“I didn’t know I was gonna have to wear track shoes,” Berto said. “I had to do a lot of chasing. … That’s him, man. He runs around, he holds you, he does all that type of (stuff), but everybody can see I really gave him a fight.” —Andre Berto to TMZ Sports 9/13/15
Let me see, Floyd Mayweather has been a professional boxer since late 1996. Prior to fighting Andre Berto a few weeks ago, Mayweather fought 48 times in front of the public. In other words, Floyd was an open book stylistically heading into the Berto bout.
As for his boxing style, he is best categorized as a boxer/counter-puncher. Floyd likes to fight outside and sometimes uses his feet/legs for defense and to elude punches because he usually sets his opponents up to nail them on the way in. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this. And that’s 10-fold if you’re a professional fighter and a veteran of 33 professional fights.
If you’re Andre Berto and preparing to fight Floyd Mayweather, it’s extremely likely that he’s not going to stand there in front of you and make it easy for you to hit him. It’s highly unlikely that Floyd ever has visions of emulating the late Arturo Gatti on fight night. That’s why Berto’s words above ring hollow and come off as sour grapes because he was unable to prevent Mayweather from boxing and executing his intended fight.
Sugar Ray Leonard is one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in history and so is Marvin Hagler. As most know, Hagler and Leonard fought for the WBC middleweight title back on April 6th, 1987. They were both open books stylistically, too. Prior to their super fight, Leonard stipulated that he and Hagler were to wear 10 ounce gloves for their bout instead of the regulation eight ounce gloves that middleweights usually wear. He also wanted the fight scheduled for 12-rounds instead of 15 and was adamant that they fight in a 20 foot ring. Hagler balked at those demands but for roughly three million dollars he gave in to Leonard’s demands. And unfortunately for Hagler, his over-confidence had a lot to do with him not leaving the ring with his title.
Two years before fighting Leonard, Hagler fought Thomas Hearns. For the entire run-up to the bout Hagler wore a baseball hat with the word “War” inscribed on the front of it. Hearns obliged Hagler and the fight was the closest thing you could get to being an all-out war in the ring the night they fought. Hearns, because Hagler was such a tough and unbreakable monster, was counted out in the third round of a great fight. Sugar Ray Leonard did the color commentary for HBO PPV for the bout and obviously took notes pertaining to Hagler. So I ask, is it a stretch to believe that Leonard said to himself after watching Hagler-Hearns, ‘if I ever fight Marvin Hagler, I’m not going to fight it out and go toe-to-toe with him like Hearns did.’
Here’s another tough question: if you’re Hagler and Leonard makes the demands that he did before he agreed to the bout, is it plausible to think that he’s even considering emulating Hearns’ ring strategy when he meets you? Of course not! Basically Ray telegraphed to Marvin that he wanted smaller gloves to lessen the impact of your punch, he wanted a bigger ring so it’s harder for you to nail him good and he wanted less rounds for him to have to escape you and keep a fight from breaking out. Finally when Hagler and Leonard confronted each other in the ring, Ray used his legs and continuously circled Marvin and boxed. As early as the second round it was painfully obvious that Hagler wasn’t great fighting as the attacker and was very pedestrian at cutting the ring off and cornering Leonard. Leonard picked his spots and flurried and then slid out to the left or right, leaving Hagler with nothing but a memory that he was there and only air to hit. In fact, there were more than a few times that Leonard fought off the ropes and won the exchanges before finally wheeling off the ropes. Leonard went on to win a split decision as a 4-1 underdog.
After the bout Hagler, like Berto, complained that Leonard fought like a girl and ran during the fight.
No, no, no, Marvin and Andre, Ray and Floyd boxed your arse off.
Where does it state in the rulebook that a fighter must stand with his feet planted to the canvas and fight it out? The onus wasn’t on Ray and Floyd to stand there and make it easy for you – or to fight you at your strength. Hagler and Berto both knew long in advance before they fought Leonard and Mayweather how they were going to fight them. It was their job to not allow Leonard or Mayweather to do what they wanted to. Their job was to make it a bar fight and prevent them from boxing. The problem was they just weren’t good enough to do it. And what’s really funny is Hagler and Berto implied that Leonard and Mayweather couldn’t punch. To which I say they punched plenty hard enough to win and to keep you guys from going after them as if they were handcuffed.
I’m tired of hearing world class fighters cry and plead their case after losing to a great boxer that their opponent ran and wouldn’t fight. The reality is, if you’re fighting a great boxer, the goal is to prevent him from boxing and force him to open up and fight you.
At the elite level in boxing everybody knows how everybody else fights and what they’re good at. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that neither Leonard nor Mayweather didn’t stand there in front of Hagler and Berto and trade with them the way Hearns did when he fought Hagler.
The reason Hagler and Berto lost to Leonard and Mayweather is because they were more versatile and fought their fight and prevented Marvin and Andre from doing what they wanted/needed to do in order for them to be successful during the bout. Hagler lost to Leonard and has nobody to blame but the man in the mirror, and the same goes for Berto. The objective in boxing is to hit the opponent and prevent him from hitting you. Legs play a big role in boxing both offensively and defensively. Leonard and Mayweather used their legs and versatility to nullify and neutralize Hagler and Berto’s futile aggression, but they didn’t run……and the truth is Marvin and Andre weren’t good enough to do anything about it and that’s why they lost.
However, by Hagler and Berto proclaiming they lost the fight because they didn’t bring their track shoes, well, that rings hollow because they were both out-thought and out-fought. And it wasn’t like the strategy Leonard and Mayweather employed fooled anyone, except Mr. Hagler and Mr. Berto.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com