By John Tsoi
It is safe to say that the title as the face of boxing is wide open right now. No fighter has made a statement convincing enough to fill the void left by Floyd Mayweather Jr following his retirement from the sport. Gennady Golovkin submitted sub-par performances against Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs, while Canelo himself was marred in the clenbuterol scandal. Other pound-for-pound boxers such as Terence Crawford, Vasyl Lomachenko and Errol Spence Jr are still looking for more signature victories in their respective weight classes. As we stay privileged watching these fighters continue to prove themselves, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at why Floyd was always a notch above others at the top, including his habits and tactics that the up-and-coming ambitious boxers can learn from. Rest assured that it is not just about the obvious “hard work, dedication”, but instead, the more subtle secrets that might have eluded our eyes.
First of all, Floyd’s noctural training schedule had worked out really well for him. While most boxers train during daytime, he took pride in training when others are sleeping, which many perceive is his method of gaining a mental edge. Yet, any logical person can deduce that he must be resting while others were training in the morning. Therefore, there must be another reason why he craved late night workouts. Remember your last trip to a boxing event? They usually occur at nighttime, where main events usually start late. Floyd has accustomed both his mind and body to train at the period of time when others are already resting, which translated to great performances at his late night fights. Of course, one can argue that other boxing greats who trained conventionally also performed equivalently well. However, the slightest of advantage makes a huge difference, especially when facing top opponents and having a style that demands high concentration. Thus, Floyd’s amazing reaction time and overall awareness serve as a testament to the effectiveness of his unique training timetable.
Moreover, his fighting style contributes massively to his successful career. From “Pretty Boy Floyd” who had speed and power, to “Money Mayweather” who unfortunately has rather brittle hands and therefore adjusted to being a more defensive boxer, he was never a one-punch knockout artist. He thrived by winning rounds regardless of whether he hurts his opponent or not. We all know what happens when a boxer who is used to knocking everybody out meets a foe who can take his punches. At the highest level of the sport, carrying the media-built mantra as a knockout king could easily backfire against the boxer. What’s most amazing about Floyd’s mentality, particularly in the latter stages of his career, is that you never see him aiming to finish off his opponents unless an opportunity presents itself, nor did the media expected knockouts. Errol Spence Jr, a talented boxer who is currently riding a knockout streak towards his next fight, has a style only half-similar to that of Floyd. The difference is that Spence himself, along with the pressure imposed by the media, anticipate knockouts in mid to latter rounds. When a fighter with such style fails to break down the enemy, a shroud of self-doubt could loom over the fighter which is detrimental. We have yet to see how Spence will react when an opponent can handle his pressure and style, something we will likely see when he squares off against Crawford in the future. Floyd was devoid of that pressure to eventually score knockouts. All he had to do was outpoint them over the twelve rounds, which forced his rivals to deliver the action and subsequently, adjust to his style instead of following theirs. Such mentality allows Mayweather to exercise caution without over-committing, and most importantly, transferred the burden of a fight to his opponent.
Over the course of Floyd’s career, he embraced the “bad boy persona”, where even some of his own countrymen cheered against him. This allowed him to be more relaxed because he did not have to be a national hero who carries a whole country’s expectation like Manny Pacquiao or Anthony Joshua. Even for lesser-known fighters, making the walk to the ring against a hostile crowd could sap their confidence. For example, Brandon Rios was admirable for admitting that whilst looking confident and ready, he was intimidated and nervous deep down inside, especially when he fought in a Macau arena with partisan crowd in favour of Pacquiao. For Floyd, being booed is normality that he is used to, while being cheered on is probably a bonus. Therefore, he was never fazed by the media or the crowd. Being a known master of mind games, he understands the importance of winning the mental battle before the bell rings.
The final secret lies on the level of media exposure that Floyd allowed during his training camps. When we search for his past training camp footages, chances are that we will only find those from media day workouts which he obliged, from network documentaries, plus snippets of workout clips from his social media accounts. Otherwise, you rarely see his full workout videos, unlike many other boxers who constantly allow media access in the gyms day in and day out. Having reporters strolling around, recording and incessantly asking questions could be a disturbance, stripping your much-needed focus for training. In addition, it would be no surprise that Floyd could have secret training methods or innovative workouts that outsiders do not know of, merely because he kept a tight media access and employed a group of loyal personnel who do not leak information. This is a savvy move since an attentive coach can spot bits and pieces of the game plan that an opposition camp carelessly divulge due to the media, or even possible injuries that one is trying to hide. In short, Floyd showed his meticulousness by disclosing his training camps with as few details as possible, but enough to promote a fight.
For the new generation of fighters vying to take the top spot left by the crafty American, learning from a boxing great like Floyd Mayweather Jr is not about copying everything he did, but to develop a mindset in approaching each fight comprehensively, just like how he attended to the physical, psychological and pre-fight aspects of boxing, all of which ultimately led him to find his niche in the sport. Love him or hate him, he showed us that success is not by doing what works for others, but finding and doing what works for oneself.