Floyd Mayweather Jr – Skills Pay the Bills

by Fran on March 5, 2013

Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Juan Manuel Marquez

I think it's fair to say that Floyd Mayweather Jr is the most talked about and most written about boxer since Mike Tyson. I know that many feel his character is terribly flawed, that his moral compass is pretty much absent and his opinion of his talent is matched only by his opinion of his good looks.

Whatever your thoughts on Mayweather Jr's approach to life, I'd like to think that you can recognise a supremely skilled fighter operating at the very top of his game. If you don't think that Mayweather is 'all that', then I wonder whether this article might give you another way of viewing his ring prowess and indeed may lead you to consider emulating some of his style characteristics.

In this video analysis article, I am going to attempt to capture what I believe are the signs of a fighter at his sublime best. I am going to look at Mayweather Jr's  2009 domination of the superb Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez. Here is the video link and then below are some observations that leap out at me:

Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Juan Manuel Marquez

The Jab Mayweather Style

The jab is extremely important to Floyd and often in fights he has a very interesting way of using it. As he throws the shot, he pushes off the back foot and widens the stance (a stance that is pretty wide to begin with). This tactic allows him to go from the edge of range to long range. It also adds more mass to the shot (thereby increasing power), but no more than would be achieved than combining the jab with the conventional push forward.

The benefit of widening the stance in this way is that Mayweather in effect 'sneaks' into range so the jab can catch Marquez by surprise. The drawback is that when Mayweather widens that stance so much it means he is pretty much restricted to a single shot. A stance adjustment is required to follow up with the second shot. The wider than usual stance is a sign of a highly alert boxer, someone who is taking the opponent very seriously.

Lay Back and Relax

The way in which Mayweather combines individually simple skills is what for me makes him such a complete fighter. The most obvious and frequent demonstration of this is his use of the lay back combined with movement in and out.

Floyd remains constantly on the edge of range, inviting the opponent to commit punches. When punches do come he is able to use the layback and/or a simple push away to avoid them, often by mere millimetres, and fire back his own salvo. This allows him to be the proud owner of a punch success rate that few others in the sport of boxing can rival.

At 40:09, Mayweather performs a wonderfully precise lay back followed by a superb long range right hook and a roll outside (with the flow of the hook) to finish almost behind Juan Manual. For good measure Mayweather uses this move twice more during the round. A formula for success.

The thing to realize with this sequence is that Mayweather is using the lay back and the long range right hook in one sweeping movement. It is the ultimate display of counter punching. It would be easy to assume that it's just about hand speed, but that would be missing the point. It's about supreme timing and a little flare in the use of conventional skills.

An Eye for Trouble and the Reflexes to Match

Floyd Mayweather Jr has a unique 'eye for trouble'. His defensive strategy is as meticulous as it is unconventional. At 22:28 I want you to recognise a very common Mayweather tactic for dealing with the full frontal attack of the opponent. You will see that he keeps the palm of his right glove tucked to the side of his face, and raises his right elbow to point toward the opponent. He also raises his left elbow in the same way.

You will also notice that Floyd's attention (in the form of his fixed gaze) is on the opponent and the shots that are coming his way. Mayweather knows that in order for his incredibly quick reflexes to have any chance of being effective, he must have full visibility of the opponent.  But, what does the eye for detail and the 'elbow' defence achieve on behalf of Floyd?

The elbows being raised in this way provide a real and dangerous obstacle for the incoming punches of the highly dangerous Mexican. If Juan Manuel lands a full power left hook on the point of the elbow of Mayweather, then there is a real chance that he will break his hand. The same goes for that elbow smashing into the face of Marquez. This is a defence with a real 'bite'.

So whilst everyone seems to focus on the classic Mayweather defence of the left arm down, the chin tucked into the left shoulder and the right hand fixed against the face (sometimes referred to as the Philly Shell which I come onto later in the article), it's this elbow defence that really marks out Floyd for me in terms of a true 'block-type' defence.

Dictate the Battle

Mayweather does very little 'dancing away'. He holds his ground, carefully managing his position in relation to Marquez. If he backs away too much then Marquez can dominate on his front foot, an approach with which he is very comfortable, as indeed are most Mexican fighters.

By holding his ground and providing threat, Mayweather is in effect making Marquez fight a 'thinking fight' with him and there are few more talented and smart boxers than Floyd Mayweather Jr. He keeps his stance wide and keeps Marquez at long range as much as possible.

Changing the position of your head is always a good thing to do. It's one of the simple things and is extremely helpful when looking to avoid being hit. Most can do this using a slip (inside or outside) or a duck for example. Mayweather, whilst using conventional slips, also has a less conventional and very distinctive way of doing this.

Floyd basically bends at the waist. Well, to be specific he bends at the waist as the opponent drives forward. The opponent stops dead as his stomach slams into Mayweather's side. Mayweather then can hold and look to use the occasional short range punch. There's an example of this at 22:10, but to really see Mayweather use this tactic check out the Cotto fight.

This tactic is another of Mayweather's methods of controlling the attacks of the opponent, of dictating when and where exchanges of punching will happen. Let's remember here that he is in against an orthodox boxer (and a very good one at that), so bending as Mayweather does takes him into a 'safe zone', that is an area where Marquez cannot bring to bear his heavy right hand nor his potent left hook.

I know what you are thinking. "But Fran, in the article on ducking you said never, ever bend at the waist. So how is it bad if one of the best fighters around does it?" Before you decide that you are going to corrupt the slip/duck into a bend, you need to consider the following:

  • In the amateurs, bending at the waist in such a way will likely get you a warning from the referee for lowering the head. If it becomes habit, then it's often difficult for a boxer to adjust and stop doing this having been warned during a contest. Persistent warnings from the referee result in, well, disqualification. Not a great way to end a fight.
  • In amateur boxing time is at a premium. Let's remember when Mayweather bends at the waist he too is unable to throw punches. In a short duration bout of 3 or 4 rounds, it is vital that you remain able to throw punches for pretty much every second of every round. Over a 12 round professional fight the tactics dictate that a host of approaches are applied, one of which is this type of defence, so that the pace can be managed.
  • Mayweather bends to the side, not forward. Bending forward toward your opponent is extremely foolhardy and will get you knocked out. Mayweather never bends forward, only ever to the side and away from the assault.

Carry on Regardless

It would be easy to assume that someone like Mayweather is all about the bling, the flashiness, the image. Of course this is a big part of the Team Mayweather marketing machine, but what I see in Floyd is a super tough, super competitive athlete.

At about 24:49, Juan Manual Marquez lands a beautiful long range right hook. The shot catches Mayweather flush on the side of the jaw and rocks him to the soles of his boots. Floyd gives the Mexican legend a wry smile, but make no mistake that right hand hurt.

So, what is the Mayweather response? At 24:57 Floyd uses a lead hand feint to the body followed by the left hook to the head. Mayweather has used this attack a couple of times in Round 1 so clearly feels that Marquez is open to it. But, it is a high-risk attack because leading with a left hook against an orthodox leaves you open to a big right - so much for Mayweather being overcautious as some have suggested.

5 more seconds into the round (25:02), the lead left hook works, landing nice and short and dumping Marquez on his backside. After taking the big shot off Marquez, Floyd fights back hard to score a brilliant knockdown. That is the sign of a fighter at the top of his game; never come off second in an exchange and compete, compete, compete!

Focus On What Matters

I mentioned earlier the 'Philly Shell'. I spend some time looking at the various boxing training forums. It never fails to amaze me how some aspiring boxers believe that the cross-armed defence that Mayweather uses is the secret of his success.

My thoughts on the matter are very simple. I have already described in this article what sets Floyd apart. Maybe you have more aspects of his style that you feel make a major contribution to his success. That's great, and please feel free to submit them in the comments section below.

What I do suggest though is that this cross-armed defence is not at the core of Floyd's success. I think that because it's a very obvious style trait that it's easy to have your attention drawn totally to it. If we assume that the majority of forum users are boxing in the amateur code, then using this type of guard will cause more problems than it would ever solve.

If you really want to understand the style of Floyd Mayweather Jr, focus on what matters. Command of the ring, variation in attack and defence, an acute appreciation of range and always looking to hit back and dominate the exchanges. Oh, and don't forget, you have to be ultra-competitive in the gym and in the ring.

That should be easy then...

Related Articles:

Floyd Mayweather Fight Videos

The Boxing Stance

The Lay Back

Boxing Footwork - In and Out

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

alexander May 14, 2014 at 8:22 am

Hi Fran, not sure I am on the right tag here. But ref Mayweather versus Khan. It has taken me a while to get past the Bling that goes with Floyd. But having done so, I stand in awe of him.

For a ‘long ranger’, like my self, he is the ‘ultimate master class’. He lives on the very fringe of ‘inside outside’. It’s entrancing watching him ‘maintain that distance’, slipping back and fro, reactive to his opponent. Seldom offering a solid target, and always highly ‘counter active’.

Hitting him my neighbour says must be like trying to hurt a ‘big slippery jelly’. And while ‘close inside’ he may often seem a bit scrappy – but he is never unaffective, as his lighting short punch KO’s prove.

Yes, Khan has the equipment to beat him, but with that dodgy chin, it would have to be due to the edge coming off Floyd’s auto reflexes, which is inevitable with ageing.

Floyd has impressed me so much, that at age 71, I am trying to adopt his style, and emulate his dad senior. Boom, boom!

Thanks to you Fran

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Fran May 16, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Hey Alex

I hope you’re well mate.

Love the fact that you’re emulating styles. I explained to a group of young boxers this evening that they should practice their drills at every opportunity, even at home waiting for the kettle to boil! I told them I still do it, shadow box around the house. It just becomes ingrained, we can never shake it off nor should we. That passion for continual learning of the sport, there’s always something new…always.

I hope when I’m a spritely 71 (fingers crossed) I’m still trying to emulate an artist like Floyd Mayweather Jr. Thanks for the comment Alex, great to hear from you.

PS – Need the Floyd vs Amir fight Alex, easily the one I want to see before the year’s out.

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tj August 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

the philly shell is a completely effective defense for inside and outside fighting if used properly in combination of proper boxing fundamentals and proper balance/weight distribution/body control. having the skill of being able to fight at the edge of range will allow this style to be even more effective especially when counter punching (1 example is… allowing opponent to extend punch and beating him back to his face… also your jab comes in at an unusual angle that can be hard for opponent to see and fighting at edge allows for a higher jab success rate). defensively, you must have an active defense with your rear hand and also constantly giving defense support with your rear hand to your lead shoulder. when using your shoulder as a shield or shoulder rolling it is critical to bend your back leg so you have a strong base and so you can fire counters off it, also it is important to slightly tilt your head to allow high aimed head shots to skim over your knock out points….there is so much to the philly shell. I get so sick of hearing it is dumb, or just flashy, no it is a proper defensive boxing guard that like anything in boxing is a skill that must be developed and must be worked on to get it.

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Ivan July 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Hi Fran
It took me a while to share my view on Mayweather because it’s a mixed to negative feeling that hasn’t crystallized into pure denial yet.
I can appreciate a special athlete and a gifted boxer who along with the boxing mastery has natural “physical culture” and mental and physical endurance. My criticism is based on violations of the boxing spirit and warrior code (couldn’t care less what he does in his life outside the ring).
Your review of the Marquez episode was extensive and the only thing I could add is that the knock down was caused by a “check hook” similar to the shot that KOed Hatton. Like Hatton, JMM did not see the shot and moved into it with his own weight, even ducking into it.
In general anyone associated with amateur boxing should be proud of Floyd’s style. Arguably It’s the crown of the Olympic boxing style. Of course he has made countless adjustments, but basically he’s an optimized pragmatic amateur. The tempo, the intensity and the strategy are different, he doesn’t throw combos like before, but the skills and form are the same. His stance, feet position, the way he counts and throws his shots, win on points, etc.
The downsides are his Jesuit approach to picking opponents and the distinct common belief he’s cheating. The big names on his record were always past their prime and over the hill (Oscar, Mosley, Cotto), “live” opponents were always smaller (Castillo, JMM). He clearly avoided Pacquiao.
His refusal to punish frontal attack is also frustrating. He simply retreats into his shell and waits the storm out. He only attacks when he believes the opponent is tired or otherwise harmless. His extreme caution makes him throw single shots most of the time. Not a thrill to watch, a lot of people watch him just because they want to see him beaten.
I think his mercantile approach to boxing is finally catching up with him. Floyd is up for grabs now. A young gun like Canelo stands a good chance not because he’s so special. The mandatory retirement age in the amateur ranks used to be 34 years and that’s no random figure.
Any member of the “Fabulous Four” would have called Floyd’s bluff and shredded through his cross guard or other antics. A certain “Boxing Warrior”, I thought he sounded like you, commented on another site that Floyd is a great boxer and not a great fighter. I’d say he has the skills but not the heart to be Great.

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Fran July 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Hey Ivan.

Great to hear from you, I hope that you are well and sorry for the delay in replying. The subject that you have raised of Floyd’s style being fundamentally based upon the amateurs resonates at the moment. I am about to publish an article on Rigondeaux that makes at least a passing reference to that concept.

Back to Mayweather. I must admit, it came as a surprise to me that the Mayweather-Canelo fight was made at all, maybe for the reasons that you state. I suppose that over the years the various shennanigans with the Pac fight leave the mark. However, the fight is made and I am very much looking forward to it.

Can Alvarez beat Mayweather? My guess at this stage is that Alvarez is a bit too ‘conventional’ to win this fight. This is not to say that Alvarez is not a superb fighter, he clearly is. I think that Mayweather will be too smart and will read the mexican and simply manage his way to a points victory.

It’s a funny thing, I really want to see Mayweather visit that place that may genuinely allow us to gauge his greatness. I want to see him be on the wrong end of a beating for the whole fight only to turn it around at the last (Leonard-Hearns), or emerge triumphant in a brutal encounter (Hagler-Hearns), or defy Father Time to shock the boxing world (Duran-Barkley) or any of the above and more (Ali)!

I mention above my views on Mayweather’s skills and I think that you broadly agree. The irony is that his superb skills might deny him the opportunity to show the kind of resilience that we associate with the greats. Maybe Saul can push him that hard, we’ll see. Let’s hope that the selection of opponent by Mayweather is the shape of things to come. Anyone for Golovkin-Mayweather 🙂

Great to hear from you again pal.

Take care

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Jon Xavier April 16, 2015 at 2:33 pm

No one has approached Floyd’s skill that he could have fought even at their prime. Pacman has zero chance apart from a very lucky shot. Marquez was cheated out of wins and his best skills are but mere shadows of Floyd’s. As far as I’m concerned, the only legal defense worth decrying is Ali’s disgraceful “rope a dope”. Moreover, Floyd has been a gentleman to his opponents compared to “the greatest”.

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James June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

I don’t have an extensive boxing knowledge, but I do strongly believe this:

one can not call themself great unless they have great character to match.

Until Floyd Mayweather finds some, hey may be great in the ring, but I refuse to call him Great.

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MickeyG March 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Great breakdonw Fran, thank you. Opened up a lot more of the subtleties Mayweather employs. It has to be frustrating trying to get solid shots on him while being popped yourself from every angle. Looked like he also substituted the uppercut for the hook after feints as well. Just a remarkable fighter.
My 2 cents however is that sadly the 0 losses of his record may have become more important than fighting the best during career primes. As far as “getting to” May, as stated elsewhere, forget the chin. The upper head and the body only. He can be cornered, and although he is comfotable on the ropes (and dangerous), a fighter with great inside skills and commitment could hurt or wear him down. No easy task. thanks again for a great article.

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Fran March 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Cheers Mickey

Agreed, he is a truly remarkable fighter and one that I don’t tire of watching. As for the “0”, I think you could well be right. He’s going to have some real tests coming up, and maybe age might be his greatest adversary. Being subjected to a really tough, toe-to-toe 12-rounder could well be Floyd’s undoing. After all, even Ray Leonard in his prime came off second best against the smartest of inside fighters in Roberto Duran.

Thanks again Mickey.

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Paul Smith March 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Well done Fran, excellent article. Thanks

@ Dave,
Broner said he will never fight Floyd, which is too bad as it would be very interesting to see the two similar styles in action and also to see who would prove to be the ‘smarter’ boxer.

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Fran March 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Thanks Paul, appreciate it.

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Dave Waterman March 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Yeah, I read that Broner said that he wouldn’t fight Floyd. Just imagine what a fight that might be on its own: a fantastic spectacle of pugilism.

Imagine how that fight might be hyped with one of the participants having once stated he would never fight his senior due to Floyd’s status as a generational great.

Floyd is a master of the hype game and Broner is a student of that hype. Don’t be surprised to see the two being talked about further as potential combatants. I foresee only one man with the ability to beat Floyd right now and that man is Broner.

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Paul Smith March 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hmmm, your vision of this possible scenario is quite good Dave. The PPV figures would be amazing for such a fight, but imo, Floyd the master would take the student Broner to school.

In any regard, it would certainly be ‘a fantastic spectacle of pugilism’, as you so eloquently put it. 🙂

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Dave Waterman March 7, 2013 at 8:35 am

Great fight analysis and a detailed, in depth look at Floyd’s style. I’ve been trying to think of anything I might be able to add regarding his boxing but really can’t. All I can do is echo your statement concerning Floyd’s masterful feeling for range. His layback and push away take him only just out of range which both conserves energy and leaves him poised to strike with the counter. These skills illustrate how Floyd operates between the ropes: few wasted moves and a high percentage of his shots finding the target; Floyd never appears tired which is a testament to both his energy conservation and his high degree of fitness.

I suppose if we were to seek a criticism of Floyd it might be the fact that he’s risk averse. This is demonstrated both within the ring and without. When in action we never see Floyd engaging in a tear up, so his fights appeal more to the boxing purist than the casual punter. Of course this makes perfect sense to Floyd himself, why risk his 43-0 and his good looks to entertain an already captivated audience?

And outside the ring there has been criticism of his avoidance of the most dangerous men in the divisions within which he’s campaigned, typified perfectly by the long awaited but never realised match with an on form Pacquiao ( for the record I always thought that Floyd had the beating of Pacman, even at the Filipino’s best). For that reason I think that, as his career stands at this moment in time, Floyd will be remembered as the best of his generation rather than an all time great along the lines of Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Ray Leonard etc who all fought the best on offer.

However, the recent six fight deal with Showtime may either seal the deal for Floyd’s designation as an all time great or otherwise. The first fight with Guerrero is a fine starter but not one I think will upset the plan. It’s the potential matches thereafter that will be intriguing. If deals are made with Saul Alvarez, Amir Khan, possibly Pacquiao and a big showdown with Adrien Broner, Floyd has the ability to lay claim to the all time great status. Assuming he actually sees the inside of the competetive ring another six times and emerges from those type of fights with his 0 intact, he can match Rocky Marciano for an unbeaten career, retire and surely silence the doubters.

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Fran March 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Smart observations as usual Mr Waterman.

There’s a host of points in your comment, but one in particular has really started-me-a-thinkin’. I replied to the comment James made above and in it I said that I think forcing Floyd to fight on his front foot could be the way to get the victory. Couple this with great hand speed and Floyd might struggle. Does Khan fit that bill? Sounds weird doesn’t it, Amir Khan doing Floyd Mayweather? With a dash of influence from Andre Ward/Virgil Hill…I wonder.

By the way, I’m with you. Pacquiao was always going to come second to Mayweather. I think Mayweather is a great and is more likely to silence the doubters than not.

Great comment Dave, thanks for spending the time mate.

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Maurice March 7, 2013 at 2:03 am

Hi Fran,

Thank you for your insightful analysis. Your discussion of Floyd Mayweather’s skills demonstrates that you can separate his personality from the principles that make him successful. As far as Mayweather’s bling and bravado are concerned, I’m reminded of Muhammad Ali, who would put on a great show for the cameras but would slyly wink afterwards because he knew that his act was just a show. Floyd knows how to sell fight tickets, and part of his sales pitch is wrapped up in his bling and bravado.

Regarding Mayweather’s defense, I’m glad that you pointed out his very wide stance and his keen ability to move in and out. After their bouts with Mayweather, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Arturo Gatti, and others admitted that it is hard to hit “Money May.” That’s because Floyd adopts an extra wide stance, leans on his back leg, employs the lay back, and moves in and out so well. Those elbows that he points toward his opponents also help.

Like you, Fran, I was recently amused by an online boxing training forum that feebly attempted to capture the keys to Mayweather’s defense by talking only about how he goes into the pocket. As Jim Lampley has said, Mayweather’s defense is “other worldly,” but there is much more to his defense than the pocket.

Finally, I suspect that Father Time may be the opponent who hands Mayweather his first defeat. Like many of the great fighters before him, Floyd doesn’t seem to know when to call it quits. In his last fight with Miguel Cotto, Floyd seemed to take more shots than he has ever before. Maybe his reflexes are slowing down. It will be interesting to see Mayweather’s upcoming fight with Guerrero not only because of Floyd’s layoff and age, but also because Guerrero is good.

Let’s stay tuned.

Meanwhile, thanks again for a great article.

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Fran March 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Wonderful comment Maurice, thank you, it’s added a great angle to the article. I was going to say in the article that Floyd is always waving wads of cash around, bragging about how much he earns. That’s viewed as a character flaw. But, it’s very likely that it is all an act, as you say. Maybe Floyd donates millions upon millions to good causes and does not publicise it. Ali did the same. Roberto Duran too.

When all is said and done, delving into the character of boxers beyond the ring is like walking into a minefield whilst wearing clown shoes; foolhardy. Inside the ring life is so much simpler.

Thanks again Maurice, outstanding comment.

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james morgan March 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Yup good article Fran. I definitely believe Mayweather is a smart boxer. I watched a youtube video recently where a guy broke down the philly shell and Mayweather’s style. He said that the style functions to set boxers up. To catch them and only brute force or pressure opens Mayweather up. I kind of agree, look at how the pressure of Hatton really put it to Mayweather only to be KO’d later by that check hook when Hatton was wearing down. I don’t think he is unbeatable but he is a master in the ring. I think it takes someone to really study him to the extreme to beat him. He is the ultimate chess player.

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Fran March 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Thanks James.

Interesting point on Mayweather. I’m going to come clean. I’m not sure what it would take to beat Floyd. I agree with you rather than the YouTube analyst though, in that it will take a very smart strategy to beat him. Mayweather deals with brute force and pressure just fine. Watch him against Cotto and see how often he does his waist bend, constantly stopping the Cotto attack. As for Ricky, well he was competitive against Mayweather, but he was never in danger of winning. I think the least-strong part of Floyd’s game is his front foot work (i.e. attacking) is a potential downfall. But that would take a very clever back foot fighter who has a great reach. Maybe Thomas Hearns circa 1980. Time machine needed!

Cheers for the insight James, I appreciate it.

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Pete n March 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Great original article as always Fran. It doesn’t matter if you love Floyd or hate him, he could hold his own in any era – he is one of those rare “Great ” fighters.

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Fran March 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Thanks Pete. I agree. He’s one of the most complete fighters I’ve ever seen, just class.

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Michael Dunn March 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

Great article again Fran, really breaks down, you might even say Mayweather-style in terms of the analysis! Really effective for me too as I’ve only been boxing about 6 months, so my knowledge isn’t up there.

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Fran March 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Glad you like it Michael. Keep on studying the Mayweathers of this World you’ll do fine. Thanks for the comment, appreciated.

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