Floyd Mayweather Vs. Shane Mosley: Keys To The Fight, Part I

So continues our marathon coverage of Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley on May 1, one of the biggest fights of 2010. Previously: the meaning of Mayweather-Mosley; Mosley’s pivotal weapon. Next: keys to the fight, part II.

Mind. Matter. How do Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley stack up in those categories? In the first of two parts, we compare their physical attributes.

(The Gatekeeper)

Size. At long last, Mayweather is fighting a real, big, honest-to-God welterweight. Mosley has been pretty good as high as 154, although his best weight at this point in his career is welter. Mayweather has fought as high as 150 and won, but looks smallish at 147. Fighting large, powerful welterweights like Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams and yes, Mosley, never seem to have been a priority for him. At welterweight, Mayweather has faced a lightweight (Juan Manuel Marquez); a junior welterweight (Ricky Hatton); another couple fighters who were at their best at junior welterweight (Zab Judah, Sharmba Mitchell); and one natural strong welterweight, albeit one with stubby arms and no power (Carlos Baldomir). So, good for Mayweather for finally taking the plunge, almost five years after leaving 140 pounds.

Likewise, rarely has Mayweather encountered anyone who could surpass the length of his dolphin-saving arms. Only Oscar De La Hoya has surpassed his 72″ reach, at 73″, and Mosley is at 74″. Mayweather’s long arms help make it so he can stand in the pocket and get the better of his man, so Mosley’s superior arm length can nullify some of that. Mosley will also have a height advantage of about two inches. And Mosley’s the physically stronger man — he’s absurdly strong, as he showed by tossing the much more giant Antonio Margarito around a bit — so Mayweather won’t be able to rough up Mosley on the inside the way he has some other opponents. When people who favor Mosley in this fight explain their prediction, “size” is usually one of the first words out of their mouths. Edge: Mosley

Speed. Mosley fancies himself as fast as or faster than Mayweather. He must be thinking of the Mosley of the start of the last decade. That Mosley was lightning fast, and comparable in speed to Mayweather, who has some of the best speed in the sport. This Mosley, at 38, isn’t even close to as fast as the old Mosley. Take his 2007 fight with Miguel Cotto. Cotto wasn’t known for his speed, although it’s always been very good. But he equaled Mosley’s speed. Don’t get me wrong, Mosley is one of the fastest opponents Mayweather will have fought in his career, behind Judah and maybe no one else. But he’s going to be slower than Mayweather, by a fair amount. Of both hand and foot.

This isn’t technically “speed,” but Mayweather’s speed is amplified by his superb reflexes and timing. Judah was actually faster than Mayweather on a purely physical level, but Mayweather was able to overcome that with reflexes and timing. I think Mosley’s reflexes have dulled, although he still has good timing, and this reflexes/timing deficit will exacerbate a speed gap for the two men. When people who favor Mayweather in this fight explain their prediction, “speed” is one of the first words out of their mouths. Edge: Mayweather

Power. In his last fight, Mosley knocked out Margarito, a gigantic welter who before that rarely even looked like he noticed getting punched. In his last fight, Mayweather couldn’t knock out a blown-up featherweight in Marquez. Mayweather has two knockouts in six fights since leaving 140 in 2005. Mosley has five knockouts in seven wins at welterweight, and sports a record of 39 KOs in 46 wins to 25 KOs in 40 wins for Mayweather. Natural power and strength have something to do with it, but Mosley’s uncommon ability to finish off an opponent once he gets him hurt is another major reason for him scoring so many more knockouts than Mayweather, who will back off a hurt opponent if he risks taking a single punch in return.

Ultimately, no contest. Hardly anybody thinks Mayweather will knock out Mosley, but anyone who gives Mosley a chance think he might knock out Mayweather. Edge: Mosley

Chin. But is a knockout win by Mosley viable? It’s hard to say. Mayweather’s chin hasn’t been tested much because of his extraordinary defensive skills. The hardest-hitting man he ever fought, Diego Corrales, couldn’t lay a finger on him. DeMarcus Corley and Judah both stunned Mayweather, but he recovered quickly and neither of them could capitalize. The one official knockdown of Mayweather’s career (at least the one that was scored — Judah knocked Mayweather down once but the ref missed it) came because Mayweather hurt his hand and touched his glove to the canvas. Mayweather has been hit before, and his chin has passed the test, but he’s not been hit by anyone of Mosley’s size and power.

Mosley has been down before officially and legitimately, against Vernon Forrest, but that’s it. He has taken flush power shots from a prime De La Hoya, a prime Cotto and a bigger Ricardo Mayorga, and he stood up to it all well. It will be vital — he will have to walk through Mayweather’s punches to land some of his. Mosley’s chin is battle-tested in a way Mayweather’s isn’t, and as such it’s… Edge: Mosley

Condition. Usually the category here is “stamina,” but because I’d put Mayweather and Mosley on my All-Stamina First Team, there’s no real point in hashing it out. Mosley carries fight-altering power into the 12th round — right, Mayorga? — and Mayweather is legendary for his conditioning. No one is getting tired in this fight. It won’t happen. A different question is how prepared they both will be, and how much wear and tear they have on their bodies. Mayweather has had a variety of physical ailments, mostly in his hands. They remain a concern, but all accounts are that his recent “retirement” gave his body time to heal. Mosley said recently of Mayweather that “I see some things where his body is beginning to go. But he doesn’t see that.” I don’t see it either, Shane.

Mosley has a lot of miles on his own body, owing to being five years older, being a gym rat and engaging in a number of awesome give-and-take brawls. He looked great in his last fight, but as he’s aged he’s become uneven, going from dynamic to seemingly faded from one bout to the next. He’s not the fighter he once was, physically. The ring rust question figures large, too. Rust may have hampered his performance against Mayorga, although Mayorga’s size and awkwardness and Mosley’s personal life distractions may have contributed, too. This time he’s coming off a layoff that dates back to January of 2009. Making matters worse, he’s double-trained. He was going to fight Andre Berto in January before Berto pulled out due to the earthquake in his native Haiti. Floyd Mayweather, Sr. recently floated rumors that Mosley looked bad in sparring, which Mosley trainer Naazim Richardson didn’t exactly deny — although Richardson said that’s normal for Mosley. Be concerned, Mosly fans. Edge: Mayweather

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.