One of the more consistent comments when it comes to suggesting ways to defeat Floyd Mayweather is to bring up the idea that he has more problems with southpaws than he does right-handers. Zab Judah and DeMarcus Corley each gave him some issues in their respective fights, and Victor Ortiz may have been having his best round yet against Floyd until he accidentally pressed the R2 button on his controller and did his Dirty Move. So why does it appear a defensive genius like Mayweather has problems with men who lead with their right fist instead of their left?
Mayweather’s defense is really built to slip and counter an orthodox boxer’s power punches. With Mayweather typically leaning away from a right-handed fighter’s power hand, he is able to see the punch coming well before it is able to detonate on its target. When the right hand comes, he simply slides back from it or blocks it entirely with his front shoulder. If the opponent has squared his feet enough, “Money” will often counter with a quick, straight right hand of his own. The counter isn’t designed to be a devastating blow, but it does look flashy to the judges (and the crowd) when his opponent gets their head snapped back like they have been sniped. This is a move he used to great effect against Shane Mosley who would bring his back foot forward when throwing his right.
The left hook does not present much more of a problem. Mayweather’s usual guard is to lean back and bring his right arm up at a 90 degree angle next to his face. More times than not, just leaning back is enough to make a man’s left hook miss. If it does not catch air, it is still rendered useless by simply being blocked by Mayweather’s right arm that’s planted firmly against his face.
Uppercuts are not something Mayweather has much of an issue with because it’s a rare occasion when he bends over at the waist with his chin facing forward.
However, there is one punch from an orthodox stance that has, on occasion, given Mayweather some problems. It is the most basic, yet most important punch of any: the jab. The jab is different because it has no angle. There is usually no warning for it, and leaning back can just cause one to still absorb the blow. Two boxers have had some legitimate success against him with their jabs: Oscar de la Hoya and Miguel Cotto. Each man was able to land some flush jabs, especially Cotto who was able to draw blood from Mayweather’s nose by the middle of their bout. It should be noted that both Cotto and De la Hoya are naturally left-handed men who fought out of the orthodox stance.
Now, let’s translate that to a southpaw’s punching angle, which is how Guerrero will be fighting. The jab that a right-handed boxer throws comes out at a very similar angle to that of a straight left hand from a southpaw boxer. In other words, Guerrero’s best punch will come to Mayweather at a similar angle that a jab from an orthodox fighter would. That can’t be anything but good news for ‘The Ghost”.
Mayweather’s defense is not tailor-made to stop southpaws the same way it is when it comes to neutralizing right-handers. His posture leaves him open up the middle for the straight left, and somewhat also for the right hook (I’m using the term “open” loosely here. I don’t mean this to sound like he suddenly becomes Brandon Rios or anything.). Holding his arm at a 90 degree angle next to his face does not block the straight left, and the shoulder-roll/counter move is generally not as open for the taking.
In addition to the aforementioned straight left hand, the right hook can be brought over the front shoulder of Mayweather. The right hook from a southpaw is a much shorter punch than the right cross from an orthodox fighter, and can also be more difficult to see out of one’s peripheral vision. In fact, it was a right hook from a southpaw, Judah to be exact, that has produced the only real knockdown of Mayweather’s career (though Richard Steele ruled it a slip). DeMarcus Corley was also able to sting Mayweather a couple of times from a left-handed stance.
The usual response from Floyd when it comes to dealing with southpaws is to take a few rounds to see what works and what doesn’t, and then adjust accordingly. After struggling some with Judah in the early going, he found a way to time Judah based on his tendencies. He also switched his defensive posture, going from the shoulder-roll to a more traditional “ear-muff” type of hand placement. The change in hand placement enabled him to block the right hook at all times while keeping his own right hand cocked in a position to fire straight out at any time.
So what does any of this mean for Robert Guerrero? Does Guerrero being a lefty have any bearing on the fight at all? And if it does, will Floyd just make the usual adjustments and dominate down the stretch? Or was it the speed of guys like Judah and Corley that allowed them to have some success against Mayweather? Speed that Guerrero cannot come close to replicating.