It is strongly recommended to listen to Arethra Franklin's Respect while reading this post:
The mental game fascinates me in boxing. After watching Porter-Malignaggi, a specific component of what goes on in a fighter's noggin as he bobs and weaves intrigued me: what role does respect play in boxing? Here are a few thoughts--let me know what you think. I hope the first comment will be "As a ex-dean at a prominent mid-major Northeastern University......" ;)
1) Respect for the other fighter's power dictates a fighter's strategy and confidence. Fighters with low punch resistance, or less than proficient defenses, will be more confident in the ring, and generally will dominate featherfisted pugilists. Hence Khan and Porter's total domination of Malignaggi isn't so surprising. If you aren't worried about the return punches, you will loosen up, and be much more aggressive, making a TKO or KO much more likely.
This is the opposite of what happened to Angulo. Punch output is in someway proportional to the power of the other guy, at least for fighters who care about protecting their heads. Angulo, who typically has a very strong chin, and therefore doesn't conform to this patter, was converted into a "low punch resistance" type fighter because of Canelo's power punches, so for the most part shelled up (except for a few rounds). This is why his fight with Canelo differed so much from Lara's
2) A fighter's respect of the other fighter's chin plays into his confidence in the ring. Khan is a superb example of how the evaluation of opponent's matter's. He's surrounded by an aura of vulnerability, even though he physically hasn't changed so much. Why? Simply because of his history of knockdowns and KOs, his opponents feel empowered, and are willing to take chances and risks they wouldn't otherwise take, all in order to lay down the left hook. Boxing defense is predicated on physically covering up vulnerable areas and making the opponent respect your fists with the jab, etc., and it'll throw off a fighter's calculus if his opponents suddenly become more willing to attack and disregard these two factors because they feel they can KO him. Again, here the fighter doesn't change (Khan is still pretty much in his physical prime), but opponents' respect for chin changes, leading to very real impact on the way opponents approach him in the ring.
3) A fighter's skill may also demand respect. Everyone will immediately disregard this, I suppose, but I feel Floyd has an almost superhuman aura surrounding him. I feel if Canelo took more risks in his fight against Floyd, he would've had a better chance, instead of playing it completely safe. You could see, despite all the rubbish about not touching gloves (the young lion shows no respect for the older lion bs) he really respected Floyd too much, and was afraid of taking any risks, bc he was sure Floyd would capitalize. This is why Cotto and DLH, who were Floyd's peers or superiors in reputation, were able to best Floyd for moments, at least.
I know Mayweather's pugilistic skill has a lot to do with his elusiveness, but I feel some of the psychological effects of facing such a storied boxing character plays mindgames with his younger opponents.