Based on the fighters against which Mayweather has lost the most rounds, Castillo, Cotto, and De La Hoya, I think the blueprint has been well established at this stage.
I think there are five pre-conditions that must be met:
- The fighter must be physically stronger than Mayweather.
- The fighter must have excellent footwork and/or the ability to cut off the ring.
- The fighter must have a tight defence.
- The fighter must have excellent conditioning.
- The fighter must have an above average jab.
I don’t think the fight can be won without any of these.
Bootyuming you’ve got the above in your tool-kit, these are the guiding principles when facing Mayweather:
- Minimise the number of significant exchanges in the round. Five is a high number.
- Trade only in situations where Mayweather is cornered, and from which he cannot easily use his footwork to exit the exchange.
- Your guard in the middle of the ring must be air tight. Otherwise Mayweather will steal the round with potshots even if you’ve won most of the significant exchanges.
That’s the broad template. The key thing for the opponent is that they do not expose themselves to Mayweather’s speed and accuracy in the middle of the ring.
Their objective is to first gain Mayweather’s respect in the physical exchanges, as Cotto did in the shoulder to shoulder shoving matches early on. Let him know that he cannot push you backwards, and that if he tries he’s going to be the one that ends up in reverse. This is absolutely crucial.
The second thing you must do is make Floyd respect your jab. It does not have to do major damage, you are not going to jab your way to victory against Mayweather. You just have to show him you can score with it. The reason for this is that you want to use it to direct Floyd around the ring. You want to use it to make him go where you want him to go, which is backwards, towards a corner.
If you’ve done both the above well enough, and you’re sharp enough on your feet to stop Floyd just dancing away when he’s in a corner, you’re now into the second phase of your plan. This is where you win the fight.
As sharp as Mayweather is in the middle of the ring, like most great counter-punchers he’s even more dangerous when his back is to the ropes (Marquez-Diaz I comes to mind). The key here is not to try and unload. That will not work. Floyd’s defensive shell and shoulder rolling will in all likelihood let him escape such a barrage without a single clean shot being landed.
What’s worse, you’ll end up just punching yourself out and realising you need to create distance and reset. Once you start to relent, Floyd will use the break in your assault to throw and land uppercuts, and he will catch you with left hooks and straight rights as you start to move away.
Obviously that’s a disaster. So the crucial thing is not to let the red mist descend when you get him against the ropes. You must keep your guard extremely tight, even in this scenario. You must then either impose yourself on him physically, restricting his movement, or crouch down low, again with your guard held tight.
If you do the former (more suitable for taller fighters), you restrict his arms and his defence before landing the 2-3 significant shots of the exchange. If you do the latter (better for most people), you pick your moment to unleash a combination that goes up and down his body. If holes in his defence appear, you do it again.
But you don’t get greedy. You don’t try to land bombs. You do your work and you get the hell out of there. You do not hang around because if you do it will be Floyd who lands the eye-catching shots and not you.
The objective is to do this a few times a rounds, you’ll need at least three such exchanges to convince the judges to give you the round. Anything more is a bonus. Again the important thing is that when you’re back into open territory, your guard is tight, and you’re not trying to sharpshoot in the middle of the ring where Floyd’s speed and accuracy makes it a non-contest.
In my opinion this is the way to beat the Mayweather based on what we have seen so far in his career. Round 8 of Cotto-Mayweather (www.youtube.com/watch?v=W34nQ8z89nE#t=40m28s) captures a lot of these elements pretty well, although Cotto had established respect for his jab and physical strength earlier in the fight.
If you do watch that fight, I think it’s very much worth your while watching what happens in Rounds 9&10 as Mayweather regains control, and the contrast between those rounds and what has gone before. It serves to emphasise the importance of the factors I’ve discussed above. And it shows how easily you can fall apart against Mayweather if tiredness becomes a factor, and you start to concede to him control over where in the ring the fight takes place.