left a lot in the gym or was at a peak , he had no clue how to fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr. One might surmise that had Mosley been five or ten year younger, the outcome would have been no different. Mosley had no jab and without the most basic door opening punch in boxing, Mosley was confused and he seemed to ponder each move to the extent that he couldn’t get off. Mayweather simply reacted and landed single shots; mostly jolting right leads to Mosley’s head from a variety of angles. After Mosley’s brief uprising in round two, Mayweather built an insurmountable lead by winning ten straight rounds on all cards. The fight should have been stopped after nine rounds because Mosley was just not competitive. He looked confused and he took unnecessary punishment from Mayweather who seemed content to carry Mosley across the finish line. HBO’s Emmanual Steward said that if Mayweather had the kind of mean streak of a Roberto Duran or Thomas Hearns, he would have put Mosley away.
After the fight the issue of a Pacquiao fight came up and Mayweather stuck to his guns. He spoke of his willingness to meet Pacquiao if Pacquiao would agree to Mayweather’s demand and comply with random drug testing. Mosley, who had used performance enhancing drugs in the past, agreed to Mayweather’s demand and both men were repeatedly tested during training. Pacquiao said he will submit to a test but not within 24 days of the fight. So neither fighter has changed his stance that derailed the fight in the first place and Mayweather still has Pacquiao on the defensive. The kind of drug testing Mayweather demands of his opponents is not wide spread in professional boxing. It is an Olympics rule but it is a good idea.
On one hand I want to see Mayweather and Pacquiao fight but I applaud Mayweather for putting illegal PEDs in the spotlight. If Pacquiao is “scientifically enhanced” he should pay a price. If he’s clean, prove it and step in and get it on with Mayweather. Quit ducking the issue. I’m interested in seeing the two premier fighters in boxing meet soon, but to be honest I would not be bitterly disappointed if they don’t fight. My appreciation for Floyd Mayweather, Jr., is rising. For much of his career, I’ve wanted to see Mayweather get his rear end kicked. I don’t like his style or his theatrics, but I do admire his honesty, his ability, his confidence and his dedication to his job. I have never seen a better conditioned fighter than Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He knows that he’s the guy we love to hate and he’s willing to fight anybody on a level playing field. That he wins so easily is the point that enrages us, I suppose, but Mayweather is on a level above everyone in his midst. He’s rarely been pressed hard in his entire career and he will continue to roll on. Nobody can touch him including Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather has handled the layoff question that I brought up a while ago and he’s as good as he’s ever been. What kind of a chance does Manny Pacquiao really have against Floyd Mayweather? As I see it, Pacquiao can fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr., with or without drugs in his system and it won’t matter. Manny Pacquiao will lose and he will lose big. If Mayweather finds a bit of the mean streak that Emmanuel Steward mentioned, he will put Manny Pacquiao away.
In the other Battle of Legends, Bernard Hopkins after seventeen years got his rematch with Roy Jones, Jr. At age forty five and fifteen pounds heavier than he was in his middleweight prime, Hopkins still does a pretty good impression of Bernard Hopkins. He can still fight and apparently he will continue to do so. Jones, now forty-one years old suddenly began leaking oil more than five years ago and much of the natural ability that made him a force in the ring is gone. He should not fight anymore and based on his recent efforts, he appears not to want to fight hard. He made a good buck for fighting Hopkins and he should stuff it in his mattress and get on with his life’s work.
Most of the action in this fight took place on the ropes. The ropes are Hopkins’ workspace while Jones needs the middle of the ring. When the bell rang the two came to the center and carefully feinted and probed. Hopkins bull rushed Jones to the ropes. They clinched and slapped and thirty seconds into the round, Jones launched his signature move. He dipped low and drove forward with his left and right hands held wide apart. In the past his opponents were caught off guard by Jones’ sudden attack and they usually froze. Jones, moving forward in a blur, would dig a hard hook to the liver or a straight right to the chin, stunning his opponent and sometimes knocking him down. One thing Jones’ lightning quick move always did was to embarrass his opponent and put him on the defensive for the rest of the fight. Jones rode that audacious maneuver to the top but this time when Jones dipped and began to launch, Hopkins was ready and he stepped back and out of range leaving Jones hanging there, a mile from his target. A wicked grin appeared on Hopkins lips and he then followed with a reasonable impression of Jones’ move, which caused Jones to flinch and back off, a tight smile of embarrassment and resignation on his lips. They squared off again and Hopkins moved in and banged the body. Jones moved away, got his distance and shot a left jab at Hopkins head but it lacked snap and the quickness Jones used to have. Hopkins picked it off. Jones’ failed signature move and his inability to mount an effective offense pointed out that Jones is no more than an average fighter now. With his fading will, diminishing firepower and a pottery chin, all Jones can do now is cover and avoid a big shot to the head. Age has taken a toll and Jones is no longer special. He is now a defensive-minded fighter content to go the distance, collect his check and go home.
Whether you like Jones or not, one thing is certain: In his prime, Roy Jones, Jr. was one of the most gifted athletes ever seen in the ring. Jones is no longer an elite athlete and the gifts he once possessed are worn out. Jones has lost his speed of foot and hand, his balance is off and he’s short on stamina. At age 41 and coming off a first round TKO loss to Danny Green in Australia last January, it’s likely that the Hopkins fight was Jones ’ last big fight although he may fight on. After the fight Jones didn’t seem to be concerned about his loss or his future. At some point he has to understand that he is now embarrassing himself when he fights. After being routed by the 36 year old Green and the 45 year old Hopkins, the spotlight has gone out on the Roy Jones, Jr. show.
After the bout I ran both fighters Career Quality scores and Hopkins now ranks as the 12th best champion of all time, just behind Joe Louis (11) and ahead of Azumah Nelson (13). Jones fell to number 40, just below Barney Ross and above Jose Napoles.
Now that Hopkins has been able to settle a seventeen year score with his victory over Jones. What is in his future? He said he wants to go after WBA heavyweight champion David Haye. I can’t say that he shouldn’t fight Haye because Bernard Hopkins knows what he can and cannot do. He’s a modern day version of Archie Moore, who held the light heavyweight title until it was stripped from him at age 48. Hopkins’s devotion to training is legendary and possibly without precedent in a fighter past age 40. Training is tedious and monotonous but Hopkins seems to enjoy it. It is crucial for any fighter to remain fit between bouts. Having to take off a lot of weight drains a fighter over the years but because Hopkins has never let his weight balloon between fights, he is probably in the best condition a 45 year old fighter can be in. Hopkins has never had to worry about losing a lot of weight. He’s always been a gym rat and he takes his job very seriously. I hope that both Hopkins and Jones will retire but especially Jones. He was not badly beaten by Hopkins, but he was overwhelmed by Danny Green and before that by Glenn Johnson, Antonio Tarver and Joe Calzaghe. Jones is just a stepping stone now; a name fighter for one of the new breed of light heavyweights to put on his record.
For the record I have never been a huge fan of Roy Jones, Jr. While I appreciated his flashy skills, I share the thinking of many who believe that Jones built his career by beating fighters who were far beneath his caliber. Roy Jones, Jr. was a great showman for his time but in terms of historic greatness, I feel that over the years Jones will fall short of genuine boxing immortality. On the other hand, Bernard Hopkins will go down as an enduring and all time great champion.
Do you find it odd that after cancelling the Pacquiao Mayweather bout, both fighters quickly agreed to fight someone else? With a reported fifty million dollar purse on the line why take such a risk? Fights are postponed and rescheduled all the time. The risk of a lucky punch by Clottey or Mosley, or a butt that opens a bad gash are just two scenarios that could derail the Pacquiao - Mayweather match. There’s a lot of hype surrounding the March 13 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey. Clottey is big and strong and a natural welterweight. He can take a punch and he vows to take the fight to Pacquiao and try to knock him out instead of letting Pacquiao chase him and cut him down. Look, if Clottey does go straight at Pacquiao from the opening bell, the outcome will be the same for him as it was for Ricky Hatton. This is a pay per view fight that will cost us $49.95 to watch. Twenty five dollars a round is a high price to see a fight that makes no sense because Joshua Clottey has no chance and I think he knows that he has no chance. Moving past this bout; what about Shane Mosley vs. Mayweather on May 1? I actually think that Mosley has a shot in this fight. He’s 38 and past his prime but he’s far from being washed up. Mosley has the skills and can adapt to any opponent’s style. On paper, this fight might be a mistake for Mayweather. Might be, but like Clottey, Mosley has no chance either. A victory by Joshua Clottey or Shane Mosley would mess up the biggest money fight in boxing history. You don’t mess with the money and the money wants a fifty million dollar Pacquiao Mayweather fight before this year is over.
Fifty million dollars is an enormous sum that will be split equally between the two fighters. That’s why Pacquiao and Mayweather are fighting ringers before they meet later in the year. They have to earn some of their purse now in carefully scripted bouts. The rest will come when they finally meet later in the year. The pay per view crowd will actually spend more than $150 to see Pacquiao Mayweather. That won’t be the pay per view charge for Pacquiao Mayweather but add it up: $49.95 for Pacman Clottely, $49.95 for Mosley Mayweather and then at least $59.95 for Pacquiao Mayweather. That’s pay per view revenue of more than $150 for United States viewers. Mayweather - Pacquiao should break the record for largest pay per view audience of 150,000 that saw Mayweather defeat Oscar De La Hoya in 2006. If the Clottey and Mosley fights draw 100,000 viewers each that would add about ten million dollars to the bottom line. Twenty five million dollars comes from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who won the bid in December to host the Pacquiao Mayweather bout in Cowboys Stadium. That moves the take to thirty six million. If the pay per view audience reaches 200,000 at $59.95, that would generate about twelve million dollars and that would bump the total gate to forty eight million dollars. The remainder will come from the live audience at the fight and worldwide commercial TV will add millions more. Pacquiao and Mayweather will get their twenty five million, Jerry Jones should make a profit and the HBO pay per view end should make out nicely too. Do you still think Clottey and Mosley have a chance?
Is Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Ready for Manny Pacquiao?
When Sugar Ray Robinson began his comeback, he was age 33. Robinson had already fought 137 times and when he returned he showed little of his old skill. He fought like a washed up fighter but the difference between Robinson and just about any former champion who comes back is that Robinson still had a burning need to excel, to matter and to be a champion. Like many ex-champions, Robinson also needed money and while he looked bad in his first few comeback fights he was not convinced that he was finished and he kept going until he regained some of his old ability.
Robinson’s comeback began on January 5, 1955 with a six round knockout of Joe Rindone. Although it was a classic Robinson knockout; a quick left hook and right cross to the jaw, Robinson had been disappointed in his performance until he connected for the knockout. He said, ‘I couldn’t put any punches together and my timing was off.’ Still, once the fight ended, Robinson was elated. He ignored his lackluster effort and focused only on his sudden knockout; the eighty-eighth knockout of his career. Robinson thought, ‘I still got it!’
After stopping Rindone, Robinson took a fight with Ralph 'Tiger' Jones, a journeyman with a record of 31-12-3 and the loser of five straight fights. Jones outworked Robinson. He bloodied Robinson's nose in the first round and cut him in the second. Robinson landed what he thought was a good left hook in the second, but it didn't bother Jones. After six rounds, Robinson had lost every round. He needed a knockout to win and he couldn't do it. Again, Robinson's timing was off and Jones hit him hard many times. At the end of the ten round bout it was clear that Jones had won. To make it worse, the fight was on television and Robinson's fans were shocked at his deterioration. He didn't win a round and he received a flood of criticism for his poor showing.
Robinson exploded angrily when George Gainford, who’d worked with Robinson since he was an amateur, tried to shock Robinson into retirement by telling Robinson that he would no longer work with him, ‘for his own good.’
At this moment the Floyd Mayweather Jr. - Manny Pacquiao fight set for next March appears to be off. Mayweather is still in training but Manny Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has indicated that Pacquiao’s next fight might be against Paulie Malignanni; a match with all the appeal of a pre season football game. Things fell apart shortly after the fight was announced when Mayweather’s camp floated the possibility that Pacquiao could be using performance enhancing drugs, pointing out that in past bouts Pacquiao refused to submit to a blood test less than 30 days before a bout. This caused uproar and Pacquiao allowed himself to be maneuvered into a defensive when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife position when he met the allegation with silence and then attempted to explain his objection to blood testing. Others, including Oscar De La Hoya, jumped on and ridiculed Pacquiao for his possible fear of hypodermic needles to the more damaging accusation of using a performance enhancing substance. Pacquiao took umbrage with Mayweather and he sued Mayweather and company for defamation. In a matter of days the biggest fight in years was off and Malignanni was tapped to be Pacman’s next meal. I have no idea if Pacquiao is using anything illegal but I’m puzzled by Mayweather’s timing and motive and troubled by Mayweather’s fitness to fight the battle hardened and dangerous Pacquiao so soon after a long layoff.
If Mayweather is simply trying to get under Pacquiao’s skin, why play the juicing card so soon? It seems to me that from a typical pre-fight head messing standpoint, it would make better sense for Mayweather to drop this kind of a bomb a week or so before the fight, rather than days after the fight was announced. Calling Pacquiao out so quickly makes me question if Mayweather is starting to think that he could use a few more fights before he meets Pacquiao. I believe that Mayweather’s gambit was a clever ploy intended to put Pacquiao and company on the defensive and give Mayweather an opportunity to delay and get himself into better condition.
Mayweather ended a 21 month layoff in September and he looked good in handling Juan Manuel Marquez; a fighter who’d given Manny Pacquiao two very hard fights. Their first was a draw in 2004 and the second was a split decision win for Pacquiao in 2008. While Pacquiao got away with a win and a draw, I felt that Marquez had the edge in both fights. Matching Mayweather with the aging and smaller Marquez was a deliberate decision made to provide a common opponent for a fight with Pacquiao. Mayweather basked in the afterglow of his impressive return to boxing but after Pacquiao tore up Miguel Cotto in November, Mayweather suddenly dropped the juice bomb on Pacquiao after their fight looked to be a go.
I don’t blame Mayweather if he is harboring doubt and trying to buy more time before he meets Pacquiao in the ring. While Mayweather had no difficulty defeating Pacquiao’s toughest opponent, history has demonstrated that even the great boxers can’t come back after several years off and fight at a championship level right away. I’m not suggesting that Pacquiao will blow away Mayweather as he did to De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Cotto, but Pacquiao is certainly on a roll and probably at his peak. Put simply, Manny Pacquiao is a conditioned and battle hardened boxer and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is not. While greats like Jim Jeffries, Jack Dempsey, Benny Leonard, Joe Louis, Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones, Jr. tried and failed to return to glory, there are exceptions.
The excerpt that led off this piece was from my book Boxing’s Top 100 - The Greatest Champions of All Time which John Benson and I published in 2006 and can be purchased right here at JohnBenson.com. For that book I created an objective record based database to analyze and rank 700 champions dating from John L. Sullivan in 1882 up to 2000. My system ranked Ray Robinson as the number one fighter of all time and over the past couple of years I’ve continued to tweak my database and add fighters who have become champions in the twenty first century. At the moment I have Floyd Mayweather, Jr. ranked number 26 all time, while Manny Pacquiao is at number 56 - one spot below Harry Greb and one spot above Oscar De La Hoya.
While Mayweather is a rare talent, I don’t put him in the class of Ray Robinson, and Robinson had a very rough time getting back into the swing of things. Robinson’s first five opponents in his comeback had collectively lost 74 fights but each of them presented problems for Robinson. It took him five bouts and a shocking loss to Jones before he was ready to meet a ranked fighter in Rocky Castellani, who stood between Robinson and a December 1955 middleweight title shot at the champion, Carl ‘Bobo’ Olson.
Castellani (63-8) had Robinson on the floor in the sixth round and he stunned Robinson several times but Robinson managed to do enough to win a ten round split decision and secure a shot at Olson, whom he knocked out in four rounds. After a two and a half year layoff, the greatest boxer of all time returned to the ring at age 34 and while he initially struggled against weak opposition, he began to get his game back in order. By the time Robinson met Castellani he’d recovered some of the unique rhythm, speed and confidence that made him great. It took the greatest fighter of all time one year and six fights to get back to a semblance of what he had been, and he went on to add to his legend by winning the middleweight title for the third time. Mayweather is attempting to do what Robinson did but in just his second fight on the comeback trail. What’s troubling is that Mayweather, in opposing Pacquiao, is dealing with a much tougher fighter than Robinson faced in his comeback.
My point is that there have been more failures than successes in comebacks by great fighters. Mayweather is making a big mistake in meeting Pacquiao so early in his comeback. Over his career Mayweather has met some very good fighters, but he’s never seen anyone with Pacquiao’s power, aggressiveness and quickness. Could the pre layoff Mayweather handle today’s version of Pacquiao? I think so, but I doubt that he can pull it off if they fight in March.
While Robinson succeeded, don’t forget that Muhammad Ali came back at age 29 after a three year layoff. He faced a ranked fighter in Jerry Quarry in October 1970. Ali won quickly because Quarry sustained a deep cut above his eye in the third round. The ring physician would not allow the fight to continue, so Ali's comeback lasted all of nine minutes. He looked pretty good for nine minutes. Ali appeared to be fit and he danced around the ring as if he’d never left it. Quarry came straight at Ali and Ali had little difficulty hitting Quarry with a left jab and he was able to tie him up when Quarry worked in close. But, like Robinson in 1955, Ali’s timing was off and he missed on his combinations. After the most dramatic return to the ring ever and a victory over a ranked heavyweight, the general opinion was that despite his three year layoff, the remarkable Ali was as good as ever. He was not.
Ali’s next bout was in December 1970 against Oscar Bonavena, a fighter slower than Quarry. Bonavena was a ranked heavyweight who was chosen because he’d given Joe Frazier two tough bouts. Bonavena was made to order for Ali. He was a durable, awkward and immobile block of man who could absorb punches and keep coming. Ali hoped to cut up Bonavena and stop him and then he could brag about how he stopped a man that had twice floored and gone the distance with Joe Frazier. Bonavena had thudding power but it was easy to avoid his punches because it took so long for Bonavena's looping blows to arrive. After his brief but impressive work against Quarry, Ali was shockingly awful against Bonavena but he gutted it out and stopped an exhausted Bonavena by dropping him three times in the fifteenth round. Ali tired very early in the bout and he looked slow and poorly balanced all night. His timing was terrible and he had no snap on his punches. Ali took a surprising amount of punishment from Bonavena and after the bout questions came about Ali’s conditioning and his ability to deal with heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. After so long away, two comeback fights were not enough to get Ali into the kind of condition necessary to fight Frazier. Ali had to doubt what he had left as a fighter but he could not risk a loss in another tune up bout so he ignored those who urged him to fight a few more easy opponents and he signed to meet Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title in March 1971.
Ali trained hard and sparred many rounds but his legs were not strong enough. He danced but only in spurts and too often Ali found himself trapped on the ropes where he was forced to stand and trade with Frazier, which was Frazier’s strength. Frazier pounded and punished Ali and had him reeling in the eleventh round and on the floor in the fifteenth. Frazier won a lopsided decision and Ali’s championship days and career appeared to be over. The Ring’s Nat Fleischer wrote Ali off as a flash in the pan and refused to rank him as one of his all time great heavyweights, citing Ali’s decisive loss to Frazier as evidence that Ali was all smoke and mirrors in the 1960s.
It took Ali over three years and thirteen bouts before he got another shot at the heavyweight title. In this period Ali’s conditioning and timing improved and at age 32, Ali regained the heavyweight title in 1974 by knocking out George Foreman in the eighth round. By then, Nat Fleischer was in his grave.
Ali and Robinson offer proof that there are no shortcuts in boxing; especially for fighters in their thirties. Note than when Ali came back against Quarry, he was three years younger than Mayweather is now.
At this juncture Mayweather would be wise to have a few more fights before he steps into the ring with the relentless Manny Pacquiao. This is a fight that must happen and it will happen, but let’s not be impatient. More than anything this should be a great fight between two great fighters. Right now only Pacquiao is a great fighter. Given enough work Mayweather can get everything back. If he does we’ll have the rare opportunity to enjoy watching two great fighters go at it for big money and the glory of holding the title of best fighter in the world.
If the smoke clears and they actually do fight in March, I think Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be in for as rough a night as Muhammad Ali was on another March night, 39 years ago.
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