Saturday, June 4, 2011

Time Is Not On His Side

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is 34 years old and time is ticking away on what is left of his career in boxing.

He could very well be the top pound-for-pound boxer on the face of the planet, but the biological clock is ticking away on Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s opportunity to prove that notion.

It has been just over a year since the still-undefeated Mayweather skipped up the steps and slipped through the ropes of a squared circle. It was last May against Shane Mosley when we last witnessed Mayweather display his wares in a near flawless performance. In the meantime, however, there have been late night escapades in Las Vegas, brushes with the law and appearances before criminal court judges of the Clark County, Nevada justice system.

The old saying is that Father Time waits for no one, particularly an aging prizefighter who has made ring appearances only five times in as many years. With 34 birthdays behind him, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. perhaps better knows as “Money” is at the age where boxers historically begin to experience dulled reflexes, waning speed and a suppressed appetite for feasting on punches.

Unless your name is Archie Moore, George Foreman or Bernard Hopkins, the forecast for boxers at Mayweather’s current age is normally gloomy with a high probability of dark clouds. Should he continue to pursue a career in boxing, it would have to be understood that Mayweather will be in the certain twilight of what was once a spectacularly bright career.

There is no question that Mayweather has not been living the life of a prizefighter for the past half decade. While he maintains a svelte shape it is not what the old times would have called “fighting shape.” And there is a difference.

Sugar Ray Leonard defeated Marvelous Marvin Hagler on April 6, 1987 in an amazing comeback performance.

Sugar Ray Leonard, who like Mayweather went through oft-times of inactivity and short retirements was frequently reminded of what it was like to be a fighter on a part-time basis.

“I was susceptible to the punches,” Leonard once told me. “I would swell and cut whereas before I never did.”

Certainly the body becomes accustomed and conditioned to receiving punches as long as one is routinely subjecting themselves to regular sparring sessions and punishment in the gym. But to train and fight on a sporadic basis is a risky proposition.

The example of Leonard, at the end, is most illuminating and may serve as a guidebook as to what Mayweather can expect. Blessed with speed, quickness, punching power and the ability to take a punch in his prime years, once Leonard retired for the first time in November 1982 at age 26, he was never the same again.

While he returned to the ring several times over the next 15 years and picked up world titles along the way, his last true great performance came with a close win in 1987 over Marvelous Marvin Hagler for the middleweight title. At that time, however, Leonard was only 31. He never won a fight after the age of 33 and was brutally pummeled in his last two fights against Terry Norris in 1991 and Hector Camacho in an ill-thought comeback in 1997.

While many fighters have prospered into their mid-to-late thirties they are usually the exception rather than the rule. Many have and do win bouts, but they will struggle at the world class level. It is one thing to beat a ham-and-egger in a remote casino town in the hinterlands, but quite another to compete against a world class opponent on a pay-per-view event in Las Vegas.

In 1994, George Foreman became the oldest man in history to win the heavyweight championship when he knocked out Michael Moorer in Las Vegas.

While George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins are celebrated for winning world titles at 45 and 46 respectively, Foreman did so because he had massive one shot punching power and he rehabilitated himself during a long comeback. He also changed his fighting style from frenetic to patient. Hopkins has relied on his ability to maintain remarkable physical condition as well as relying on questionable in the ring tactics and guile as well as facing green opposition.

Should he continue, Mayweather will have neither the luxury of a slow, gradual comeback nor will he have the chance to experiment with an alteration to his fighting style against lesser foes. Mayweather will likely be thrust back into the spotlight with an immediate and dangerous superfight versus Manny Pacquiao.

By the time that happens, Mayweather will be 35-years-old and he will be closer to 40 than he will 30. Inactivity will have blunted his timing and stilted his movement. He very well may have spent more time in courtrooms before a judge than in a ring before a referee. He will likely have spent more time analyzing his NBA betting picks than he will have spent performing morning roadwork.

Furthermore, there is the issue of heredity. It is well-known that Floyd emanates from a fighting family of Mayweathers. His father, Floyd. Sr., his uncle and current trainer Roger, and uncle Jeff all were practitioners of the sweet science.

All three were world-class fighters, but only Roger won world titles. While each seemed to possess different skill sets they were all thought of as savvy, schooled, accomplished, respected professionals.

Although Floyd, Jr. is a different animal and infinitely more talented than his father and two uncles, it is nonetheless interesting to examine the career arcs of the rest of the family.

Floyd Mayweather, Sr. (left) Mayweather, Jr. and Roger Mayweather hamming it up at a press conference.

And if the old saying is true that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, then Floyd Mayweather, Jr. may have cause for concern should he make an attempt to continue his pugilistic endeavors into his advancing years.

Uncle Roger, the most successful of the three brothers, held his last world title at age 28 when he lost it to the great Julio Cesar Chavez in 1989. While the “Black Mamba” fought on for another decade he lost seven times and struggled against sub par opponents.

Floyd Mayweather, Sr. never managed to procure so much as a world title shot and his claim to fame was a technical knockout loss at the hands of the aforementioned Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. Mayweather, Sr. won for the last time at age 31.

Jeff, the least accomplished of the trio of boxing Mayweather brothers, won only three fights after age 30 and was retired completely before age 32.

June 2011

1 comment:


OT: See Manny Pacquiao doing his intensive training and other interesting Pacquiao videos at the official Manny Pacquiao Youtube channel. It's super cool!