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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Five things we learned from Mayweather vs. Marquez

1. The concerns over Mayweather's ring rust were greatly exaggerated

Many thought the skills that have made Mayweather a surefire Hall of Famer -- the dazzling reflexes, precise counter-punching ability and preternatural ring instincts -- might suffer from the 21-month layoff. But Floyd appeared sharp from jump street, landing 18 of 31 punches (58 percent) in the first round, compared to just 4 of 52 for Marquez (8 percent). It set a harsh tone: Marquez landed in single digits in every subsequent round. Dinamita just could never figure out a way to get into the fight. It got ugly by the end. Mayweather outlanded his outclassed opponent 34-4 in the 10th and 41-5 in the 11th, prompting Golden Boy's Eric Gomez to beg Marquez's corner to throw in the towel. But Marquez managed to finish with dignity -- con caracter -- remaining on his feet until the final bell rang.

2. Size and speed weren't Floyd's only advantages

Mayweather controlled the early rounds with the left jab, using his reach advantage to keep Marquez at a distance. But Floyd also throws a left that looks like a jab but turns into a hook mid-punch. It's a power punch. And once the opponent starts moving backwards, as Marquez did early on, Floyd can land it at will. Those hurt Marquez. After that, it was a steady diet of right-hand leads and more left jabs. We'd heard so much about Marquez's ability to make mid-fight adjustments, but it was Mayweather who impressed the boxing cognoscenti with his fistic acumen.

3. The promoters earned their paychecks on this one

The announcement of Marquez as the opponent for Mayweather's comeback fight was met with considerable surprise and skepticism back in May. What chance did the longtime featherweight champion, who'd fought just twice above 130 pounds, stand against an opponent most comfortable at welterweight?

Despite the critics, the combination of Marquez's Hall-of-Fame pedigree and consensus No. 2-standing in the pound-for-pound rankings (along with a slick promotional campaign, which included another four-part 24/7 series on HBO) made believers of us all. Not that Marquez would or even could win, but that he'd push Mayweather in a cagey, competitive fight. Yeah, right. This one was a mismatch from the start.

4. A return to normalcy for conventional boxing wisdom

It's one of the oldest axioms in boxing lore: A good big man will always beat a good little man. Most of the time, anyway. Manny Pacquiao turned the conventional wisdom on its ear with victories over De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, putting the truism to the test. Make no mistake: Marquez is a bona fide Hall of Famer, a champion in three divisions. But it was obvious from the opening rounds that Marquez was simply unable to hurt Mayweather. Even following the flash knockdown in the second round, when Marquez walked right into a left hook, he seemed content to fight in the center of the ring -- a fatal mistake. The eight or nine powerful shots Marquez was able to land seemed to slip right off Mayweather's cheeks, inducing toothy grins from the cocksure American. Transcendent talents like Pacquiao are once-in-a-generation exceptions to the rule: Saturday's fight gave fans a sobering (and expensive) reminder of the raison d'etre of weight classes.

5. Let the countdown to Mayweather-Pacquiao begin

The specter of a showdown between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao -- the former and current pound-for-pound champions -- hung over this fight before it was even made. It should finally happen next year (presuming Pacquiao gets through Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14), and it'll be a great one. Unlike the fatally flawed Marquez, Pacquiao is a small guy who can carry his punch up to welterweight. (Just ask De La Hoya.)

But many boxing fans are itching to see Mayweather pick on someone his own size. One attractive candidate is welterweight titlist Shane Mosley, who went Kanye West during Mayweather's televised post-fight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman and called Floyd out. The exchange left Mayweather flustered and Kellerman shook -- judging by the microphone trembling in his hand -- and probably did little to help Mosley secure the high-profile megafight he's deserved since January's lopsided stoppage of Antonio Margarito. As things stand, look for Mayweather to fight the Pacquiao-Cotto winner in 2010.

Source: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

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