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As pointed out in part one, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has had plenty of experience fighting southpaws. And there are several ‘bases of operation’ that he uses in his fights to produce offense and defend himself against these opponents. Part two, below, will take a closer look at the specific offense and defense ‘Money’ employs from the various stances and positions outlined in part one.
Technical Analysis Part 4: Initiation of Single Attacks
Single shot attacks are essential for Floyd. They help him set-up a consistent attack-and-escape strategy, while controlling both the ring and the pace of the fight.
He will often go for shots to the body, walk away, come back, shoot the same shot to the body, move to the left, move to the right and make opponents look at him eye to eye. He will then look at the body, then back to the eyes. This makes opponents think Floyd will attack the body again. Then he will feint as if he is actually going to the body and finally go up for a punch to the head.
According to trainer Virgil Hunter Floyd will also often "con" opponents. When he hits an opponent with several shots, sometimes he gets in an offensive posture, as if he is loading up to attack. He stays there feinting attacks while in the meantime he’s resting and breathing. His opponents, on the other hand, get no rest. They are trying to figure out what is coming. This makes feints an especially important part of his game.
Floyd makes opponents think and keeps them guessing, disrupting their game-plan. He often uses single shots to break their rhythm, and boxes them from a distance as they are trying to set themselves to attack. He does so again and again, picking different shots. When they get too close Floyd ties them up and neutralizes their game.
Notice in some of his signature moves below, that when launching single attacks he goes for the escape route at the same second his punch lands or gets countered, not waiting to see his opponent’s reactions. In reality these are not single moves, they are two-move combos; the second move being a preemptive slip, a roll-under, or a back step.
From a low crouching stance Floyd often attacks with a jab and pulls back immediately to stay out of danger as his opponent attacks with a jab of their own. Floyd’s speed allows him to do this consistently.
Jabs to the Body
Floyd will often go for a low crouching stance, the same stance he uses to attack with a lead right hand or a jab. He will look at his opponent’s head then go for a jab to the body. Floyd is a relentless body puncher, mostly attacking with straight punches.
Mayweather often establishes a looping, circular rhythm with his left hand, as in the sequence above. He does so to hide an exploding left hook. If this is a single shot punch, he will then pull back to safety, back and at an angle.
A ‘check hook’ is a hook combined with a pivot against a pressuring opponent and is a good way to ‘catch’ southpaws. As the opponent lunges in, the boxer will throw the hook and pivot on his lead foot, swinging left with his right foot to cut the corner. You can see an example in the sequence above.
Floyd uses check hooks, in a variety of ways. One way is to attack with a left hook as his opponent tries to close the distance, while pivoting to his left. This is a good way for him to get out of corners. Learn more about check hooks and pivots here.
Lead Right Hands
Lead right hands are Floyd’s “bread-and-butter” move against southpaws. Opponents find it difficult to defend against lead rights, as he launches them from the same stance he uses to attack with jabs and in a similar manner. Again, he simultaneously goes for an escape route. He usually does so by shooting for a roll-under under his opponent’s left hand.
In the sequence below, Floyd goes for a lead right, which Manny Pacquiao slips. Floyd uses the extended hand to grab Manny’s neck and his right hand to control the body and drag himself towards Manny’s blind side for safety.
Below is another common tactic. You can see Floyd attacking with a lead right and immediately ducking under Robert Guerrero’s left hand and pivoting right.
Lead Right Hooks
As seen above, against southpaws, Floyd likes attacking with a slapping right hook, using it the same way he does with a lead right hand. This helps confuse opponents, as they don’t know which one is coming their way. Notice his right foot (in photo 3) is in mid-air, as if he’s attacking with a superman punch. This is because Floyd pivots to his right and ducks under to avoid left hands attacks at the same time.
In the gif below you can see Floyd attacking with a lead right hook/uppercut hybrid, with a pull back to avoid a left hook.
Lead Right Hands to the Body
Lead right hands to the body are common Mayweather attacks against southpaws. Pictured below, Floyd pivots after the punch and explodes forward to duck under a left hand.
Here is another, similar exchange, this time against Robert Guerrero:
As noted in part 1 of this breakdown, the good thing with southpaws is that their liver is located on the front side of their stance. This is how Floyd was able to hurt Sharmba Mitchell, by landing a lead right hand to the liver. Notice that Floyd’s front foot is located on the outside of Mitchell’s front foot. Placing his foot on the outside is a good way for an orthodox boxer to land right hands against southpaws.
Technical Analysis Part 5: Simple Combination Attacks
By landing a series of single shots, Floyd gets to figure an opponent out. He is then able to predict his opponent’s rhythm and any subtle moves they make before initiating attacks. This is where Floyd often turns up the heat, by adding combinations. This section will examine his most common ones. Like his single strikes, in all these combinations there is a final defensive move – a clinch tie-up or a roll under.
Also keep in mind that, often, Floyd’s first move is a feint. Something he uses to draw his opponent’s attention and open up their defense.
The jab-cross is a common boxing combination. The problem with finishing combos with a right cross against a southpaw is that the orthodox fighter opens himself up for left hand counters. To counter this, in the sequence above Floyd preemptively pivots to the right and rolls under a left hook.
Jab to Right Hook
Same combo as the previous one. This time he attacks with a double jab and a slapping right hook. As in the gif above, Floyd often uses the double jab or double left hooks and feints to make his power punches unpredictable.
Jab to Right Uppercut
When Floyd attacks with a jab-right cross combo and notices that his opponent ducks or rolls under, he will often mix things up by attacking again this time with a jab, right uppercut, left hook. As you can see in the gif above Mayweather often uses a left hook that misses to push his opponent’s head down. This keeps him safe from counter-attacks like a right hook in the case of a southpaw.
Lead Right Hook to Left Hook
This is a nice sequence against a fighter who has significantly slowed down and is trying to catch a breath. Again, the right hook is used in a slap-like fashion. Here is the gif:
Left Uppercut to Right Cross or Left Hook
Floyd loves mixing things up to make his attacks more versatile. He often combines lead left uppercuts with double left hooks and/or right hands. The left uppercut will force Floyd’s opponents to lift their chin up and make the right cross or the left hook easier to land. In both sequences above and below Zab Judah used excellent head movement to escape.
Jab to Right Cross to the Body
This is a great attack against as southpaw. The jab can be a feint, just touching the guard, and can also be used to block an opponent’s vision. Good potential targets are the liver and the solar plexus. As a coach, I’ve seen several fighters drop due to a right cross to the solar plexus. Karate practitioners are great at this. Again notice Floyd’s ducking-under-and-pivot escape.
Jabs to Hooks
Floyd often will mix jabs, left hooks and even left uppercuts to go after opponents – as in the sequence above, against Victor Ortiz – and keep them on the defensive. Boxing is all about head movement and footwork, so attacks need to be versatile and use unpredictable patterns in order to land.
Technical Analysis Part 6: Neutralizing Attacks
One of Floyd’s former opponents, Robert Guerrero noted in a recent interview: “People don't understand, it is not just his speed, it is his reaction time. You blink your eye and he is already reacting.”
Floyd is, without a doubt, the best defensive boxer of all time. He rarely gets hit clean, and even if he gets hit, Floyd is a good ‘liar.’ This is a boxing term used to describe a boxer who can hide his exhaustion, his injuries and the results of strikes that landed on him.
Here are only some of the defensive tactics he employs in order to stay out of trouble. As analyzed in part one, his ‘Philly shell’ stance is essential to these tactics .
Clinching is the easiest way to get out of trouble. In boxing, fighting in the pocket is a coin toss and the easiest way to get knocked out. In chaotic exchanges, or with his back against the ropes, Floyd will often launch an attack just to close the distance and clinch. This will force the referee to step in and reset the fight. In the sequence above, Mayweather attacks with a jab-right cross to get the clinch, and tie Manny Pacquiao up.
Slipping and Ducking Under Left Hands
One way for a boxer to escape with his back against the ropes is to slip or roll under a left hook and pivot to the left. This also provides the opportunity to counterattack with a jab or a left hook, as the opponent will be temporarily off balance.
Against a southpaw, Floyd also uses this method to escape from straight right hands:
Pivots and Check Hooks/Neck Ties
The left pivot is available for boxers when they parry a jab, as in the sequence above. You can see Manny attacks with a jab, Floyd uses his left hand to parry the jab, and pivot to his left. Here is the gif:
Another way to escape from a jab or left hook with a left pivot is to go for a check hook. If the hook misses, a boxer can grab the back of his opponent’s neck, controlling their posture in a wrestling neck-tie fashion while they continue with the pivot:
The elbow shield is a great way for Floyd to avoid the clinch and land uppercuts and body shots or push the head down. Here are some examples of him doing so in the ring:
Sometimes, the elbow shield – combined with an overhook – is a great way to counter a slip or roll-under:
Note that it’s common for Floyd’s opponents to complain about the elbow shield and they often call it’s use a dirty move.
Roll/Shoot Under Right Hand Attacks
In most sequences above, Floyd uses a right pivot to shoot under his opponents left hand. He shoots so low, almost like a wrestler, that opponents either miss or land on his hands, shoulders, or the top of his head. Mayweather uses this to neutralize the main weapon of southpaw opponents, their left cross. This forces them to stick to jabs and right hooks. However, it is easy for an orthodox fighter to circle to his left and slip or roll under these attacks.
As pictured in the sequence below, when Floyd cannot fully escape with this tactic, he always has the option to go for the clinch:
Here is this escape applied against a double left hand:
Technical Analysis Part 7: Counter-Attacking
No Pull Counters Against a Southpaw Left Cross
Pictured in the sequence below is one of Floyd’s most famous moves against orthodox fighters, the ‘pull counter.’ This consists of a boxer pulling back to make his opponent’s jab miss, and then hitting them back with a right cross. Here is Floyd in action:
This is a move similar to Conor McGregor’s left hand counter against lead right hands. However, against southpaws, Floyd rarely goes for a right cross after pulling back to defend from his opponent’s left cross. As mentioned before, he prefers to neutralize left hands by shooting forward and ducking under, or by just slipping right and stepping back to safety.
Pull to Left Hook
One way to deal with jabs is to pull back and attack with a left hook. Notice in the gif below, that after Floyd attacks with the left hook, he steps back and simultaneously puts his head down to escape a possible counter right hook.
Pull to Counter Jab
A pull-to-jab counter is a common move for Floyd when fighting southpaws. He steps back to safety, immediately after counter-punching with his jab. This is similar to a fencing move, and a boxer needs to have speed and experience to time this correctly.
Jab vs Punches to the Body
Floyd counters straight punches to the body by stepping back to make the punch miss and then attacking with a jab. Another option, as analyzed in part 1, is for Mayweather to push his opponent’s head back with his left hand and attack with a right cross.
Pull to Right Cross Against a Right Jab From the Philly Shell Stance
Although Floyd rarely uses the right cross to counter a southpaw’s left cross, he loves to use this punch to counter a right jab. Examined here are a few applications of this counter.
In the sequence below, against Victor Ortiz, Floyd uses an elbow check from the Philly shell to connect with Victor’s jab. As Ortiz attacks for a second jab, Floyd hits him with a right cross. He does not really pull back for this as the elbow check was enough to control the jab.
Below is a simpler version of this counter. Against southpaws, Floyd does not really use a shoulder roll, he mostly pulls back. As you can see below Floyd pulls back, making the jab miss, and counters with a right cross.
The problem with this counter is sometimes the opponent will go for a left cross at the same time Floyd launches his right cross. In cases like this, when these same side hands occupy the same space, Floyd is ready to pivot right, slip or shoot under the left hand. See photos and gif below:
Of course, when using this counter, Floyd often pivots right and pulls back anyway, to avoid potential left hands coming his way:
According to Floyd, he learned to apply the shoulder roll by using it against sparring partners who were not very good boxers. This made it easier to train certain aspects of his game, performing the shoulder roll hundreds of times against mediocre boxers in order to learn it.
When a boxer’s punch touches Floyd's shoulde, it helps him get in his rhythm. According to Virgil Hunter, Floyd uses the left shoulder to get his connection with punches. You can see it in his mittwork sessions with his uncle Roger, many combos start when Roger touches him on the shoulder with the mitt.
Technical Analysis Part 8: Champions Make Adjustments
Floyd’s main strength is his strategy and his ability to observe and examine his opponents. If they are faster than him, he beats them with timing, tactics, counter-punching and body-punching to slow them down. But, to determine the proper strategy, he needs to make them show their hand.
Floyd uses the phrase "I size them up," meaning he thoroughly examines his opponents to identify strengths and weaknesses, in his words to "make them show their hand.” For example, he needs to determine if they are “front-runners.” This is the term he uses to describe fighters who are strong in the early rounds but fade in the last.
Here is an example of Mayweather examining his opponent. During the world tour, Floyd extended his hand in front of Conor and tricked McGregor to extend his own hand. He may have done this to measure McGregor’s reach:
“Floyd puts you in a place where, he’s so defensive and elusive and you’re steadily punching, and you keep swinging and you see him looking at you,” Berto said. “So he kind of puts you in a place where, ‘OK, if I keep swinging too much, I’m going to hang myself out there to get hit.’ Because he’s seeing. He’s seeing. He’s seeing. He’s seeing all this. He’s very smart at dictating the pace.
“When I was in there with him, he manages the time. He looks up at the clock like four times during a round. He’ll move around, move around, look at the clock, move around, move around, look at the clock, grab you tight, look at the clock and then, ‘Bop! Bop!’ He’ll hit you two or three times, just enough to win the round.”
Berto also said that nothing gets past Mayweather during a fight. Even when they’re sitting on the stool during the rest period between rounds. He explained how Mayweather is always paying attention, checking his opponent in the opposite corner to see if they’re getting tired.
“I’ve never been in there with somebody who’s so observant,” Berto said. “He’s very observant of everything that’s going on. He kept looking to see if I was tired, so I’d jump up off my stool and come straight at him. He’ll stall. He’ll act like he’s going to punch and he’ll stall you, then he’ll get back on that bicycle. … He’s such a veteran and he knows every part of that ring. He knows every little small thing, so he doesn’t have to work too hard. It’s crazy, because it’s almost like he cons his way out of every round.”
Unlike most fighters, Floyd never watches tape. In his opinion, how opponents fight other fighters is not important. In order to fight Floyd they have to adjust to his unique style, while in the meantime he will be adjusting to them.
Mayweather beats opponents mentally by being six steps ahead of them. When an opponent is thinking about round one, Floyd is thinking about round four. If a tactic doesn’t work, he changes his approach in the following round. The fight is in a constant state of adjustment until the final second. To put it in Floyd’s own words “champions make adjustments”. It is not just fast hands and fast feet.
Floyd Mayweather’s fights are as predictable as James Bond movies. Everybody knows what will happen in a Bond movie, but fans keep paying to watch them anyway. Why? Umberto Eco a famous Italian semiotician, explained that the viewer “finds himself immersed in a game of which he knows the pieces and the rules -and the outcome -and draws pleasure simply from following the minimal variations by which the victor realizes his objective”. Long story short, like James Bond in the movies we all know, Mayweather will win in a boxing fight. What is interesting about this particular fight is to watch a proven method of winning boxing matches applied into action once more, this time against a talented and explosive MMA champion in Conor McGregor.
There are ways McGregor can win this fight, the same way there were ways for Manny Pacquiao to beat Mayweather before their fight. Conor McGregor is a unique fighter. In my next post, I will focus on Conor’s best boxing combos and several ways he can use them to land punches on Mayweather.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).