Floyd Mayweather’s Toughest Fights as a Professional
Pretty Boy Floyd Money Mayweather, the cream of the crop inside the square. With a perfect 50-0 record, he showed time and time again why skills pay the bills. With his extensive amateur pedigree, patented shoulder roll defense, and unquestionable fight IQ, Floyd laughed his way to the bank while routinely out boxing anyone who stood across from him.
My foray into Floyd began when I purchased a DVD set of his entire pro career, and proceeded to watch every fight. Somewhat new to boxing at the time, I learned to appreciate a lot of the subtle aspects of boxing through his fights. Floyd was the epitome of a prize fighter, a master of lulling guys into playing his style. He was never a devastating power puncher, but his accuracy and ability to win rounds made him a nightmare match up.
Floyd was not there for a brawl, or a test of wills. His defense was too good for that. The plan was always the same, to outbox you. And it never failed.
A few quick points regarding common criticisms surrounding Floyd. That he avoided fighters when they were dangerous and at their prime, only to accept those fights later after visible signs of drop off. Eh, sometimes. Pacquiao for example, and Mosley was past prime when they fought. Keep in mind that Floyd was doing his own promoting, and was more interested in Cinco De Mayo fights against top Mexican fighters than randomly fighting top contenders for the sake of proving his mettle. Prize fighters fight for a prize, and Floyd was as refined a promoter as he was a boxer. Still, Canelo and Marcos Maidana were unquestionably dangerous opponents in their physical prime. He was smart about his career, and ensured that he was well matched, but didn’t avoid competition.
Punching power. No question there are harder punchers than Floyd, but he had some crack before his hands disintegrated. His speed was formidable,but he wasn’t a one shot type of guy. There were definitely fighters he put hands on that were never fazed, fair enough, but the sweet science is an algorithm more complex than max output punching power.
A streak of 50 consecutive wins, world championships, and all sorts of pay per view and fight purse records belong to Floyd. As does a legitimate discussion about his place among the greatest boxers of all time. Perfection doesn’t exist, so despite his perfect record, these are what I view as Floyd Mayweather’s toughest fights. (Chronologically ordered)
Emanuel Augustus 10-21-2000 – Let me preface this by saying what a fun fighter Augustus truly was. A skilled brawler who seemed to lack any care for his own physical well being, while simultaneously carrying an offensive arsenal that was spectacular. A rock em sock em robot with good feet.
Sort of the Anti-Floyd in a way, perhaps the reason this was so good. Augustus could have probably fought conservative and boxed his way through some of the fights that he chose to kamikaze instead. An absolute savage who lacked star power and a big promoter. The two fought in Detroit, with Floyd at the ripe age of 23.
Augustus forced more grit out of Floyd than anyone. He really made him fight. By holding his ground in range, staying offensive, and countering without fear of return fire, Augustus got Floyd into vulnerable positions despite being scored on. The old take two or three to give one strategy. Augustus himself wasn’t a knockout puncher, but he carried enough heat to make things unpleasant and he could take a shot.
This one is a true classic, and worth watching. Floyd finishes it in the ninth, but is tested physically and mentally beyond what we normally get to see in a contest. Overall, Floyd was the superior fighter throughout, yet Augustus went tit for tat when and where he could. I will leave this one on a quote from Floyd, taken from a Fight Hub interview.
“Emanuel was my toughest opponent thus far…his record didn’t show his skillset, but the guy was unbelievable.”
Jose Luis Castillo 04-20-2002 This is the most significant of the fights in terms of competitiveness. There are a lot of people who thought he lost this fight. From Floyd, it was a masterful defensive performance and a good war. Castillo came on as the fight progressed and was able to maintain his workload throughout. Floyd scored a left hook knockdown that was ruled a slip in the second, then got the point back in the 8th for a late hook from Castillo. In the ninth, Floyd snuck in a late shot that he was not penalized for. Points like that are major in a tightly contested bout.
Floyd was very sharp in the fight. Well trained, he seemed extra crisp and alert defensively, which made sense as he was fighting up in weight against a bigger, harder puncher. This was a tough match up for Floyd, which became apparent in the middle and later rounds.
Castillo had some trouble with Mayweather’s reflexes and adaptation early, but he abandoned respect as he learned that he could take the shots. Both did ample body work, and exchanged lead positions seemingly minute to minute. You have to slow things down in this one, and see what really landed. Castillo was able to score, but a lot of his perceived moments in the fight were ineffective despite his aggressiveness. Floyd is extremely difficult to hit, and expertly bounced shots off of everything except his head.
Castillo won rounds, which is what a lot of fighters who could hypothetically hang in with Mayweather failed to do. It’s a part of what made this fight hard to score. Castillo took on the bully role, and was the harder puncher. As close as this fight was, I still lean toward Mayweather after re-watching the fight. Without being dominant, this was still a great performance by Floyd in a very harsh match up.
Oscar De La Hoya 05-05-2007 – Cinco de Mayweather. The bull and the matador. You could see the contrast in styles even between rounds. De La Hoya sat on his stool with crazy in his eyes, while Floyd was calm and collect. Oscar came in as the bigger man, but at 34 was a heavy underdog.
What made this fight interesting was De La Hoya’s volume in the first six or so rounds, and his success with combinations when he lead with the jab.
The fight ended in a split decision, but probably wasn’t that close. Floyd stayed off of the ropes for most of the fight, using his footwork and defense to keep himself from being pinned in corners. De La Hoya had a good strategy, and made Floyd respect his body work, but lost control in the later rounds. Floyd had his way in the last four as De La Hoya was unable to maintain his volume and abandoned the jab. Oscar was game and forced Floyd to work, but was never able to turn the tide the way he needed to.
Shane Mosley 05-01-2010 The 38 year old Mosley came into this one with a puncher’s chance, and in the second round, he nearly capitalized on it. The right hands he landed in that round were probably the hardest individual shots Floyd ate in his pro career, and their effect was obvious. After uncorking a right that hurt Mayweather, Shane tried to pour it on and landed a shot that badly wobbled Floyd. About as close as you can get to a knockdown without getting it.
Unfortunately for him, that would be his only success in the fight. Shane simply could not stay out of the way of Floyd’s cross, and was battered for the rest of the fight. Floyd was the better boxer, and blasted his way through the lopsided contest despite the early trouble.
Marcos Maidana 05-03-2014 Marcos Maidana is terrifying. He punches like a mule kicks, and awkwardly enough to make dealing with it that much more difficult. Looping power punches that appear to be a hybrid between the cross and rear hook. Floyd was 37 when this fight took place, compared to Maidana at 30.
The story of the fight was Maidana’s aggression, throwing 858 punches to Floyd’s 426 according to CompuBox. He was able to get off flurries by keeping Mayweather pinned to the ropes, and hammering in punches from wherever he could manage. Floyd could have done better to stay off the ropes, and it cost him some rounds. His offense was methodical and effective, as usual, but he never pulled away in this one or buried his opponent in rounds. The rematch proved Floyd was the better boxer, but Maidana made their first contest into an ugly battle and rounds out the list of Floyd Mayweather’s toughest fights.