Could be much N’dou
for Mayweather

Oct 28, 2003 2:14 AM

The big sign outside the Palace Station casino advertised ribs at $7.95 a pound, adding "See Cafe for Details." It stopped me for a moment. What details? The genealogy of the pig?

Usually, the details come with the fine print. There was no fine print on the inside in the sports book. F. Mayweather was minus $5. P. N’dou was plus $3.50. They fight Nov. 1 in Grand Rapids, hometown of the Mayweather clan, for Little Floyd’s lightweight title. The detail of which alphabet title that was did not interest me, any more than did the details about barbecued pig.

The details that will determine whether Mayweather is a good bet against a guy who’s lost only once in 32 pro fights, with 30 of his 31 victories by knockout, were not going to be found very easily. Sometimes, they can be found in the sports book when a betting line is way out of whack, indicating that "somebody" knows "something."

This one seemed right. Art Manteris, the veteran and capable Station linemaker, had listed Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a 9-2 choice. So there didn’t seem to be any great feeling for N’dou, despite the fact that the boxing Internet sites were all gushing over the tall South African’s chances. Most Internet fans, obviously, are fans ”” not bettors. So the major detail of whether Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a good bet or not was being kept under wraps.

Literally.

He’s been getting his hands wrapped differently, and presumably better, in recent fights. But those brittle paws are the reason he has not scored any knockouts since moving up to 135 pounds from 130. He says this is his last fight at 135, then comes 140 and he still talks mostly of fighting Oscar de la Hoya at 154.

If his hands were perfect, Little Floyd would have a shot against Oscar, or Sugar Shane Mosley, and I’d pay money to see how long he could dodge Ricardo Mayorga.

And more than any other elite boxer around today, Little Floyd takes on the best. There are no "interim" fights, gimmes, for him. He moves from one tough opponent to the next. When he was 21, his Top Rank promoters thought he and his father ”” since estranged ”” were nuts in wanting to go after Genaro Hernandez, one of the better champions at the time. It was no contest.

He then jumped at a shot against the highly regarded Angel Manfredy. No contest. He destroyed Diego Corrales. No contest.

When he moved up to 135, he chose the toughest champion of the lot, Jose Luis Castillo. Contest. Some people thought he lost. Little Floyd said, okay, I’ll give him an immediate rematch. He left no doubt who was better the second time around.

He should be bigger than he is on boxing’s increasingly shrinking stage. Sometimes his mouth and his attitude turn people off. But for pure boxing skills, Little Floyd should be boxing’s equivalent to Pacino, deNiro, Washington (Denzel, of course).

If his hands were perfect, Little Floyd might be just a tad beneath Roy Jones Jr. as the best in boxing.

He has been fighting in pain for years. It takes away so much from his offense, but defensively he is as brilliant a fighter as there has been since Pernell Whitaker and Willie Pep. His upper torso seems to swivel on his hips as he twists away from punches that start only inches away. His hands may not be able to pack power, but they are probably pound-for-pound the fastest in the game.

Yet I cannot recommend betting him against a fighter who is stepping up in weight and class. N’dou can punch and he has a decent jab. If Little Floyd’s hands go, and they seem to in many fights, he could be in trouble in his hometown. I hope not. I hope they are good enough for him to move up to 140 and face the winner of the Kostya Tszyu-Sharmba Mitchell rematch, then Mayorga and finally Oscar.

And that’s no hand job.

In the semifinal, there’s a partial unification of the featherweight title between two belt-holders, Juan Manuel Marquez and Derrick (Smoke) Gainer, a Roy Jones protege. No line was listed at the Station, but when the fight was set earlier this year, before Gainer pulled out with an injury, Marquez was minus $3.30 and Smoke plus $2.50.

Marquez has oodles of talent and the fastest hands Mexico has produced since Miguel Cotto, a flyweight icon. But he had trouble with another tall southpaw who could move, Freddie Norwood, and virtually gave up. Gainer can move and he punches a lot harder than Norwood. That makes him worth a tiny play, but remember, unlike Norwood, his chin isn’t very stern. Even up, got to love Marquez.