On balance, Floyd’s the man

BY Robert Cassidy Jr. ON April 07, 2006
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Floyd Mayweather Jr. can be hard to stomach at times. His trash talk and self-absorbed rants are painful to the ears. But on the eyes, Mayweather Jr. is a sight to behold. Personality is only part of the man and thus, in a boxing ring, Mayweather Jr. is as close to boxing royalty as one can get.

This week he fights Zab Judah in what should have been one of the major boxing events of the year. Blame Judah for taking the luster off this marquee matchup.

Given Judah’s poor performance in losing to Carlos Baldomir in January, it seems a given that Pretty Boy Floyd will dominate his rival from Brooklyn. (More on the matchup later.) But, had Judah waxed Baldomir in Round 1, it still might not have been a stretch that Pretty Boy would toy with Zab.

It is has been well documented that Floyd is equipped with that rare blend of speed and power. His natural gifts are plentiful. But here is one that you don’t hear much about. If one thing vital for a boxer-puncher, but far less a conversation piece than a fighter’s reach, it’s his balance. Mayweather Jr. has incredible balance and it’s important to everything he does in the ring. While people might be more interested in talking about the color of his trunks, balance is the foundation for success.

If a fighter is off-balance, he’s vulnerable. How many times have you seen Floyd Mayweather Jr. vulnerable?

Good balance also helps a fighter absorb a power punch when it does land. In contrast, Judah’s balance has always been questionable and some of the surprising knockdowns he’s suffered in his career were the result.

Good balance has long been important in this game, but three fighters with near flawless balance immediately come to mind – Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Hector Camacho. Of course, the reference to these champions relates to their prime years.

Robinson’s balance afforded him positioning and leverage. He was rarely out of position to deliver a punch and his punches often came with power. Camacho had balance in his mobility, he could circle and move and never seem out of balance. Leonard had a combination of both.

So too does Mayweather Jr.

How many times have you seen Leonard – or Mayweather Jr. for that matter – trade a multi-punch combination with an opponent and reset himself in perfect position? That’s good balance. Whether boxing and moving and trading leather, Mayweather Jr., like Leonard, is always ready, always in position.

When a fighter’s feet are too wide, his balance can be thrown off. The same thing happens when they are too close. It’s an age-old trainer’s trick seen in numerous gyms. Within a young fighter’s first few weeks, the trainer will invariably ask him to spread his feet. When the pug obliges, the trainer will push on his shoulder and the boy will pitch backward. Same when the feet are too close. Then, the trainer will ask the pug to deliver a power punch from each position. The blow, of course, will not have the same impact as when delivered when the feet are slightly more than shoulder-width apart.

Hall-of-famer Rocky Marciano was notorious for poor balance when he came to the sport. His problem was that his feet were spread too far. To help his balance, the great trainer Charley Goldman tied a piece of rope between his feet. When the Rock threw a punch off balance, he fell down.

Another trait that Mayweather Jr. shares with Leonard is that he can adapt to any style that is in front of him. Sure, the kind of pressure Jose Luis Castillo brings to a fight can bother anyone, but Floyd has looked Pretty dismantling most challengers.

It is almost 10 years since Mayweather Jr. lost a fight. Punchers, brawlers, bangers, boxers and counter men have been unable to upset Floyd.

You know what else Mayweather Jr. shares with Leonard? A flair for the dramatic. Perhaps only Ali and Leonard fought better when it counted the most. Mayweather Jr. has fought the best in his most anticipated fights. He knocked out Genaro Hernandez and Angel Manfredy in his first two title fights. He dominated Jesus Chavez and Diego Corrales.

When people felt that Castillo could have gotten the decision in Mayweather Jr.’s first foray into the lightweight ranks, Pretty Boy won a clear decision in the rematch. The scoring was still close, and Floyd relied more on footwork than firepower, but by the end of the night, the sticking and moving Mayweather Jr. had bloodied Castillo’s nose and left him with a pair of swollen eyes.

And, of course, in possibly his most hyped bout, he decimated Arturo Gatti when he captured the 140-pound crown.

Marlon Brando recited the great Budd Schulberg’s lines in "On the Waterfront." Every boxing fans knows: "I coulda been a contenda."

Well, something about that rings true with Judah. He coulda been …

He coulda been the man to give Floyd Mayweather Jr. his toughest fight. It’s hard to feel that way now given the erratic nature of Judah’s career. He righted the ship and turned in a super performance in his rematch with Cory Spinks. But this isn’t Cory Spinks. Mayweather Jr. will not only capitalize on Judah’s mistakes, he will punish him for them.

Judah decided he would not talk to the media prior to the contest. He left his father and trainer, Yoel, to participate in a media conference call. Yoel offered little insight, merely bravado.

"We do what we do best. We win. We beat people down," he said. "That’s what’s going to happen. He’s going to get a bad whipping."

He would also add that his son was, "Going to stomp him… He’s going to destroy him."

When Judah finally made a public appearance during fight week, he simply said that he knows how to beat Mayweather Jr. Something 35 other professional prizefighters have yet to figure out.

The argument can made that Judah is the fastest man Mayweather Jr. has ever faced. But the reverse is also true. And Mayweather Jr. has certainly absorbed the punches of harder hitters than Zab.

So how much of an argument does Judah really have? With all the talking nearly done – even what little Judah participated in – Mayweather Jr. said it best.

"He’s already made three mistakes in his career," said Mayweather Jr., pointing to Judah’s losses. "How many mistakes have I made?"

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