by Hans Olson
“I’m seeing something that was always hidden. I’m in the middle of a mystery and it’s all secret.”
Kyle MacLachlan’s character, Jeffrey Beaumont, expressed that line in David Lynch’s 1986 classic Blue Velvet.
Like a David Lynch plot, the way to beat Floyd Mayweather inside the squared circle is a complete and utter mystery. Nobody has been able to figure Floyd out; from his “Pretty Boy” days to the present day “Money,” Floyd remains a mystery within the ropes.
Sure, he’s been buzzed a few times. Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, Zab Judah, and Shane Mosley all saw moderate successes in big moments, albeit with minor results in the major outcome. Each one of them (and countless others) continually found themselves in the middle of that mystery, and even once inside of it, the secret remained.
The code has yet to be cracked.
Where a David Lynch film is sweeping with a dreamy bizarreness that could seem incomprehensible to the unimaginative, Floyd Mayweather’s focus is a very real one. To some, viewing it is as incomprehensible as it is under-appreciated.
The left arm is held low, daring you to try to land a punch.
The chin tucks, the shoulder rolls…the right hand counters. Swift footwork gives way to a new angle to hit-and-not-get-hit. An explosive 7-punch combination ends the stanza.
We’ve seen this again, and again, and again. This is just the most elementary that which is happening when Floyd Mayweather boxes.
This finds fighters demoralized.
This is Floyd Mayweather.
This is the best fighter in the world.
Still, questions remain.
The glaring suspicion is that a left-handed fighter with devastating power might be able to unlock the combination that is Floyd Mayweather. Said Larry Merchant during HBO’s telecast moments before Floyd was to fight lefty Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in 2004: “After Mayweather’s only experience with a southpaw, actually a conventional fighter who turned southpaw; his father Floyd Mayweather Sr. called from prison to tell his handlers ‘don’t ever put him in with a southpaw again!’ This is the first time since that time he has faced a southpaw.”
In that particular fight, Floyd was able to nullify any issues with Corley’s style until roughly 2:50 of round 4. Squared up with his right foot just outside of Floyd’s left foot, Corley dipped under a left from Mayweather and looped a powerful right hand that landed flush on Floyd, snapping his head back as he pushed him to the ropes with straight lefts immediately thereafter. Even though the punch from “Chop Chop” was wide, it’s a punch that was able to land due to the trajectory of it’s angle—if a similar punch came from an orthodox fighter (which obviously isn’t possible) Floyd would have been able to dismiss it with his usual defensive mastery.
What happened next though, is the reason Floyd Mayweather is 41-0. He can adjust better than any fighter in the world today. Moments after the staggering sequence, Floyd came back. While laying on the ropes and taking a plethora of Corley punches, Floyd seemed to reboot like a computer program with swagger. At one point, you got the feeling that Floyd was thinking ‘oh,…so this is what you’re doing? OK!’ As the seconds moved forward, Floyd had Corley swinging for the fences, playing matador to the bull who was by now seeing little success. Mayweather continued to rally as he peppered Corley with shots that turned the momentum of the round right back to his favor. Fittingly, the last punch Corley threw in that round was right hand…that missed.
The fight was over from that moment on.
Floyd went back to his corner invigorated, pumping his fist to the roaring crowd in Atlantic City; a contrasting image to the defeated frustration seen in Corley’s body language as he slumped back to his corner. Floyd went on to win a dominating 12 round decision, dropping Corley in the 8th and 10th for good measure.
Almost 2 years later, Floyd met Zab Judah in what would be another grueling test against a talented southpaw. Though having just fought a lefty in Sharmba Mitchell 5 months prior, Judah presented Floyd with hand speed and power that was on par with his own. In the 2nd round, Judah scored a flash knockdown which wasn’t ruled in the fight. In that sequence, Judah let Floyd come at him with a one-two, Floyd’s right hand attempting to score to Judah’s body. With the southpaw stance, Zab was able to make Floyd reach in a way he wouldn’t have had to against an orthodox fighter, thus countering Floyd with a right hook that sent his momentum wayward.That Floyd’s glove touched the canvas had more to do with his balance rather than the actual impact of the shot—but the punch was effective nonetheless. The way in which an orthodox fighter sometimes “pushes” his right hand to reach the southpaw affects balance, something Zab capitalized on with that simple check hook.
Just as he did against Corley though, Floyd adjusted. As the fight wore on, Floyd anticipated everything Zab did, frustrating his foe to the point of utter meltdown. Zab’s low blows and the ring run-in by just about everyone in Vegas that night overshadowed what should be considered one of Floyd’s most clinical boxing lessons. Just when Zab Judah thought he had found a clue to the mystery, he found himself even more lost than before.
Here’s the thing: There will usually be a moment in a fight against Floyd Mayweather where you have a shot. It’s just that the chances Floyd gives are very minimal, going as quickly as they come.
Just ask Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, and Oscar De La Hoya. The opportunities are there…but not for long.
The mystery remains.
Can Victor Ortiz, a fighter who has the power along with speed and youthful exuberance take advantage of one of those moments? Can he solve the puzzle that no one else has been able to?
Or will he find himself in a labyrinth of mystery forever, just like all the rest?
On September 17th, we’ll find out.
follow Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson on Twitter @hansolson