Does Floyd Mayweather Jr. still have legs?
LAS VEGAS – For boxers they say the legs are the first thing to go. Trainer Freddie Roach said the beginning of the end of his boxing career came when his legs wouldn’t move as fast as he wanted them.
With each passing fight, people are looking for signs of slippage with Floyd Mayweather Jr. For the past few fights, perhaps going back to his match against Miguel Cotto in 2012, Mayweather has not been the elusive target that he presented for much of his career.
Cotto, a superb fighter in his own right, got through Mayweather’s defense and bloodied his nose. Mayweather, a defensive wizard, stood in the pocket against Saul Alvarez, even though he didn’t have to. He said he was trying to give the fans an entertaining fight.
The first match against Marcos Maidana raised even more questions about whether Mayweather is slipping. Mayweather will be trying to quiet those whispers about him slowing down when he takes on Maidana in the rematch, putting his welterweight and junior middleweight titles on the line, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Showtime Pay Per View on Saturday night.
In order to do that he will have to either knock out Maidana or shut him out over the 12 rounds of the match. Judging from the first match that will be a tall order for Mayweather.
“He has to prove that he can beat me and I have to prove that I can win,” Maidana said.
For much of the first half of the first fight, Mayweather fought with his back to the ropes and covered up. He was not slipping along the ropes like he did in his brilliant performance against Diego Corrales.
“He can’t move anymore. His legs are gone,” Roach said. “I recognize that. It happened to me.”
Mayweather said his legs are fine.
“I think my legs looked good in the first fight,” he said. “With a guy like that who is fighting extremely dirty you have to really key in on the guy and watch him and take your time.”
Robert Guerrero, who faced Mayweather in 2013, isn’t buying that Mayweather is slipping.
“I think he’s just pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes. He’s a smart businessman,” Guerrero said. “He’s really selling it and selling it hard. The first time I’ve seen Mayweather say ‘I’d love to give him a rematch’ without even thinking about it. From here on out he’s guaranteed money and it’s all about selling pay-per-view and selling his brand. A lot of people think he’s slowed down, but he doesn’t fool me.”
Robert Garcia, Maidana’s 39-year-old trainer, was a contemporary of Mayweather’s. They both held versions of the 130-pound world championship at the same time in late 1998. He doesn’t see any slippage.
“Floyd is fresh. He’s still young. He takes care of his body. He takes care of his health. I think he’s the same Mayweather as always,” Garcia said.
There is no denying that Mayweather has become more of a pocket boxer in the last couple of years. And he never had much consideration of whether he was entertaining the fans when he was using all of his speed and defensive prowess a few years ago.
Mayweather is 37 years old and has been boxing professionally for the last 18 years. Before that he was an outstanding amateur. He’s been boxing for over 30 years. That means there is a lot of wear and tear on his body from all the training that he has put in throughout the years. By all accounts he doesn’t abuse his body by drinking, smoking or gaining excessive amounts of weight between fights. However, Father Time has a way of catching up to even the best of boxers, 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins, notwithstanding.
Mayweather said he has made some concessions in his training as he has gotten older.
“When I was young I used to go to the boxing gym basically every day even as a professional,” Mayweather said. “When I used to do my road work and do my jogging, I’d do it every day. When you’re older you have to let the body rest, let the body heal, recoup and rejuvenate so you can be stronger. The last few years I’ve been letting my body rest a lot more. I’ve been trying to eat a lot better.”
Maidana appeared to throw and land more telling shots against Mayweather than any of his most recent opponents, lending some credence to the thinking that Mayweather had slowed down. But Mayweather said that Maidana was just punching wild. He said he wanted to take things slow to make his adjustments. From Mayweather’s perspective Maidana might have only won a few rounds, though one referee had it a draw.
“He won the first one, but I won the second round, and he won probably the third and fourth, because I know one of those rounds (the fourth) I got head-butted and couldn’t see,” he said. “I was just mainly in survival mode until I got back to my corner to Rafael, the great cutman, Rafael Garcia. So I gave him three rounds.”
“Just look at the fight. The fight is not close ÔÇª I’m going to go out there and I guess get a knockout, win 12 rounds, and look impressive, but also be exciting.”
Mayweather has complained of the first fight being dirty.
“If you guys notice, I got tackled, the guy tried to knee me, I got a head-butt, and there were rabbit punches, and there were low blows, and the list goes on and on,” Mayweather said.
When his opponent decides to go dirty and foul, Mayweather said he just tries to keep his composure and relax and let the referee do his job.
“I guess on that night the referee had a bad night. This didn’t just start. This has been going on since the beginning of my career. If you guys go back and look at how fighters have been fighting dirty in front of me with different dirty tactics. Even in the Canelo fight, you go look and see.”
Mayweather didn’t think referee Tony Weeks did enough to corral Maidana’s dirty tactics in the fight, allowing him to get away with unnecessary roughness. Weeks will not be the referee for the rematch. He’s been replaced by Kenny Bayless, one of the best refs working in the sport today.
It wasn’t long ago that Mayweather didn’t need the help of a referee to take care of someone trying to use dirty tactics. When Ricky Hatton tried to maul Mayweather he pushed him off and later landed a beautiful left hook that knocked out Hatton.
Maidana is hoping there is some slippage in Mayweather. He too has questions.
“I don’t really know,” Maidana said regarding whether Mayweather’s legs are going. “There have been fighters who have allowed him to do his stuff and look sensational. I didn’t allow him to do that. Maybe that’s the question there with whether it’s his age.”
Garcia plans to give Mayweather a physical test. He has been emphasizing conditioning and endurance during Maidana’s training camp.
Look, we are fighting the way we did the first fight with the pressure. But like Chino is saying, we need to have a little more distance, a little more control in his punches, and we are working on that,” Garcia said. “His punches are thrown a lot more accurate, straighter punches, and our sparring partners are telling us that this time around they feel the power even harder than they did the first time.”
Whether that is enough to put a dent in Mayweather remains to be seen. If he can’t bring Maidana to the middle of the ring and outbox him, those whispers of him slipping will get a lot louder.
Mayweather believes he will be better than ever in the rematch against Maidana.
“I’m throwing a lot more combinations this training camp,” Mayweather said. “With the guys I’m working with, sparring partners, they’ve been saying I’m a lot better this goaround. We use some of the same guys. They say I’m a lot stronger and faster this camp.”
Following the final press conference for his rematch against Maidana, Mayweather backtracked on comments he made supporting former Ravens running back Ray Rice.
“If I offended anyone, I apologize,” Mayweather said.
During a sit-down interview with a group of reporters following his grand arrival at the MGM Grand on Tuesday afternoon, Mayweather said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should have stuck with his original two-game suspension of Rice, even though another videotape surfaced showing Rice knocking out Janay Palmer, who was then his fianc├®e and now his wife, with a left hook in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino hotel.
Mayweather commented that worse things happen in people’s homes without the benefit of videotape. His comments sparked controversy because he never expressed any remorse or concern about what happened to Rice’s wife, even though he said he was sorry that Rice wouldn’t be able to compete in the sport that he loved anymore. Rice was dismissed from the team before the NFL suspended him from the league indefinitely on Monday.
Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime’s sports programming, said he doesn’t think that Mayweather’s comments will impact pay-per-view sales of Saturday night’s fight.
“We don’t expect that it will. These are spectacular events that are very attractive to the boxing fans so we don’t expect a significant impact,” he said.