A quick thought on the latest episode of Mayweather/Hatton 24/7 before getting back into the nitty-gritty of the fight itself: Anyone think Ricky Hatton is more under Floyd Mayweather’s skin than vice versa? Hatton already goaded Mayweather into taking this fight with his comments after knocking out Jose Luis Castillo in May about giving fans more action in four rounds than Mayweather’s given in his entire career. Mayweather’s spent a good deal of his career irritating his opponents with pre-fight slaggings, but I’ve never seen Mayweather spend so much time responding to his opponents’ barbs. It makes for good television, anyway.
The mission of this “Keys To The Fight” thing I’m doing isn’t so much to entertain, however: It’s to inform, and to (maybe) provoke debate, as I said before.
Part I, published Sunday, took a look at some of the unique aspects of the fight and its boxers. Part II, below, looks at all the factors that are common to every fight.
Skill-set. The contrast in styles and ability, and which style will prevail most often, is what gives this bout most of its drama. Mayweather has perhaps the most complete array of boxing skills at his disposal of any boxer today. But whereas Hatton’s been pilloried as rudimentary, he is more skilled than he gets credit for. Mayweather’s incomparable skill is on defense. His defense springs not from mere speed, but that helps put him in a class by himself. When he wants to move his feet to get away, hardly anyone can prevent that from happening. But he also knows how to use the ring; when to switch directions while circling so as not to be cornered; and how to stand “in the pocket,” that is, right in front of his opponent, and neutralize everything they toss at him. He is the master of the “shoulder roll.” He keeps one hand horizontally across his waist, the other vertically at his chin, protecting one side of his face. If someone tries to hit him in the body, they hit his arm; if someone tries to hit him on one side of his face, they hit him on his arm; if someone tries to hit him on the other side of his face, he tilts his shoulder up and blocks with that arm. The defensive stance gives him the ability to counter-punch by waiting until his opponent misses and quickly landing his own shots. Offensively, he does tons of counter-punching, but he has loads of other skills there, too. He’s ridiculously accurate with his punches — I’ve seen fights were Mayweather landed something in the order of 60 percent of his blows, while his opponent landed closer to 10 percent. He has the entire arsenal of punches in his toolbox, all of which are good, but he has stopped using his left jab and throwing combinations of blows and started merely concentrating on single power shots. His best is a beautiful straight right. When something’s not working, Mayweather’s smart enough to change game plans. Against Zab Judah in 2006, something strange happened: Judah was proving faster than him, and landing with surprising frequency. So Mayweather changed the distance, went into a more conventional defensive stance with both gloves held high and slowly began to pick Judah apart.
I said it best when I called Mayweather a concert pianist and Hatton a rock and roll drummer. Offensively, Hatton is a body puncher first and foremost, a handy weapon for wearing down speedsters. But he likes to leap in with wider hooks to the head at times. He has a left jab that he can use to set up power shots, and he probably uses it more than Mayweather these days, but mostly to help him work his way inside. He’s good at getting there, by cutting off the ring, bouncing on his feet and lunging unpredictably. Defensively, he isn’t particularly gifted, but he has a knack for hitting his opponent quickly, then tying them up with his arms or sliding slightly out of reach. While on the inside, he wrestles and mauls and wears his man down, all the while getting superior position and throwing hooks to the body. He, too, is smart enough to adjust his tactics in mid-fight. After Juan Urango proved he could hurt him with body shots, Hatton switched from circle-jab-hook to hook-hold. It ain’t pretty, but what Hatton has in his toolbox has gotten the job done his entire career. Notably, both the default styles of Hatton and Mayweather are likely to give each other fits. Mayweather has had the most trouble in his career when opponents put pressure on him by staying busy, constantly throwing punches at him and cutting off the ring, like Oscar De La Hoya did this year and Jose Luis Castillo did in 2002. Hatton excels at just that. But Hatton at his peak’s never fought anyone as fast or as skilled as Mayweather, who when confronted by a pressure fighter whose skills aren’t up to snuff, like Carlos Baldomir in 2006 or Arturo Gatti in 2005, he has picked them apart with ease.
Speed. Mayweather is human quicksilver. He’s got fast feet, fast hands and transcendent reflexes. His speed is so considerable that it was shocking to see Judah beat him to the punch early on in their fight. His speed gives his punches most of their oomf. As he’s moved up in weight through multiple divisions, he appears to have slowed, but not so much that his speed isn’t one of his main advantages over everyone he fights. But, again, here Hatton is underestimated. Since he burst into public view, he’s been faster than most everyone he has fought, too. Luis Collazo out-quicked him in 2006, and that troubled him throughout their fight, to the point that it put him on the precipice of defeat. For the most part, though, Hatton has enough speed to beat his man to the punch — striking first, then being able to move out of the way. Just not enough to be faster than Mayweather.
Size. Much has been made of the fact that Hatton, in his one fight at welterweight (147 lbs.) against Collazo, nearly lost. Mayweather has roamed the division for two years. This apparent size gulf is not nearly the factor some think it is. Mayweather began his pro career at 130 lbs. Hatton has spent his entire boxing life at 140 lbs. It’s true that Hatton didn’t look very comfortable at 147 lbs., but it’s not as if one man’s a giant and the other’s a shrimp. I’m not saying this won’t play into the result at all, just that it’s not as important as other things. Mayweather’s superior arm reach — 72″, according to boxrec.com, compared to 65″ for Hatton — is one area where size matters, because it will aid Mayweather in keeping a comfortable distance. It’s less clear whether Hatton, who blimps up to 180 lbs. between fights, will have the same strength advantage he usually has at 140 lbs. over Mayweather, and if he doesn’t, Mayweather won’t be as drained by all of Hatton’s mauling and shoving. While Hatton’s shown the ability to win as the smaller man, Mayweather looks to have a slight size advantage on Dec. 8.
Power. The more weight Mayweather packs on, the less powerful he seems to get. In his first 27 fights, all at 130 lbs., he had 16 knockouts (60 percent). In his 11 since moving up to 135 lbs. and beyond, he has five KOs (45 percent). The difference is statistically slight, and might be compensated for by all the schlubs fighters take on at the beginning of their careers, but then, some of the people he fought at the higher weight classes were near-schlubs. More likely, Mayweather’s lower punch output of late and somewhat diminished power have had a demonstrable effect on his knockout wattage. The question is whether what power he has will be enough to hurt Hatton. Hatton doesn’t hurt easily, but Collazo, with 13 KOs in 30 fights, managed to nearly knock him out in the 12th — which is where the concerns about Hatton’s size come in, mostly. Urango, a more convincing power specialist, hurt him, too. Nor is Mayweather easily hurt, mostly because he’s so hard to hit at all, but he’s gotten stunned by punches a a few times since moving up into the 140-pound region. Hatton does have some power and a better knockout ratio (72 percent), although his schlub ratio is also higher than Mayweather’s. Against an over-the-hill Castillo this year, Hatton landed a one-punch knockout with a body shot. He scored a sensational knockout against Carlos Maussa in 2005, and while he put Collazo on the deck once, it wasn’t a clean knockdown in the sense that Collazo looked more like he lost his balance. In other words: Both have power. Both have questions about that power at a higher weight than their ideal. It’s my belief that each man can put the other on the deck, but more from an accumulation of punches than anything. Each have shown an ability to make their opponent quit because of said accumulation. Given the questions about both mens’ power, the advantage here is clouded.
Mindset. Both Hatton and Mayweather have left reasons to doubt whether they have the proper attitude going into this fight. Hatton has talked about retiring soon. Mayweather had a phony retirement already this year, but has spoken openly of being bored with boxing, and complained of not wanting to die in the ring or put up with his constant injuries. And still, you have to believe both want to win this fight. Both have shown a devotion to their craft that is hard to question, aside from Hatton’s eating habits between fights and Mayweather’s distraction of being on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars.” Both have reputations of being ferocious gym rats during training. Hatton’s convictions that he will win this fight are remarkably, well, convincing. Mayweather’s trainer, his uncle Roger, put Floyd’s convictions in light of his many millions into the context of Microsoft: “Why do Bill Gates still make them f***ing computers?” In other words — Floyd’s, actually — he fights for the love of the sport. Hatton backers think Mayweather’s got a fragile psyche, but if that’s true, he’s never showed it in the ring. He’s beaten more quality fighters over his career than has Hatton, but Hatton has fought the consistently higher quality foes in recent years. This one’s close to a wash, but if anything, I give the edge in mindset to Hatton.