For me what makes boxing the ‘Sweet Science’ is not two guys just slugging it out in a 'see who falls first' scenario. It is seeing some real skill and artistry in the ring. The Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Phillip Ndou fight on November 1st 2003 was a joy to watch not just because Floyd won, but because of the 'way' he won.
In Boxing defense is not often given the credit it deserves and Floyd's defense is one of the best that I have ever seen. The only other boxers whose defense is similar in some respects is James Toney, Roy Jones Jr. and De La Hoya (who recently has admitted after the Vargas fight that he adopted this form of defense from Floyd Mayweather). Ndou's trainer Nick Durandt brought in veteran trainer Tommy Brooks to assist him in this fight and that was a good move. To my eyes it seemed like it was mostly Brooks who was calling the shots. However Ndou still has to execute the instructions and this is easier said than done. Brooks kept telling Ndou about Mayweather's 'shoulder' and his 'laying on the ropes' technique that they had focused on during training, but Ndou could not execute what Brooks had told him in the gym. It is one thing to know something and another to do something about it. Ndou admitted after the fight that he did not understand the speed of Floyd Mayweather until he got into the ring with him, it was not that Phillip was slow, it is that Floyd made him look slow.
I said above that Toney, Jones Jr. and Oscar all use a defense similar to Mayweather’s defensive technique to some extent but it is Floyd who has completely mastered it (I would say that James Toney is a close second). It is not just a matter of keeping his hands up. It is a defense that involves rolling with the punches in a very interesting way. In Floyd's case this technique begins with 'angles' plus a high left shoulder while his right hand is held close to the right side of his face. Mayweather turns his body alternately slightly to the right and slightly to the left to present a smaller target (most boxers 'square up' to some degree while they are fighting, making themselves a larger target, this is especially true of the 'take one to get one' fighters).
When his body is turned to his right Floyd's left shoulder usually rolls up high to deflect punches and sometimes additionally he uses his left arm to deflect punches, it depends on the angle of the punch. Shots to this left side of his body are usually deflected upward and/or in front of him. When Mayweather's body is turned to the left his right hand is held up high with his elbow tucked in, so these shots get blocked also, a few well placed body shots can get in but Floyd is already rolling after the first punch connects.
Key to Mayweather's defense is the fact that he is always moving as well as the rhythm, speed and smoothness of his movements, this is what makes this defense effective. I am an improvising musician (saxophone player) who is fascinated with rhythm so I tend to notice things that have to do with timing. In fact my music is influenced by certain boxing techniques as is the music of many other improvising musicians.
All the while his opponent is punching Floyd is rolling, slipping, pivoting at the waist, feinting, bobbing and weaving, constantly displaying various ‘modes’ of movement (James Toney is very similar in this regard). The rhythm of the rolling is very interesting because most opponents alternate their punches in a very predictable way, only occasionally doubling up with the same hand in the middle of flurries. When I lived in Chicago we used to use the phrase 'going back for more' for this doubling up effect in music. Floyd alternates the rolling of his body with the rhythm of these punches. On the rare occasion where a fighter does double up with the same hand Floyd usually catches this and improvises by adjusting his rhythm with a series of 'changes of direction' in his rolling. The thing to...
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