Codebreakers: The May-da Vinci Edition

By Mohummad Humza Elahi on April 29, 2014
Codebreakers: The May-da Vinci Edition
Floyd Mayweather does have an unusually long reach; his reach is greater than his height!

Just like poker, fighters have styles, patterns, bluffs and tells and Mayweather is masterful at reading these signs and adjusting accordingly…

As May 3rd speeds its way towards us, we are now at the halfway point of Showtime’s Ultimate Boxing Quest; which of the six chosen ones can crack the May-da Vinci Code?  So far, Robert Guerrero (31-2) and Saul Alvarez (43-1) have tried and failed to crack the blingest of enigmas. Now it’s the turn of Argentinean punching machine Marcos “El Chino” Maidana (35-3) to step between the ropes and put his physical, mental and tactical attributes to the test.

What’s both great and infuriating about boxing commentary, journalism, blogging and reporting is that everyone likes to throw in their pennies about how fighters should approach bouts, what tactics they should employ all in the name of trying to demonstrate who really does understand the sweetest of sciences.

It’s what most perceptions are built from. Picking winners is only marginally better than doing school maths exercise where you have to flip a coin a hundred times and count the outcomes. For this piece, though, I’d be interested in how our readers, commenters and writers would try and crack the May-Vinci Code. And simply saying “I’d be Manny Pacquiao” doesn’t count.


Yes, there are conditions. Essentially, you have to retain your own age, height, reach and power but down at welterweight. It’s assumed you are in peak condition and can comfortably fight for 12 three-minute rounds. Kenny Bayless is the third man and CJ Ross is locked in a toilet cubicle somewhere inside the MGM Grand (so you can’t bank on her scorecard, should it go the distance).

If it really pleases you, feel free to add in ringwear and entrance music (or spectacle, if you’re going down the Prince Naseem route). You are also granted a bonus point if you manage to punch Justin Bieber (head or body) before the opening bell.

My approach

So, down to brass tacks.

There are a few key points that I think Floyd’s previous opponents have failed to capitalize on, or have neglected in respect to their preparation. The biggest obstacle here is working with what you’ve got and not being a blank slate for the perfect gameplan. Just like poker, fighters have styles, patterns, bluffs and tells and Mayweather is masterful at reading these signs and adjusting accordingly. 

Shutting down the ring

Dictating the range is the biggest problem. Since I possess a height and reach advantage over Floyd, I would go about using as much of my footwork and feints to try and manoeuvre him around the ring; my objective here is to control the center and step towards him in the corners to close the gap as anywhere else gives him sufficient space to escape. I’m also not trying to do this at a particularly high tempo as he would have superior reflexes and can react quicker and a faster pace gives me less time. A slower pace allows me more time to set my feet and position, throwing short jabs to minimize the chances he gets to slip and counter. I can press the action at the right time and initiate exchanges, hoping to score on the aggression and ring generalship fronts. 

I have to do this throughout the fight, the only variants being the number of exchanges I initiate and the tempo. I’ll probably throw over a thousand jabs, any lapse gives Money a chance to strike and the less I throw, the more ground I give. I’d also experiment in keeping the left hand permanently in Floyd’s face as another way to control the distance, hoping it irritates him enough to lose focus for a split second; a careless parry might be just open enough space to throw the right hand.

Cracking the shell

Can it be cracked? This is the crown jewel in the Mayweather armory and only a handful has ever come close to breaking it (and by close, I mean landing a few clean, solitary shots in the entire fight). One that sticks in my mind in particular is Sugar Shane Mosley’s right hand in the second round of their fight, the cleanest I’ve ever seen him hit. I noticed in that fight that he relinquished the shell because Mosley has great hand speed and was feinting so much that in the first round, he looked as if he had a triple Red Bull espresso before putting on his gloves. That level of unpredictability makes him uncomfortable. Of course, I would still be managing this in conjunction with shutting down the ring, so a balance has to be struck here, but I think my hands are quick enough to pull this off.

In my view, that’s the first Mayweather “tell”; he adopts the shell when he thinks he is close to figuring out, or indeed, has figured out, his opponent’s gameplan. He’s assessed the danger and drops the left hand to coax his opponent into trying to hit him, tricking him into thinking that what they’re doing is working, when in reality he’s noted the pattern and feels comfortable enough to let his reflexes and footwork do their thing and if you notice, most take the bait. The exception to this was against Miguel Cotto where even Floyd admitted that he made a rare tactical misjudgement.

Another way of getting past that shoulder roll is to force a parry from Floyd’s right hand. Jab precision is paramount here; jabbing to the head allows him space to slip under and pivot outwards, making you vulnerable to counters. If I can hook off the jab, making him parry to open up the space, then this gives me the option to feint jabs as well, adding to the unpredictability. This would be another tool to try and force him out of the shell defense. Even better, make him parry and throw a Hearns-like missile straight down the gullet.

Breaking the body

I think attacking the body is an underused tactic when fighting Floyd. Most of the opportunities that I’ve seen created against him have some combination that open with a shot to the gut or ribs. Going to the body would definitely be the top priority if I managed to get in close, although I’d have to take some fire on the way in.  At some point, everyone tries to knock his block off and as tempting as it is, it deviates from the gameplan and plays to his advantage. If I get to the body often enough, Floyd will gradually be forced to keep me off with the jab to get some distance, this may be sufficient to lure him in to throw more punches. If he punches, he’s open and if he’s open, chances will present themselves. I’ll have to concede some ground but a couple of clean hits could do some damage.

The downside to this, of course, is how much I’d be able to absorb by pursuing this route; my guess is not very much! So although I’d be keeping it in mind and trying to use it at the right time, attempting to make it count when I do, for my style and physical attributes, it would be lower down on the list.

Using my advantages 

I’m 6 feet tall with about a 73-ish inch reach (never measured it properly!) compared to Floyd’s 5-foot 8-inch height and 72-inch reach. I think that’s one of the deceptive things about Floyd, he does have an unusually long reach (his reach is greater than his height!) and this makes it very difficult to get to him, especially when he’s firing off counters.

But with a height advantage, I should be able to dictate the range a lot better; punching downwards would allow me to conserve a lot more energy. My only worry here would be anticipating an overhand right, which would surely come if I got too complacent. Aside from that, my list of advantages are small, I think my hands are pretty quick, but lack the finesse in my timing and reflexes to match Floyd, so although I think my gameplan could work if stuck too, executing it over 36 minutes would be a challenge in itself.

It all sounds great in theory, but the intangibles and variables are what makes boxing the exciting sport it is; in theory, for instance, I should be able to hit a lot harder than Mayweather (if in top shape), so if I do land a single shot to the jaw, will it be enough to knock him out? I think Floyd has a great chin and when he has been tagged, he can regroup and recover very quickly. In the very few times I’ve sparred and had to eat a couple of right hands, it didn’t particularly bother me too much as my legs tend to react well and don’t stiffen. And this guy was an inch taller and had at least 15 pounds on me.

To the scorecards…

And I think it would go to the scorecards. I don’t believe Floyd could knock me out (and how many pros have said that?) and when it would all be done, I don’t think it would be a classic, not by a long way! Think something along the lines of watching Hopkins after taking 50mls of horse tranquilizers. But for all the deft movement and punching fluidity I could muster, I’d likely fair just as well as all who came before me.

I won’t win.

But Thomas Hearns would.  Yeah, I think Hearns would’ve torn Mayweather apart. 

Follow Mohummad Humza Elahi on Twitter@mhelahi

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero: Full Fight - Showtime Boxing

Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez: Full Fight - Showtime Boxing

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Floyd Mayweather vs Miguel Cotto- Full Length Fight

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  1. Mike Casey 09:17am, 04/30/2014

    On Hearns v Floyd - I agree!

  2. The Tache 07:08am, 04/30/2014

    I would hope to get him on the ropes or in the corner at some point and wait for him to put up the shell and half turn away from me as he sometimes does. Then punch him in the back of the head. Hopefully he will stand up to complain and put his hand behind his head to indicate the foul, at which point I would punch him square in the face, knocking him clean out as I obviously have genuinely lethal punching power. I would answer any criticism by saying it was his own fault for turning away from me and then not protecting himself at all times while complaining. Then I would go to my hotel suite to celebrate with the ring card girls and work out how much money I will get for the rematch. And they all lived happily ever after, except Floyd, but balls to him.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:53am, 04/30/2014

    Mathysse almost kills Molina in the ring and post fight John Jr. sez: let’s do it again….can we? huh? huh? can we? Diaz quits, retires, surrenders….whatever, in the main event with a bruised rib and he sez: yea, but I’m really a warrior, after all I’m a Mexican….reminds me of an old girl friend who said the reason she liked to fuk was because she was French. The way to beat Floyd is to KO him…period! Mosely came close to doing the deed but when he hurt Mayweather he eased up as if to say there would be other chances during the course of the 12 round fight….what other chances, you dumb fuk?

  4. SugarR.R 02:52am, 04/30/2014

    I would begin with a lot of lateral movement throw a couple of feints and begin by stepping in when he is near a corner and throw straights and jabs i know he would be able to get out of it but its just for show. As the pace slows down i would then begin to throw more straights and jabs to the midsection and up. By the time he realises he is in the corner corner again i would throw a straight then uppercut he would be used to this so ill shoulder budge him till he steps back then id throw a jab to the face straight to the body as i step in with my straight id move to my right and throw a left hook then a right upper and finish strong with a head but hahahah and that is the secret of passing the philly shell

  5. Mohummad Humza Elahi 01:17am, 04/30/2014

    Clarence - Definitely, maybe the only way to beat him is to apply a chair shot to the skull whilst the referee is distracted by the Corona girls at ringside.  Although I think Good Ol’ JR would make a great commentator!

  6. Clarence George 07:40pm, 04/29/2014

    How would I beat Mayweather?  A graduate of the Fritzie Zivic school, I choose to quite literally understand the advice of manager George Parnassus, who said that his fighter, Ceferino Garcia, needed a baseball bat and a knife to have a chance against Henry Armstrong.  How would I manage that?  I’ve been watching pro wrestling since but a lad, and I know all about hiding “foreign objects” from a ref’s prying eyes.

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