Mayweather vs Canelo Judo Chop: The Incomparable Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Ethan Miller

Connor and Fraser are back with Part 2 of this breakdown of Saturday's main event. This time it's a breakdown of Floyd Mayweather, whose unique skillset has made him the greatest boxer in the sport today.

This Saturday September 14, Bloody Elbow presents live fight coverage of Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarezlive on PPV. Showtime Boxing's The One: Mayweather vs. Canelo PPV airs this Saturday, September 14 on PPV live at 9:00 p.m. ET, 6:00 p.m. PT. Bloody Elbow will have fight coverage, including results and discussion.

As promised, here's part 2 in our special 2 part Judo Chop, as Connor and Fraser try to answer this weekend's big question - can Canelo beat Mayweather? We already took a look at Canelo's side in part 1 (if you missed that, check it out here), now it's time to break down the technical mastery of Floyd Mayweather.

Defense

Connor: No one should be surprised when I say that Floyd Mayweather has incredible defense. His awareness of his opponent combined with his comfort in any conceivable boxing situation makes him a nightmare to attack. But best of all is his use of his defense. In our Canelo Alvarez breakdown earlier, I mentioned that, while Alvarez has excellent defense, he fails to utilize many of the openings created by that defense.

Floyd Mayweather does not share this problem.

Floyd is well known for his use of the crab style of guard and his family’s special Detroit adaptation of the Philly Shell. Floyd uses this stance, which in itself isn’t unique in boxing, to perform a defensive maneuver that very few in high-level boxing practice anymore: the shoulder roll.

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Here he is, putting on a shoulder roll master class against Miguel Cotto. Contrast this with the GIFs of defense in our Canelo Judo Chop, and you’ll see why Floyd is on another level. Not one of Cotto’s many punches lands cleanly, despite the fact that Floyd is trapped in the corner. He uses his lead shoulder, combined with a backward lean, to turn into the opponent and stop attacks from the right side. His own right hand does double duty, blocking hooks and picking off jabs while also shooting out right hooks and uppercuts to catch Cotto on the offensive. When a little bit of space opens up, Floyd unleashes a combination of right hands and left uppercuts before pulling back into his shell and deflecting yet another series of punches.

One detail that sets Floyd apart from many others is that, even when he rolls low under hooks, his eyes never leave his opponent. Watch any sequence of Floyd manically defending punches and see for yourself. He is constantly aware, and his training has granted him the ability to react correctly without thinking for twelve straight rounds.

Floyd’s defense is near impregnable and, more importantly, he uses it to create opportunities for offense. This is why he is unmatched as a counter fighter, and why it’s suicide to try to brawl against him. The more frantically you attack, the easier he cuts you down.

Hook/Uppercut

Fraser: It's appropriate that we led this Mayweather breakdown with a discussion of his defense - that's his most pronounced skill and the area that most definitively sets him apart from every other boxer on the planet today (and from the vast majority of boxers who have ever laced up the gloves). But if all you focus on for Mayweather is his defense, you miss out on an easily overlooked fact - Floyd Mayweather is a very skilled offensive fighter.

Often, Floyd's offense is rooted in his defense as he uses his evasion to set up counter punches. But he has plenty of other weapons too; one of his best if the left hook/uppercut. Here's a great example of Floyd landing the punch cleanly on Robert Guerrero:

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As I mentioned often happens, Floyd sets up his offense here with his defense. As Guerrero moves in to swing, Floyd steps out of the way, also using his hands to deceptively push Guerrero's head down a bit. Guerrero is in an odd position at this point, and many fighters would simply step away. Mayweather is not many fighters. Even with Guerrero's head low and at an off angle, Mayweather sees that his head is exposed on the right side and throws the left hook, perfectly sneaking through the arms to land solidly on the chin. Two little details make this punch more effective. First, watch Mayweather's feet. As he evades, he steps back. But when he then prepares to punch, he plants that back foot, takes a small step in to get his momentum moving forward again, and throws. That's a small detail, but it adds a lot to the punch. Also note how he does not bring the punch back far, instead throwing it short and tight. That's necessary since Guerrero is so close and the opening is so small - had Mayweather thrown from farther back he may have gained a bit more power, but would likely not have landed. He makes up for that with great follow through, torquing all the way through the shot.

Then, just because he never misses a beat, after the punch he rotates off to the side just in case Guerrero might try to throw a counter in response. Not bad.

Even when he doesn't land the shot as clean as we saw there, this is still an effective weapon. Check out this sequence against Miguel Cotto:

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This is notable as it is pure offense from Floyd, with no defensive set-up. It's just a straight attacking combo, and that left hand plays a big part in it. It's also notable because the shots don't land well as Cotto catches them on the arms. But the only way Cotto can protect himself is to go completely into a shell and turtle up. No, it doesn't allow Floyd to hurt Cotto, but it also completely shuts down any possible Cotto offense. If Floyd throws similar shots against Canelo, he can keep the heavier punches from getting off any shots of his own, much as we saw in the Canelo vs. Trout fight.

Connor: Floyd's hook is so effective because of the way that he throws it. Whereas Floyd has recently become more renowned for his lighting fast lead right, which he throws with a focus on speed rather than power, his left hook is undeniably one of his most "hurting" punches. The key is that, even while moving forward, Floyd throws his hook by pulling backward.

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Against Juan Manuel Marquez (boxing's other great counter puncher), Floyd leaps in with a hook. But notice that, before the punch is thrown, his weight plants hard on his lead foot. As he twists into the punch, his weight is moving backward, the natural motion actually interrupted by Marquez' chin. Without Marquez' face in the way of the punch, Floyd would have landed with his weight toward his back foot, at an angle to Marquez.

It isn't a perfect punch: once again Floyd sacrifices some things for the sake of speed, such as the fact that his head remains in range even while he pulls back on the punch, or that he ends up leaning past his own feet a bit. But the core elements are there, and Floyd's understanding of when to punch is so sound that he is very difficult to punish.

More Mayweather vs. Canelo Coverage

Jab

Fraser: One more piece of offense to discuss here is Mayweather's superb use of the jab. Floyd uses the jab effectively for its typical purpose - to establish range and keep your opponent on the outside. Watch him constantly push Cotto back with the jab in this sequence, never allowing his opponent to get inside (a tactic Cotto had been using with some success earlier in the fight):

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What I love about Mayweather's jab here is the way he mixes it up and also uses it to set up more offense. He switches back and forth between a jab to the body and a jab to the head, throwing both with great efficiency. It's a bit hard to see from this angle, but watch Cotto's left hand in this sequence. For the first two jabs to the body, he keeps that hand tight to the head, resulting in Floyd landing more cleanly to the body. For the 3rd, Cotto tries to protect his body, dropping his left hand. Which is of course exactly what Mayweather was waiting for, as he immediately follows the jab with a hard right cross to the now exposed head. (For his part, Cotto does a great job using his right glove to maintain some defense on his head.) Here then, you have the simple jab serving three distinct functions: 1) creating distance and forcing Cotto outside, 2) damaging the body, and 3) opening up the head for a more damaging blow.

Connor: Floyd used to win entire fights with his jab and little else. I bring this up to point out that, at the age of 36, Floyd Mayweather is still evolving as a fighter, which is staggering and, if you're a boxer fighting somewhere around welterweight, more than a little scary. Even though he has one of the best jabs in the business, Floyd now spends his days throwing lead right hands that nobody seems able to avoid. Even though he started as more or less a fighter following in his father's footsteps stylistically, he now utilizes a much wider range of defensive techniques than Floyd Sr. ever did.

Distance

Connor: When it comes to combat sports, I’m definitely more on the "hardcore fan" side of the spectrum. In fact, you could say that I’m a nerd. So when other people talk about Floyd’s lead right hand, or his in-ring antics, I’m focused on subtle things like his distance control. Right off the bat, "distance control" sounds like a boring topic, but allow me to try to convert you, because Floyd’s ability to manipulate the distance between himself and his opponent is, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

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First let’s look at Floyd’s clinch. In this sequence, note how much emphasis he places on maintaining inside position with his right arm. Miguel Cotto fishes for an underhook, but Floyd secures an inside tie on Cotto’s biceps, and tucks his own elbow tight against his ribs to keep Cotto from simply clinching him and bullrushing him into the ropes.

Floyd uses his right hand to frame against Cotto’s chest and make space. But he senses a weakness in Cotto’s posture and switches to a high-elbow frame, from which he can drive down on Cotto’s neck with his forearm (to really see this tactic in action, watch Mayweather vs. Hatton). Cotto proves a little too strong for him, though, and he shoves Mayweather back into the ropes. It is to no avail, however, as Floyd simply misdirects Cotto with a touch on the arm and a few quick hops of the feet, putting himself back in the center of the ring.

But wait! There’s more.

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Another example from the Cotto fight. Floyd’s defense is of course very impressive here, but let’s focus on the small things he does to keep Cotto where he wants him. At first Floyd slips a jab and immediately looks to tie up with Cotto. He considers an underhook at first, and then briefly switches to a headlock before deciding to box some more.

Cotto pops his head up and Floyd uses his left arm, elbow high, to frame against his collarbone, subtly shoving Cotto off of him. As Cotto begins to swing, Floyd instantly creates yet more distance for himself by leaning back into the ropes, combining his signature shoulder roll with a traditional roll, ducking under a left hook from Cotto.

As he comes back up he once again uses his left forearm and elbow to shove Cotto back, landing a right hook the moment the opening presents itself. Cotto tries to smother Floyd to keep from being punched further, and Floyd responds with a little wrestling and some slick footwork, turning Cotto by shoving the Mexican boxer’s own framing left arm past and "taking his back" so to speak, landing a nice right hand behind Cotto’s ear followed by a left uppercut.

Finally, he uses his right hand less as a punch and more as a means to push Cotto completely away into full-on boxing range, where Floyd allows Cotto to walk himself into the corner and proceeds to teach him what you’re supposed to do to a cornered fighter.

As these examples show, it is Floyd's adaptability that is his greatest weapon. His ability to change and adjust midfight, as well as between fights, is simply incomparable. There is a distinct possibility that we will see a noticeably different Floyd Mayweather in Saturday's fight, but it won't be the changes experienced by most 36 year-old fighters. Floyd Mayweather just seems to keep getting better and better.

Join us here at Bloody Elbow Saturday night for Mayweather vs. Canelo live fight night coverage.

For more analysis of Canelo vs. Mayweather and Matthysse vs. Garcia, be sure to check out Connor Ruebusch's new podcast Heavy Hands. This week's episode features an interview with Luis Monda, a student of boxing great Mike McCallum, manager of Johnny Tocco's Ringside Gym in Las Vegas, and boxing trainer.


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