Back from Vegas, where for one round of Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley — the 2nd — the MGM was ready to explode. Had Mosley finished off Mayweather after having him hurt in that round, half or more of the crowd would have screamed in exultant joy, and the other half would be shouting in amazement that their guy got knocked out, and the roof would have literally blown of the joint. After that moment subsided, though, the fight was a bit of a letdown, even if Mayweather delivered more offense than we’re used to from him. As relatively exciting a performance as it was out of Mayweather, the drama was gone. Here’s how bad it got: One of the men next to me went from rooting for Mayweather to rooting for Mosley not to get knocked out, as he’d laid a bet on Mayweather by unanimous decision.
I still had a good time at my first Vegas fight. I was sick all weekend, but the company and the environment more than made up for it. I saw a man in a black and white fur coat, and underneath he was wearing a white suit. I talked to a taxi driver with my friend Steve about the time someone died in the back of his cab, the headline in a catalog of sins that had been carried out in his vehicle. Best of all, I hung out with friends like Steve, Madelyn, Lee, Zaira and Ryan, some of those people I only knew from the Internets, plus I spent a good deal of time mingling with friendly boxing authorities like Bert Sugar, Maxboxing scribes Steve Kim and Gabriel Montoya and the Telegraph’s Gareth Davies, along with friends of those people who were also cool but too numerous to list here.
There’s been some good debating in this space in my absence about the fight itself, so rather than respond to each comment that weighed in on several themes, it sounded like a good idea to hit the main points everyone is making.
- Mayweather’s good vs. Mosley’s ill. The biggest point of dispute is whether Mayweather was excellent or Mosley was terrible after the 2nd round. I’m not doing this because there’s inherent value in splitting the baby — I suspect it was a helping of both. I honestly don’t know and I’m not sure we ever will. I’ll watch the replay of the fight next weekend and maybe that’ll be informative. It’s simply the case that in the 3rd round, Mosley became extremely tentative and stayed in that mode for most of the rest of the fight; simultaneously, Mayweather came out very aggressive in that round and stayed in that mode for the rest of the fight (and either way all credit due to Mayweather for displaying the fighting heart of his that rarely is forced into the public view). Mosley’s story is that the layoff dating back to January of last year hurt him. Mayweather’s story is that he made the right adjustments. Is there any way to prove either case?
- Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. The second biggest point of dispute is whether Mayweather would beat Manny Pacquiao, based on this performance. This one’s even more unknowable than the first — duh, unless you can predict the future — but I think there’s a decent case to be made for either man. Indeed, Mosley showed that Mayweather has trouble with quick fighters; Pacquiao is significantly quicker than Mosley. It’s unlikely that Pacquiao would either (depending on what you think of the first question) suffer from ring rust or respond poorly if Mayweather came at him more aggressively. Pacquiao also is a lefty, and a better fighter than Mosley. My thinking, though, is that Mayweather showed real welterweight power to hurt Mosley, which means he might be able to dissuade Pacquiao’s charges; that he’s the longer and bigger man; that he’s the smarter fighter; that he’s improving even at age 33, no longer prone to the occasional stretch of lackluster fighting; that Pacquiao struggled to connect on a defensive-minded fighter in Joshua Clottey his last time out, and Mayweather is a better defensive fighter than Clottey by far; and that even if Pacquiao had some success, Mayweather would adjust, the same way he does every single time his opponent gets some success. We’ll return to this match-up in a moment, after examining another point on Mayweather-Mosley itself.
- Refereeing vs. dirty fighting. Another point of dispute where a splitting the baby-like solution exists is in some of the bout’s dirty stuff. Some of the audience was complaining after the fight that Mayweather-Mosley was a wrestling match more than a fight. It certainly got rough on the inside, there’s no doubt. Mayweather did a lot of it, starting with his signature forearm to the throat, before moving on to his signature holding down his opponent’s head, and so forth. Mosley responded with bulling Mayweather to the ropes at times. The thing is, I’m not sure how much more referee Kenny Bayless could have or should have done. He warned Mayweather about all those things, and Mosley, too. They stopped doing the offending act they’d been warned for afterward, but Mayweather in particular was pretty creative with moving on to new things. And some of it was fair game. When they separated their clinches, Mayweather was always quick to pounce on Mosley. Some of it was fair game, but bad sport. Mosley went to bump gloves a couple times and Mayweather popped him when he was doing it. Generally, I don’t have a problem with fighters bumping gloves respectfully; some people think it shows weakness, but Pacquiao and Mosley do it all the time then go on to stomp the daylights out of their opponents. The thing is, if you’ve seen a Mayweather fight you know he’s all about popping you when you go to touch gloves, and after the first time Mayweather did it, Mosley should have dropped the sportsmanship. If anything, he should have been even rougher on the inside, but I don’t think that’s in his character, and I was amazed that Mayweather was able to outmuscle or at least outwrestle the seemingly bigger Mosley so consistently, so maybe he didn’t have as many options as he would have liked. (Another reason to believe Mayweather beats everyone he fights — the advantages other fighters seem to have over him going in never turn out to be reality the night of, or at least don’t figure as important enough factors.)
- Pacquiao next vs. who else. For the foreseeable future, the posturing from both the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps is going to be so grating I think I’d rather live next door to a land mine testing facility that keeps 7-Eleven hours. Drug testing, purse splits, fight location, who’s hiding from whom, who’s the bigger star… Excuse me. (Writer adjourns to the bathroom to vomit. Writer returns to keyboard.) Sorry about that. No need dwelling on that posturing prematurely. But if it doesn’t happen, what might be next for Mayweather? Paul Williams could make a case for himself this coming weekend. Let’s see if he beats Kermit Cintron first. Some are advancing the idea of Sergio Martinez, the newly crowned middleweight champion who prefers to fight at 154. Martinez probably isn’t as big a star in the United States as even Williams, and while Mayweather didn’t rule out Martinez in post-fight interviews, he doesn’t really appear to want to fight at 154. Both Williams and Martinez are naturally huge, bigger still than Mosley, and would theoretically present style problems for Mayweather, too. That cuts both ways. After Mayweather beats whoever he beats, a subset of people says, “Well, Mayweather was a bad style match-up for X, so X never was going to win.” My retort: There doesn’t exist a person who ISN’T a bad style match-up for Mayweather, past of future opponents.
- Mosley retirement vs. what next. Mosley said he’d give some thought to retiring. I’m cool with whatever he wants to do. He’s clearly got some fight left in him still, especially if you accept the explanation that ring rust from his long layoff was a factor. He could make for some interesting fights at welter, like maybe that Andre Berto bout that fell through, and if he won that one maybe talk could turn to Williams. At the same time, it was really odd to see Mosley look so utterly defeated for the first time in his life. Even in bouts he’s lost in the past, even when he got knocked down by Vernon Forrest, he kept coming hard. By the end of the fight he was shying away from contact with Mayweather. This happens to fighters sometimes, and they bounce back, but one of the things that has made Mosley a great is that fighting spirit. If that departed for good Saturday night, he can’t be what he once was. It was also strange to see him appear to run out of steam — I can’t recall that ever happening before. The question at least has to be asked whether his 38 years have caught up to him. But really, calling for him to retire is premature. If he wants to retire, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame in five years. If he wants to keep going, he has more to offer until he proves otherwise.
- Undercard. That undercard was the second or third in a row for a pay-per-view where the fights offered contact yet underwhelmed. (Except for the wacky Said Ouali 1st round KO of Hector David Saldivia in a welterweight bout where Ouali hit the deck once, then Saldivia hit it twice.) Heavily-hyped welterweight prospect Saul Alvarez had a spot of trouble against undersized but tough Jose Cotto, getting wobbled in the opening stanza, but he recovered and completely outboxed then eventually stopped Cotto in the 9th. There will be questions about Alvarez’ chin and power after this performance, but some of that may be due to stepping up in competition and facing a gutty guy. My main problem is that while I like his boxing skill level, he would be significantly slower than any current welterweight contender I can think of, which means he’ll have to be REALLY good in all the other categories, and so far that’s a hurdle that’s far from clear he can overcome. But he’ll learn from this, and remember — he’s only 19. In the featherweight bout between Daniel Ponce De Leon and Cornelius Lock, both men showed their limitations more than their strengths. Lock started too slow and ended up losing to a man he should have been able to outbox. Once Lock figured De Leon out, he spent one whole round connecting with counter rights, since De Leon’s defense is atrocious. One of these two men theoretically had a chance to emerge as a contender in the deep 126-pound division, but after watching the fight, not in my book.
- Other results. In the most meaningful fight of the weekend outside Mayweather-Mosley and Fernando Montiel-Hozumi Hasegawa, Marco Huck reportedly beat up Brian Minto pretty severely to stop him in the 10th. His promoter, Sauerland, recently signed Steve Cunningham (Cunningham needed to get away from Don King, but it looked like he was going with Main Events before signing with the German powerhouse), so a rematch between Huck and Cunningham no doubt awaits. Cunningham won the first bout by KO. Basically everyone else who was supposed to win over the weekend did too.