Defensive Wizard Floyd Mayweather’s Final Stretch

Back in the 90s during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, there were two U.S. amateur boxers that stood apart from the rest: Fernando Vargas and Floyd Mayweather.

Vargas and Mayweather both stepped into the professional world and lit up their competition with their distinct styles. Here we are, 18 years later and the Las Vegas prizefighter still remains intact with the weapons and agility that boosted him to the top. Vargas has since retired.

Boxing fans take Mayweather for granted and fail to realize what it takes to maintain dominance in a sport where a single punch can change everything.

Once again, for the 47th time, Mayweather (46-0, 26 Kos) enters the ring to face another challenger in knockout punching Marcos Maidana (35-4, 31 Kos) on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Showtime pay-per-view will televise the rematch.

“The only thing that I want to do is give the people an exciting, good fight and give the people an exciting night of boxing,” said Mayweather.

Eighteen years of accepting punches from junior lightweights like the late great Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez and the late great Diego “Chico” Corrales, whose mighty fists took down Brazil’s Acelino Freitas, but could not find the speedy Mayweather. Those were in the junior lightweight division.

When Mayweather moved up to the lightweights, he took down Mexico’s mighty Jose Luis Castillo in a fight very similar to this current rumble with Argentina’s Maidana.

The point I’m attempting to make: you may never see this again. An undefeated prizefighter who scorched junior lightweights to junior middleweights and seldom took punishment until he met Maidana last May.

It’s because of the facial and physical beating Mayweather absorbed that this fight is taking place. Otherwise, it would be on to the next one.

Not since Willie Pep have we seen a boxer with these kinds of amazing defensive skills. Back in 1940, the Italian American dazzled fans and opponents with his footwork, elusiveness and boxing smarts to beat the pants off of 229 guys, including 62 consecutive fighters in the beginning of his career, until he lost to Sammy Angott. Pep lost to Angott, who had already fought welterweight Sugar Ray Robinson twice before meeting the featherweight from Connecticut.

Pep recovered from that loss and marched on to another 72 consecutive wins before running into his nemesis, the long-armed and hard-punching Sandy Saddler.

Can you imagine Mayweather matching Pep’s 229 wins?

That was another era, when boxers fought sometimes three times a month. When Pep lost to Saddler it was his third fight in the month of October in 1948. Today, with television paying fighters big wages and Mayweather earning $40 million a pop, boxing demands a build-up and extensive promotion.

Mayweather is well aware of Pep’s accomplishments. Against Carlos Baldomir in 2006 he actually won a round without throwing a punch and cited Pep’s same feat as a goal he wanted to match. The Las Vegas resident will surely go down as one of the greatest defensive prizefighters of all time, alongside Pep.

Enjoy the ride as Maidana attempts to derail the defensive wizard’s race toward an undefeated boxing career, which has included wins over several Hall of Fame prizefighters.

“My health is more important than money or anything else. I have to be healthy to go out there and perform the way that I do, and I truly believe in having a career after the sport of boxing is over,” said Mayweather, who could be fighting only one more year. “I’m just going to let the fight play out like it plays out and go out there and do what I do best. If a knockout presents itself of course I’m going to take full advantage of a knockout.”

We may need another 50 years to see this type of wizardry again.