I was once at the home of a high roller in Las Vegas. At the time, I was complaining about some of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s antics. Out of nowhere, the gardener who was busy trimming a hedge blurted out, "I can't stand the guy. He is a complete narcissist."
I don't know Mr. Mayweather well enough to affirm the gardener's diagnosis, which has been echoed by many others, but no matter what you think of Mayweather the person, he is a Picasso inside the ropes.
On Saturday night, Mayweather boxed rings around the one pugilist who many believed possessed the punch to explode the Mayweather mystique. In the end, most boxing scribes had Canelo winning a round or maybe three -- some actually had Mayweather pitching a shutout.
In most of his recent bouts, Mayweather has danced away the first and second rounds. However, at the first bell on Saturday, he came out and stood strong in the middle of the ring. Here and there he popped jabs to Canelo's body and head. When Canelo feinted, Mayweather leapt back about four feet. To the untutored observer, it may have seemed as though Mayweather was intimidated, but he was gaining the measure of Canelo's speed and power. Once that was accomplished and he had figured out the trajectory of the Mexican's fighter's punches, he commenced applying his destructive craft.
The Grand Rapid's native prides himself on his unpredictable movement. First he is going right, then left. He is coming in, then stepping out. Now he is walking around the ring, then he digs in to engage. Sometimes, he'll walk to the right and snap a jab. In order for Canelo to win, he had to be able to cut off the ring and then move his mitts. By about the fourth round it was evident that Canelo, who sometimes looked like Frankenstein in boxing togs, could not cope with Mayweather's rhythm and movement.
During the fight, there were many times when Mayweather would let Canelo drive him to the ropes. Mouth open and looking as though he were overheating, Canelo would fire a jab, a right, and a left hook to the body. Sometimes the jab would hit its target, but Mayweather went under or caught scores of rights with his front shoulder and would catch Canelo's prized left hook to the body with his right. It was the left hook to the body that many believed would be the shot to depose the pound for pound king.
When Mayweather goes to the ropes, as he so often does, he stays narrow and keeps his right shoulder back. In boxing parlance, he doesn't t square up. That way, he can remain in his protective shell, poised to return fire with a right uppercut or straight right.
There were lively exchanges on Saturday night but whenever Mayweather caught some hard leather, he would disengage, take an Ali-type swirl around the ring, get himself together, and then go back on at the attack. Canelo could not seem to connect with more than one punch at a time against the defensive wizard.
Mayweather's modus operandi was to close the gap, stay on a bit of an angle and fire arrow-like, 1-2 combinations right down the thruway between Canelo's porous guard. Once in a while, Mayweather would whip his right hook, snapping Canelo's head around, but for the most part it was salvo after salvo of jabs and straight rights. Canelo never seemed wobbled from these shots but they certainly put a dent in his ability to mount an effective offense.
Some pay per view subscribers will moan that Mayweather is a picador but lacks the courage to take a risk and go in for the kill. Like him or not, he knows the havoc that punches can wreak behind the brows. Mayweather will not take chances just to put someone's lights out.
In the final three minutes of Canelo's coming down party, Mayweather danced around the ring, playing it safe, and barely throwing a punch. Maybe two minutes into the stanza, the crowd began to boo. Mayweather just grinned; there was no way that he was going to let some hissing from the throng knock him out of the game plan that he had stuck to all night.