HOW HE DID IT: Mayweather's Scintillating Display
In what was his most dominating performance since mastering Juan Manuel Marquez back in September of 2009, Floyd Mayweather retained his welterweight title and kept his professional unbeaten streak going with a quite scintillating display of boxing against Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero in Las Vegas last Saturday night.
Despite now being 36 years-old, Mayweather showed no signs of decline in what was his first outing in little over a year (it was also his first fight since being incarcerated back in June).
After two fairly even rounds, Mayweather seized control (that’s if he hadn’t already done so in the first two, but more on that in a moment) and dominated the remainder of the fight to earn himself a unanimous decision, winning 117-111 on all three of the judge’s scorecards.
After 12 rounds, Mayweather (now 44-0 with 26 Kos) had landed an astonishing 60% of his power shots, handing a very frustrated Guerrero (now 31-2-1 with 18 Kos) only the second defeat of his 33-fight professional career in the process.
And so, for the most part of this analysis, I’d like to touch upon some of the things Floyd Mayweather did at different stages throughout the fight which allowed him to subdue a tough opponent in Robert Guerrero with relative ease.
Lead hand work against the southpaw
Because both fighters often find their lead hands and feet are obstructed by each other’s during a southpaw/orthodox clash, the jab is not always the easiest punch to establish. In this scenario, to land the jab successfully, the lead foot will oftentimes have to be positioned to the inside of an opponent’s lead foot. The problem with this, of course, is that one would be inadvertently lining themselves up with an opponent’s more threatening power hand. Therefore, during a mixed lead clash, the advantage usually lies with the fighter who can continually work their lead foot to the outside of their opponent’s, enabling them to better set up their rear hand while simultaneously placing themselves at a safer angle in relation to their opponent’s rear hand.
Notice the contrasting body alignments and spacing in the two stills. When you have a matched lead clash (shown on the above left here between Mayweather and Mosley) the jab is the most efficient punch to land (longest weapon to the nearest target). When you have a mismatch of leads going on (shown on the above right here between our men of the hour, Mayweather and Guerrero) you’ll often see more body space between each fighter and also a lot of jockeying for position with the lead hand in an attempt to create a clearer path to the target. As a result, it’s often better to place more emphasis on the rear hand by stepping to the outside of an opponent’s lead foot. Simply put, the rear hand, particularly the rear straight, becomes arguably the most effective weapon for a fighter during a mixed lead clash.
To suggest that any chance of a Guerrero victory would be dependent on the success or failure of Floyd Mayweather’s right hand would have been a gross understatement to say the least. Without question, Mayweather is the owner of one of the best right hands in the sport and he has little problem making it work against orthodox opponents, let alone southpaws. Needless to say, despite being fully aware and as well prepared as he could have been for the right hand threat of Mayweather, Robert Guerrero couldn’t do a thing to avoid being hit with it almost at will. This is the mark of a true craftsman in boxing –it’s not only about how many different tools you can bring to the table, it’s also about how many different ways you can use a single tool.
So how did Mayweather manage to chop up Guerrero with little else apart from a right hand? Simple, he constantly set things up, creating false patterns for Guerrero to read before breaking away from them abruptly.
In the early going, and indeed, throughout most of the bout, Mayweather threw blinding jabs (or slow jabs) toward Guerrero’s lead hand to disturb Guerrero’s rhythm, control his lead hand and to disguise his (Mayweather’s) next plan of attack. Unlike regular jabs, a blinding or slow jab is a non-committal jab that is extended out and brought back without actually punching.
Here’s Mayweather throwing blinding jabs aimed at Guerrero’s lead glove during the early stages of the fight. Although its non-committal (the polar opposite to a thudding Sonny Liston stiff jab), the blinding jab is a great weapon to use against someone who is in an opposite lead to yourself (Guillermo Rigondeaux used it often to disrupt Nonito Donaire recently). As I mentioned earlier, when you have a mixed lead clash going on, you’ll see a lot of jockeying for position with the lead hand. The correct way to parry/cover/catch the jab of someone who is facing you in an unmatched lead is to use your own lead hand (the opposite of orthodox versus orthodox or southpaw versus southpaw where the rear hand should be used). Therefore, by throwing blinding jabs, you can occupy an opponent’s lead hand –discouraging them from trying to establish their own jab as well as manipulating the lead hand away from their guard to create openings.
Although the first two rounds were competitive on the surface, I believe Mayweather was simply laying down the ground work for his right hand. It’s what technicians do.
Execution of the right hand
I’ve already mentioned that Floyd Mayweather probably has the best right hand in the sport right now. But what does he do that makes it so special? Technically speaking, I’m of the opinion that he doesn’t throw it that much better than other fighters do. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of fighters out there that if you were to ask them to throw a straight right hand they would throw it with technical correctness. However, I don’t think there is a current fighter in boxing who has mastered the intangibles of a single punch quite like Floyd Mayweather has with his right hand. Sure, there are fighters out there who can hit harder than Floyd, but in terms of the set up –using feints and footwork to force his opponents into certain positions—and the delivery –mixing up the targets both high and low and narrow and wide in order to keep his opponents guessing as to where the next one is coming from, he may stand alone.
As we’ve already discussed, here is Mayweather using his blinding jab to set up his straight right hand. Hypnotized by Mayweather’s snake charming lead hand, Guerrero barely manages to avoid Mayweather’s straight right in this instance. It should also be noted that Mayweather is throwing his right hand rather conventionally in this instance –his lead foot is positioned to the outside of Guerrero’s and his right hand is travelling from his guard with very little telegraphic motion.
Just as Guerrero was getting used to and compensating for one attack, Mayweather changed up and unveiled yet another one.
Still working behind his blinding jab, this time Mayweather adjusts the arc of the blow and changes its trajectory. Whereas Guerrero had been anticipating straight right hands between the gloves earlier in the fight, Mayweather was now throwing right hooks around the guard. Although right hooks are unconventional and considered too risky for orthodox fighters to use, because of the sudden change-up and unpredictable nature of the punch, Floyd found great success with it. A varied attack, even one with the same hand, can keep an opponent guessing instead of punching.
Despite the fact that he wasn’t the first fighter to use it (men like George Benton, Nicolino Locche and James Toney used it first and were arguably even more effective with it than Floyd is), Mayweather’s (and Broner’s) use of the shoulder roll on defense has resulted in the technique becoming very popular of late. However, if there was one technique that Mayweather pulled off against Guerrero on Saturday night that best sums him up as a defensive fighter (or an offensive one for that matter), it was the way in which he consistently weaved out at an angle after landing his straight right hand. One of the main goals in boxing is to hit without being hit back in return. Therefore, an intelligent boxer knows that his job is not done once he’s finished his attack.
Here, Mayweather is drifting to his right and toward Guerrero’s more dangerous left hand. Notice how Mayweather has conceded the outside lead foot position in this sequence as he lands his right hand. As fundamentally sound as Mayweather is, he’s still capable of doing unconventional things in there. After landing his straight right hand, Mayweather drops low and weaves out to his right, evading Guerrero’s attempted counter left. When you see this in real time (Mayweather did this extensively throughout the fight) you’ll notice that Floyd begins weaving under before Guerrero has even released his left hand. This is Floyd Mayweather all over –taking some kind of pre-emptive measure against his opponent’s most likely/dangerous technique in any given situation. In this fight, it was Guerrero’s left hand.
Mayweather continued to circle right, occupy with a blinding jab or feint, before landing the right hand and exiting at an angle. You could say this move of Mayweather’s, which took away Guerrero’s left hand and exploited his inability to adjust against a multi-faceted fighter, was the story of the fight.
Here’s Mayweather pulling off the same offensive/defensive technique as before. Only this time, he’s using a straight right hand to the body. By going upstairs for a period of time before bringing the attack downstairs, Mayweather forced Guerrero to overcompensate with his guard. Regardless, the angling out –avoiding Guerrero’s counter left hand by weaving under and out to his right—was the same.
In his last fight before facing Mayweather, Robert Guerrero managed to maul a one dimensional fighter in Andre Berto and found little in the way of resistance coming back at him. Guerrero soon found out that trying to do the same thing to Floyd Mayweather at close quarters would be no easy task. Even though Mayweather rarely called upon his typical half-guard defense against Guerrero (a sign of his boxing acumen and Berto’s lack thereof saying as the half-guard defense out of an orthodox stance is less effective against southpaws) he still showed defensive mastery on the inside.
Unlike Andre Berto, Here is Mayweather nullifying Guerrero at close quarters. Notice how Floyd has Guerrero’s lead hand tied up and is using his right forearm to manoeuvre Guerrero around and stop him from throwing his left hand effectively.
Although this may seem relatively straight forward, Mayweather is actually smothering his opponent and is preventing him from working on the inside. In this position, Mayweather can’t be hit with anything clean as his right glove is protecting the right side of his face (a pre-emptive measure against Guerrero’s left hand) and his lead arm has Guerrero’s lead arm tied up. Should Guerrero manage to break loose and sneak something through, Mayweather has his chin tucked in for good measure. On the inside, much of the infighting success Guerrero had against Berto was shut down.
I could go on and write page after page here describing what Mayweather did to Guerrero last Saturday. Although I’ve touched on most things, I’ve still left out a few things, of which, I could probably write a whole other article about. Take Mayweather’s footwork for example, which, despite rumours of it not being what it once was, looked excellent. His persistent stop-start, non-rhythmic movement forced Guerrero to constantly reset himself or risk conceding an angle. Just as Guerrero would get set to punch, Mayweather would catch him between steps and nail him with the right hand and start all over. I could also have said more about the way in which Mayweather conditions his opponents to expect one technique before giving presenting them with another. In particular, after familiarizing Guerrero with the right hand for some time, Floyd began feinting with it and started throwing left hooks over the top of Guerrero’s lead hand, giving him even more to think about.
It’s one thing when you have a distinct hand and foot speed advantage over your opponent, but it’s something entirely different when you also hold the advantage in ring craft and IQ over them as well. Despite thinking Guerrero could have possibly done more to better disguise his intentions behind some rhythm changes and feints (just as Floyd did throughout), one can’t help but feel that should they face off another ten times, the outcome would always be the same. Robert Guerrero was soundly beaten by a superior athlete, a smarter ring general and a much better fighter.