Boxing: Floyd still lacks a killer instinct

Sep 29, 2009 5:09 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

There’s nothing to look forward to next weekend for fight bettors, which gives us an opportunity to check the rear-view mirror and perhaps learn from history.

Still, I’ll probably make the same mistakes.

You can’t win ’em all, as I prove almost weekly.

Take Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Please.

I thought for sure he would return after 21 months and stop Juan Manuel Marquez – the only sensible bet to make when you have a huge favorite with bad hands. Marquez had been cut in his last few fights and at 36 his skin did not figure to grow tougher. In fact, by the fourth round he had a dangerously placed cut over his right eye. His nose was bleeding. He was taking so many punches from the more artistic – and bigger, stronger, faster and, of course, better – fighter that after only six rounds Referee Tony Weeks went to the Mexican’s corner to see if Marquez wanted to continue.

Marquez, of course, would never quit trying, even though it was hopeless against the once-again pound-for-pound king of boxing. For the first few rounds, it appeared Mayweather could win with one hand tied behind his back. He threw his right hand so seldom it began to conjure up questions as to its health. Later on, though, he was able to land it over and over, though it was a left hook that scored the bout’s only knockdown in the second round.

Mayweather’s magnificent defense limited Marquez to 69 punches landed, according to CompuBox stats. And it never seemed possible that Marquez could seriously hurt his opponent. Mayweather had everything going his way.

But the once and present king, while he may be No. 1 again on my list, proved he is lacking in one key element. As Freddie Roach, trainer of Manny Pacquiao, said "he didn’t have the balls to finish him off."

"He’s a great boxer," said Roach. "I can’t take that away from him. But he’s not exciting."

This may explain why in the Yahoo.com poll, more than 14,000 fans voted almost three to one that Pacquiao was still No. 1. Among the 28 Yahoo expert panelists, which modestly includes me, Mayweather outscored Pacquiao 266 points to 265, gaining 15 first-place votes to the Filipino’s 13.

Mayweather could have made a giant statement by returning to stop the gritty Mexican for the first time – something his successor at No. 1, Pacquaio, failed to do twice, even when once knocking him down three times in the opening round.

The PacMan remains the most exciting fighter in the game. Mayweather, I suggested to one of his camp, was so timid he might as well be Wladimir Klitschko’s little brother.

That’s when John Hornewer, lawyer for the Klitschkos as well as for Mayweather, gave a reasonable excuse for Pretty Boy’s not-so-Pretty performance. He said Mayweather, after his long layoff, was worried about his stamina, that he didn’t want to go for the knockout, not get it and later have to suck for air.

So what?

Another place where Mayweather proved me wrong was that the lack of affection from many boxing mavens does not diminish his gate appeal.

Maybe there are a lot of detractors who resent his oft-obnoxious behavior. But, as HBO sports czar Ross Greenburg pointed out when the pay-per-view numbers were announced, Mayweather was like the 1960’s Muhammad Ali, where maybe more people paid to see his mouth shut than to root for him.

Like most "experts," I thought the pay-per-view numbers for what the odds suggested was a mismatch would be lucky to reach 600,000. Wow. He really should be nicknamed "Money." Mayweather drew an astonishing million buys – and that’s not counting many closed-circuit theater sales. He is the first non-heavyweight and non-Oscar boxer to reach that figure. If he faces Pacquiao – who it should be noted, first has the daunting task of getting by Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14 – the record of 2.44 million Mayweather set against Oscar de la Hoya would be in great danger.

The same night I was wrong about Mayweather, I erred on Rocky Juarez, whom I thought had a great chance to upset Chris John in a featherweight title bout. He did have a chance, but he didn’t do it though John, a 3-1 or so favorite, simply ran out of gas after ten rounds of little stress. Juarez had John, who won at least 10 of the first 11 rounds, out on his feet at the end of the bout. Juarez is now 0-5-1 in title bouts and if he ever gets another shot, I doubt if I’ll waste any more money. Wisdom often comes too late.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Michael Katz