There is no more polarizing a boxer than Floyd Mayweather Jr; an absolute master of the sweet science, yet typically a very ‘non-fan friendly’ fighter. He doesn’t have great power, nor is he a ‘punches in bunches’ type. What Mayweather has done is absolutely perfect the science of movement. At its absolute bare bones, boxing is a sport of movement. Yes it is about punching and landing, but first and foremost it is exceptional movement that will create champions. Mayweather is often lauded for his defensive movements, I’d like to praise him for his offensive movements.
One of the first and most important things you will learn when you step into the ring is distance. It is your bread and butter; your safe haven and your brutal assault. Floyd is the GOAT of distance and I honestly don’t think this can be disputed. If you could reduce Floyd to a single thing he does that makes him great, IMO, it is his distance awareness. Distance allows you to manipulate every single movement you opponent makes. Step away, opponents open up; Move in, opponents square up. It is a very lineal equation in boxing, yet so few people bend it to work to their advantage like Floyd.
This is staple Money May, something he copied from Ali, and a strong reason Mayweather hate irritates me so much.
Look at how Mayweather (and Ali) forces his opponent to throw an extended jab only to jump in and feed a counter before they can follow it with another punch. If this setup is off even an inch, you end up on your ass half the time after eating a punch to the mouth
Now yes, every boxer has successfully done this, myself included and it feels like magic when you get it right, BUT Floyd can do this at will for 12 rounds. I’ll say it again; distancing a jab is not hard to do. It is damn near impossible to master though. I’d expect any fighter (as I said) to be able to execute this once or twice in a fight, but Floyd can see the distance of damn near any punch coming. He adapts, he learns and he does it on every punch in the arsenal.
Floyd also does a nifty thing with his body here (something Roy Jones also excelled at) as he keeps his torso just about even with his lead foot in these setups. In the ring, an opponent is largely unaware of where your feet are, only aware of where your upper portions are. By having your body out like this, you’ve given your opponent a false sense of distance and a super juicy target to toss leather at. What you have given yourself though is the ability to learn several feet back away from a punch without moving your feet. When the distance is perfect (as seen in the gifs) this allows you to also return with a punch of your own. Again, most fighters have stumbled across this, but Floyd can summon this whenever. Once Floyd uses this to get in, he then uses the EXACT move to get back out.
Distance is essential to both his defense and his offense. By utilizing distance and movement Mayweather is able to effectively disguise his punches, one of which he seems particularly fond of disguising is his body jab.
Notice here the initial movement is almost the exact same and this is looking at it after the fact. Imagine being in the ring, fighting on instinct, on training and on recognition as you try to hone in on your opponents game plan. Marquez sees this punch coming “well here comes that body jab again, I’ll step out and bring my elbow down jussssssst a bi… OH FUCK!!!!!!!”
It is absolutely remarkable that Mayweather sees this movement in the first exchange, and even more unbelievable that he can sell it the second time. Keep in mind, this is not feinting. Well, I mean it could be considered a feint, but in my mind it’s fundamentally a bit different. Think of what Mayweather does as A Pavlov/Schrödinger hybrid. The punch is both a body jab and hook until we see how the fighter reacts. By effectively selling the punch and having the ability to take it either way, you are guaranteed a clean blow based on which punch the opponent goes to jab. When all of this fails, we go into the oh so hated Mayweather “Hugging”.
Love it or hate it Mayweather is a beast at clinching. What most do not realize is the extent he still uses movement in and out of the clinch as an offensive advantage.
He doesn’t clinch here, but it is a Mayweather move. Straight right and duck under the left hook you know will follow it. He can’t even see the punch coming (and it doesn’t) but he is under it ready to get the right hand out and clinch.
Here we can see the exact same punch, the exact same movement and into the clench. But how he comes out of it is really special. He rings a cross right to the face of Hatton.
But wait…? How can he throw a cross from the inside you say? With the same movement he uses to dodge out of a jab, he can use to cook up a cross inside. We’ve come full circle! The same move he uses to avoid punches, he uses to land punches here.
Mayweather also has a glorious pull-push/left-right coordination he uses with the movement to make it truly shine. As his opponent ducks in, Mayweather gets his forearm all up in their grill and pushes away as he cocks his hips to get some sauce on the right. Sounds easy though? Yeah it sounds easy sure, but it’s super difficult to push with your left while leaning back mid turning your hips and shoulders to throw a right with any sort-of meat on it. Hell give it a try now, it’s hard to do even when I’m dedicating full brain power to it.
He doesn’t always connect with it, but he always throws it. Fighting out of a clinch is something very very few fighters do effectively.
In summary, the movements and distance are not super varied, but they work superbly for both offense and defense when used in such a flawless manner as Floyd. It is not necessarily the variety of tools in Floyd’s bag, but the variety of ways he can use the few tools he does have effectively.