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

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; keys to the fight, part I. Next: final preview and prediction.

Mind. Matter. How do Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley stack up in those categories? In the second of two parts, we compare their attributes that are more mental than physical.

(The Keymaster)

Offense. Mosley is the more offensive-minded of the two — he’s busier, and far less cautious. He’s aggressive at all times, whether he’s leading or counterpunching. His right hand, sometimes thrown as a hook and sometimes more of an overhand shot, has deadly power, but he knocked out Ricardo Mayorga with a left hook. He’ll also hook to the head and body. You know how every sport has weird terminology that makes you laugh, like “has a big ass” in basketball? One of boxing’s is “hooker,” as in, “someone who likes to throw hooks,” not as in “a lady of the night,” and Mosley is a hooker. Although his emphasis is on power punches, he has at times used his jab to great effect, as he did against Antonio Margarito in his last fight. It’s commonly thought a good jab is the key to beating Mayweather, as it disrupts his rhythm, although Juan Manuel Marquez’ good jab did him no favors against Mayweather. Mayweather is fond of pointing out that Mosley throws wide punches and swings with his eyes closed, which is sometimes the case, but sometimes Mosley throws short shots, and he’s never really lacked for accuracy.

Mayweather is a pot-shot artist and natural counterpuncher, prone to absurd connect figures. His lead right is his favorite, and after more or less abandoning his jab to the head for a long period of time (his paralyzing jab to the body never really left), his jab was back in full force against Marquez. He’s a good body puncher with a nice left hook and he has a better uppercut than Mosley, who throws his with a wildness when he throws it. He was busy by his standard of late against Marquez, but his tendency to fire punches in moderation, with minimization of risk of return fire the primary objective, is a potential weak spot. Both men are adept at fighting inside and outside, by the way. Edge: Mosley

Defense. Even the most grizzled, hardcore “no boxer today is as good as any boxer from years ago” historians admire Mayweather’s defense. He is at least in my view one of the best defensive fighters ever. He made Marquez, a talented offensive fighter, look hopeless trying to connect on him. With his shoulder roll defense, it’s usually easier to connect on his body even with his left arm guarding it, because he keeps his chin tucked and his right hand high, plus his face is farther away. When he’s not in the pocket using the shoulder roll, he’s also shown he can move and duck or even come straight forward in a more traditional, high guard posture. The stuff that makes me “ooo” and “aah” about Mayweather isn’t his offense, which is tepid — it’s his defense, which is a real pleasure to watch.

Mosley isn’t bad on defense when he’s focused on it. He rarely is. His instinct is to brawl, and that means he gets hit. Against Antonio Margarito in his last fight, though, he was a whole new fighter on the defensive end, employing a strategy that new trainer Naazim Richardson called “swim without getting wet.” He was aggressive, but he didn’t take many shots in return. He relies primarily on head movement, rolling with punches and quick feet, historically, although against Margarito he would just get off then tie up his man. Mosley’s reflexes have been on the downturn, and he’s always been a sucker for getting jabbed, something even the slow Margarito did to him at times. I wonder if Mosley will be still more improved on defense under Richardson, but there’s no chance it will be enough to keep this one from being… Edge: Mayweather

Intelligence. No one would pick Mayweather to lead a class in, say, logic, or rational thinking, but in the boxing ring, he’s freaking Socrates. He has a real knack for pinpointing an opponent’s weaknesses before he steps between the ropes, something that trainer Roger surely helps him with, even if Roger’s training credentials haven’t been proven outside of his nephew. It’s his in-ring adjustments that stand out. Outquicked by Zab Judah, Mayweather threw a different defensive stance at him and came forward rather than counterpunching, and Judah was clearly confused. He does stuff like that all the time. If you have success against Mayweather, it won’t usually last long.

One of the major knocks on Mosley, for people who say he can’t beat Mayweather, is his ring IQ. It’s true that he’s struggled with good boxers like Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright, but he’s also defeated his share, like Oscar De La Hoya or, if you want to go a bit purer but lower in class, Luis Collazo, the latter of whom he defeated easily. It’s also incorrect to say he doesn’t make adjustments. In rematches against Forrest and Wright, he performed much better even in losing efforts. But it’s also true that he’s been outboxed, as he was by Miguel Cotto, even though Mosley made at least two major adjustments in that fight I can think of, i.e. going from toe to toe to counterpuncher at mid-fight, then stalking Cotto and cutting off the ring late. As I wrote earlier this week, this is where Naazim Richardson comes in. He’s great at crafting game plans against tricky opponents, and he’s good at noticing things mid fight. As crucial an assist as Richardson will offer, though, the combined brains of Mosley and Richardson don’t eclipse the combined brains of Mayweather and Mayweather. Edge: Mayweather

Heart. I’ve never heard anyone question Mosley’s fighting spirit. Even when outgunned, his reaction has been to fight back harder. There’s no quit in him. And listen to him talking about this fight. He believes in himself with every ounce of his being, and you get the impression he’d do anything to beat Mayweather.

Mayweather’s heart is more of a mystery. Like his chin, it’s rarely been tested. There’s a view in boxing that he’s terrifically insecure — thus his obsession with his perfect record — and that if someone shakes his confidence, they’ll have him. But there’s also a driving desperation to his insecurity that makes it so he responds well when in brief moments of difficulty. I suspect Mayweather’s got a bigger ticker than we realize, but when in doubt, I’m going to go with the person whose heart has repeatedly passed the test. Edge: Mosley

The Rest. Both men have distractions: Mosley is dealing with some revelations about his usage of performance enhancing drugs, while there are hints that prosecutors might be trying to finger Mayweather in a shooting plus uncle Roger is dealing with allegations that he assaulted a woman. Mosley has admitted to sometimes struggling with outside distractions, but all accounts are that he’s at peace right now. Mayweather has always had distractions and it’s never seemed to be an issue before…. Can you remember either man ever suffering a bad cut? I can’t either. How do you think Floyd would react? I guess this falls under heart, but it’s a real question because I think Mosley may try to rough up Floyd some; I’m inclined to think Mosley handles a cut better if it comes to it… Both have tons of big fight experience and experience fighting a variety of different opponents, so while I don’t think either man has ever encountered anyone exactly like the other and I think they’re both very confident on the big stage. That said, Mosley’s deer-in-the-headlights routine in the first meetings with Forrest and Wright suggest to me that if experience is a factor, Mayweather will have the advantage, even with fewer fights….

Then there are the officials. Although I’ve talked about Mosley getting rough, Mayweather’s not above playing dirty, particularly with those elbows and forearms of his. Kenny Bayliss, the referee, has a sterling reputation for controlling fights and not letting them get out of hand. So, neither man gets the advantage here… As for the judges: If it goes to the scorecards, and the scenario is “Mosley was more aggressive but Mayweather was more accurate,” will the judges favor Mosley or Mayweather? I’m guessing Mosley would get the nod… Edge: Push

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.