Does Juan Manuel Marquez have a shot tonight? Will Floyd Mayweather Jr. keep his undefeated record easily? (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
I had planned to do a big preview post last night, but then the weigh-in issue took precedence and sort of made picking the fight a whole new bag.
The weight is a big deal now. It's not the weight itself, it's the dishonesty going on. This fight feels like a put-on now, because I doubt Mayweather caught everyone off-guard when he made it clear he wasn't making 144. I wouldn't doubt that most of the guys in charge of this fight knew all along he wasn't going to make 144. I'm not a conspiracy guy, especially with boxing, because too many people think every fight has a conspiracy involved. And I'm not an idealist, either. And I don't expect my fighters to be all nobility and honor, because this isn't Gladiator, it's real life.
But I'd prefer not feeling as a fight fan that a bunch of fighters and promoters pulled the wool over my eyes, and for that reason, I am openly rooting for Juan Manuel Marquez tonight. I'm not saying I'm Mr. Professional, but I rarely openly root for guys to win fights on this site. Mostly I just want to see good fights, watch the greatest sport in the world continue to unfold, and see the special things that only boxing brings.
And a Marquez win tonight would be truly special, especially now.
I'm not 100% convinced that Mayweather is significantly faster than Marquez. When's the last time we saw Floyd against a guy with really good speed? It was Zab Judah. Since then, it's been lumbering Carlos Baldomir, Oscar de la Hoya at 154, and a 147-pound Ricky Hatton who wanted mostly to push Floyd around, which was a good strategy for Hatton, but in the end it didn't work.
Marquez is faster than those three guys, though he's not quite Judah (I may find Zab to be one of the most annoying guys in boxing, but the guy can throw those hands and is still one of the fastest guys in the game). I also don't know how Marquez is going to fight Floyd. They've mentioned Jose Luis Castillo's gameplan, but JMM also has said he has to adapt that to what he can do.
I think that's as good a chance as he's got now. I'll repeat what I said yesterday in the Classic Round-by-Round I did:
Can Marquez lean on Mayweather and attack his body like Castillo did? No. Not a chance in hell that'll work for him. Marquez won't be nine pounds bigger than Floyd, as Castillo was in this fight. This fight had Mayweather going 130 to 135, and tomorrow night, Marquez will go from 135 up to 144.
But are there psychological tips to study here? Yes, and Oscar de la Hoya's fight with Mayweather had a lot of the same stuff. If you make Floyd question himself, he's beatable. Nobody in the entire history of boxing has been unbeatable, and Floyd can hype his status as undefeated as much as he wants, but he's had his scares. Castillo got in Floyd's head from the get-go in this fight. Yes, Floyd clearly won the first two rounds, and a lot of people think he dominated the first half of the fight. But you could see his gears working in there, as Castillo came out and didn't attack. Team Mayweather expected a guy that was going to come full throttle, try to make it a barroom brawl. They could have countered and outboxed that guy all night.
Instead, for as rough as Castillo wanted it to be inside, he boxed in this fight. He moved Floyd around, trapped him constantly, and made good use of his power advantage when he had a chance to throw some big shots. He didn't headhunt; the vast majority of his good work went to the body.
Mayweather's public persona is brash, arrogant, cocky, and all that, but a lot of armchair psychologists will tell you that that comes from insecurity, and I think Floyd in a lot of ways is obviously insecure. As a fighter, he's generally confident, because he's the best guy in the ring, clearly, almost every time he's ever been in one. Castillo and Oscar tested him, and most of that came from getting Floyd to question his ability.
Now, the elephant in the room of this psychobabble nonsense is the fact that Floyd was lighter than Castillo on fight night and was clearly smaller than Oscar at junior middleweight. He won't have that problem against Marquez.
But however he has to adapt it to fit what he can do, Marquez hopefully looked at the things Castillo and Oscar did to mentally bother Floyd as much as physically bother him.
That's what he has to do, however he does it. Floyd is confident when things are going well. Watch the way he batters Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti, and you might see that being what happens to Marquez. But I see Marquez as someone who brings more to the table than Corrales and Gatti did as a fighter, someone that has the ability, no matter the size, to make Floyd think. When Floyd isn't just reacting and working his routines, he has to think, and he gets a little more hesitant then. He doesn't handle combination punching as well then. He doesn't move as fluidly then. A lot of things change just enough to bring him down from Superman-level fighter to Batman-level fighter. In other words, he's still great, but he becomes very human.
Picture that pad routine he runs with Roger. It's reflex and memory for him at this point. It looks wonderfully impressive and is a great training routine, but it's a routine. He knows what he's doing. If he did that routine with a new trainer that smacked him in the side of the head in the middle of it, it'd look different.
Floyd is an amazing talent to watch, but he's a comfort zone guy. Marquez, on the other hand, is a fighter that excels when the pressure is on him, figuratively and literally. Shane Mosley is much the same, Marco Antonio Barrera was the same.
Mayweather is a genius defensive fighter, and that in turn makes him an excellent counter-puncher, one without peer. But if Marquez can take him out of that comfort zone, like Castillo did, like Oscar did for half a fight, like Ricky Hatton did for a few rounds, he can get something done.
Will he? Maybe. My heart says he can do this, my head does not agree. My head keeps yelling down at my heart to stop being a dummy, in fact. I'm going with a Floyd Mayweather unanimous decision win.