Ever since the fight between Floyd Mayweather 48-0 (26) and Andre Berto 30-3 (23) was announced it’s been routine to read how Berto has as much chance to beat Mayweather as “Buster” Douglas did Mike Tyson 25 years ago.
And as most know Douglas knocked out Tyson in the tenth round of their undisputed heavyweight championship bout as a 42-1 underdog. In hindsight, it’s now easy to look back and justify that Douglas was much taller than Tyson with a massive reach advantage and last but not least, Tyson 37-0, wasn’t in great shape nor was he up for the fight. Douglas dominated Tyson and won no less than seven of the first nine rounds before stopping Tyson in the 10th.
When Mayweather and Berto clash for the WBC world welterweight title/WBA super welterweight title tonight, Mayweather will own every conceivable advantage over Berto that a fighter could hold over another with the exception of age, being that Berto is six years younger. Floyd is the better boxer and technician, he’s the more accurate and sharper puncher and he owns a lifetime more experience fighting on the world stage. Add to that Mayweather is so versatile and adaptable and he sees everything, Berto really has a high bar to scale in order to stay with Floyd, let alone beat him.
When breaking down Mayweather the fighter it’s hard to find a hole in his game. He outsmarts good boxers, he forces big punchers to hit air and aggressive guys who like to attack usually are hit and tied up in a knot before they ever get anything going. To beat Mayweather you need the physicality and tools to beat him. Roberto Duran would’ve got inside and forced him to engage, Thomas Hearns with his superior reach and power would really hurt and dictate the tempo of the fight against Floyd. Sugar Ray Leonard was an equal boxer and more gifted physically than Mayweather. His better speed and greater power would’ve been the difference in a prime for prime matchup between them. However, Berto is nowhere near the level of a Duran, Hearns or Leonard.
So what does he do?
Well, that’s a tough question. Many who will read this may think spacing, foot placement and timing could be the difference, but they’re wrong. There isn’t that much time to plot and think when Mayweather is in front of you at the speed of live. That’s cookbook analogy and it only works on paper and in the kitchen. Structured fighters like Mayweather are usually only thrown off by unconventional fighters who do things against the grain. To a sound fighter like Mayweather, his brain can be short-circuited a little bit by fighters who do things that he’d never attempt. But if Berto attempts that, Floyd will patiently pick his spots and be more than happy to win the round via one or two memorable exchanges — so that won’t work.
When watching Floyd fight, it’s very easy to glean that he loves for his opponent to carry the fight to him. Because when they carry the action to him, he’s actually leading because he knows where he’s going to be and moving next. He does this in a methodical way in which their intended aggression is blunted and nullified by what he’s doing. Normally by the time they think they have him in range, he’s either peppered them good or tied them up. Then it’s rinse-repeat and before you know it his opponent is down a bunch of rounds and needs a knockout….good luck with that.
When I watch Mayweather, I see a little Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in him. And by that I mean I see a fighter who doesn’t like to initiate the action and move into his opponent. That doesn’t mean he can’t, I’m just saying that’s not him at his best. When Floyd, like Muhammad and Larry, is forced to make the fight, he sacrifices some defense because he’s more intent on scoring and forcing the opponent to make a mistake. When Floyd is on the attack and moving forward, he’s more stationary and in front of the opponent, which leaves him more vulnerable. And he’s also a better puncher when he can manipulate his opponent into his punches (nailing them on the way in) than he is by trying to hurt them with his initial attack when he cuts loose.
Berto must know that if he goes after Mayweather and tries to beat him down he’ll be about as successful as George Foreman trying to knock out a bed sheet hanging on a clothesline. So he better forget about trying to be Manny Pacquiao and bringing the hard charge to Floyd. In addition to that, Berto isn’t fast enough to beat Mayweather by playing the ‘wait and then react to what he does’ game. Floyd will beat him to the punch at every turn. So what does that leave?
Of all of the things Mayweather does terrifically, the thing he likes doing least is to push the bout and fight as the attacker. Yes, he’s capable of doing that, but it’s not him at his best. He’s more vulnerable to counters and open for right hands. Berto, if he wants to throw Mayweather off and take him out of his comfort zone, I’d suggest he tries to bring Floyd to him and then get off with unorthodox counters to the head and body. If he has any success doing that Floyd will get a little flustered and embarrassed and may try a little harder to hurt him……and if that happens Berto will have at least a shot at being competitive. The hardest part of that is when Floyd senses what is happening he’ll slowly let up and start bringing Berto to him, and when that happens Berto will totally be under Floyd’s spell and it’ll be all over but the shouting.
For Berto to have a shot to beat Mayweather, he must keep it simple-stupid. Jump on Floyd early while he’s taking notes and try to bank a couple of early rounds. Then when Floyd thinks there’s gonna be a real fire-fight, Berto starts inching away and lets Mayweather follow him as he tries to hit Floyd in spurts on the way in. Again, on paper it sounds good but applying it against a fighter as refined as Mayweather won’t be easy….but what other choice does he have.
Berto cannot beat Floyd by trying to out-box or out-fight him. He must trip him up in spurts of the fight stylistically and then he might have a chance. And if you’re Berto, what do you have to lose because you’re simply not as good as he is. By making Floyd fight as the attacker you’re forcing him to fight from his only real weakness.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Photo Credit: Esther Lin