Monday, 3 May 2010

Mayweather Soaks Up The Pressure To Arrive At The Brink Of Greatness

By Shane Thomas

Ever held a sponge underneath a tap for a few seconds and forgotten to roll your sleeves up, and you then find that your sleeves are as wet as the sponge is? Which do you think dries the quicker?
In the second round of the welterweight contest between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on Saturday, Mosley hit Mayweather with two rock-hard right hands. Mayweather was hurt on both occasions, the second time around almost hitting the canvas for the first time in his career. So when the third round began who do you think came out of their corner to dominate the rest of the fight?

If you're yet to figure it out, or are unaware of the result, Mayweather is the sponge in this analogy. There was a reason why Mosley had looked to be one big punch away from being the first man to inflict defeat on 'Mr Money'. Mosley had put the bulk of his energy reserves into that second round. He failed to roll up his sleeves before wetting the sponge, focusing so much energy on getting the knockout, that soon after he had no energy left.

Mayweather's skill has always been the speed of his counter-punching and his elusiveness. Like an eel, he has made in-ring avoidance into an art form. But this was a different Mayweather I saw at the MGM Grand. He was more aggressive than I have ever seen him, often taking the initiative in the fight from the fourth round onwards.

By round five, Mosley was clearly breathing fully open mouthed, desperately trying to regulate his lung capacity and blood flow, whilst dealing with Mayweather's fearsome hand speed. 'Sugar Shane' deserves credit for not going down once during the twelve rounds. But make no mistake, this ceased to be a contest and became a showcase for Mayweather by round seven.

There's a chance that Mayweather was stung by criticism claiming that he was no longer boxing's pound-for-pound king, with that title being passed to the Filipino, Manny Pacquiao. After the fight, Mayweather tellingly revealed that his game plan was always to attack early on, and it was only his planning team that had convinced him to pick his moments rather than adopt a gung-ho approach to the bout. It was clear that 'Money' wanted to put on a show, and that he certainly did. It is regarded by some as Mayweather's finest hour in the ring. He put on a boxing clinic, and as good a fighter as Mosley has been throughout his career, he was only ever there to get his sleeves wet, and be subservient to Mayweather's greatness.

So what next? After Saturday night, space must be made on the list of boxing greats for Mayweather. However, he doesn't view himself as one of the greats, but the greatest ever. Unfortunately for Mayweather, any sport that has had Muhammad Ali as a one time practitioner means that the number one spot will be occupied for time immemorial.

But that does not preclude him from outreaching other great champions and standing alongside the likes of Joe Louis and the two Sugar Ray's - Robinson and Leonard. But before that can happen Pacquiao must be dealt with first. The Filipino also has designs on becoming the best fighter of his generation but the problem seems to be his reticence to undergo a series of blood and urine tests before any potential superfight with Mayweather.

As evidenced when Mayweather's post-fight interview came to an end, he began to cast the faintest of aspersions to whether Pacquiao is a 'clean' fighter. This was reiterated by the pundits in the Sky studio. The "If he has nothing to hide, why doesn't he take the tests" smear campaign looks to have begun. Personally I don't think Pacquiao is a drugs cheat. My suspicion is that as the tests requested by Mayweather are not an obligation of the requisite boxing authorities, and Pacquiao feels that by acquiescing, he would be surrendering the pre-fight initiative.

But this is more important than mere ego. Pacquaio cannot be declared a true great without defeating Mayweather and vice versa. Neither man will publicly admit it but they both need each other to fulfill their sporting ambitions. Boxing no longer has the popularity it once did and for the good of the sport, pride must be swallowed. It's been a while since we had a boxing match to capture the world's imagination. Mayweather/Pacquiao could be just the shot in the arm that the fight game needs. They will both have done sport a disservice if they fail to make it happen.


- Rafael Nadal has successfully defended yet another of his many clay court titles in Rome last night. Facing his fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer, he struggled in the first set, at one point Ferrer was two points away from taking it. But despite being tested, Rafa still came out on top in straight sets. As well as Ferrer played in the entire tournament, he was unable to make 'Iron Man' bend to his will. Expect Nadal's dominance to continue at the French Open.

- Steve McLaren has led Dutch side FC Twente to the title in Holland's Eredivisie. The man was despised by many in England after failure as manager of the national side, and a figure of fun after an inexplicable interview on Dutch television after taking the Twente job. Even now, many on these shores have scoffed at McLaren's success, deriding the Dutch league as a second rate competition. Not only is that arrogant and disrespectful, but also poses the question, "How much Dutch football have you watched recently"? Because you should be careful with such pronouncements if the answer is "Not much". Apart from anything else, it serves to miss the point entirely. Regardless of the strength of any domestic league, FC Twente are not one of Holland's traditional major forces. Normally the title is won by one of either Ajax, PSV Eindhoven or Feyenoord. To cut through those three to attain Dutch supremacy is an impressive achievement. I doubt the 'poor standard of football' argument would come to the fore if a manager was to break up the hegemony of Rangers and Celtic in Scotland. Rather than disparage the man, we should be proud that someone from our normally insular nation has gone elsewhere to broaden his professional - as well as personal - horizons, and succeeded. After all, the list of British men in the world of football to succeed away from our sceptered isle is hardly a long one.

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