Floyd Mayweather’s sparring partners are left-handed like Manny Pacquiao, and try to emulate him, but as the combatants in boxing’s ultra-fight prepare, their commonality is an innate difficulty finding practice mates who can come close to replicating the firestorm coming May 2.
Mayweather has extensive experience against left-handers, including some of his highest-profile fights, but it still requires some adjustment by orthodox fighters.
Mayweather fought a string of lefties from 2004-06, two of whom are in his camp as sparring partners now, Zab Judah and DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, and he has drawn upon those experiences when faced with southpaw opposition.
“Sharmba Mitchell, he was a solid, solid competitor,” Mayweather said. “DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley, Zab Judah, those guys were all solid competitors that pushed me. Without those guys pushing me — without all 47 guys pushing me — I wouldn’t be where I’m at. So I’m thankful for how my career has went and I appreciate all those fighters.”
While Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) might hope to create some early confusion with southpaw speed against Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs), and is undoubtedly the most talented left-hander the Grand Rapids native has faced, he isn’t the first to try.
Mayweather faced a number of left-handers as an amateur, and eight more as a professional.
Three of his first nine pro bouts were against southpaws, all knockouts of far less talented opponents.
The Corley fight in 2004 marked the first left-hander Mayweather had fought in seven years. Corley stung Mayweather early in the fight but was knocked down twice and dominated the rest of the way in a 12-round decision.
Since then, Mayweather has fought four other left-handers, and used Corley as a spar mate in preparation for three of them, a sixth-round knockout of Mitchell in 2005, and 12-round unanimous decisions over Judah in 2006 and Robert Guerrero in 2013. Mayweather’s other fight against a left-hander during that period was his fourth-round knockout of Victor Ortiz in 2011.
Before Mayweather-Guerrero, Corley told MLive that Mayweather learned something essential in his first pro bout against a world-class lefty, that “when fighting a southpaw you have to break your opponent down, starting with the body first.”
Various successes by Corley and Judah have created something of a composite of how a strategist, like Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, might plot against Mayweather.
Corley’s looping right hook that stunned Mayweather in the fourth round of their fight in Atlantic City, N.J., long has been cited as a potential vulnerability the pound-for-pound king might have against a hard-punching southpaw.
Judah’s speed and quick-starting capability expanded the blueprint. Judah led on the scorecards through four rounds before Mayweather took control, but that also is part of his history as a fighter, a front-runner with a tendency to fade against top-flight competition.
Pacquiao starts quickly, punches hard, punches in volume, and doesn’t fade.
Mayweather, when asked what he expects from Pacquiao, replied, “I really don’t know.”
“I think my focus is always being in control and dictating the pace,” Mayweather said. “You’ve got guys who throw a lot of punches — you know, a majority of the time, I think that everyone game-plans to throw a lot of punches. It hasn’t worked so far. But I’ve faced a lot of great fighters, a lot of guys going down in the Hall of Fame, and guys going down in history as top guys.”
Floyd Mayweather Sr., who trains his son, has said body work will be essential to breaking down Pacquiao.
Right-hand leads traditionally are viewed as an effective tool for orthodox fighters against southpaws, whereas they are far more difficult to land against another orthodox fighter.
Mayweather Sr. said he also has emphasized finishing combinations with a left hook behind the right hand, “because your hook is the blind side,” and that uppercuts also can be effective against the 5-foot-6 1/2 Pacquiao.
“Being that he’s short anyway, it’s good for uppercuts, because you might try to hit him in the body and hit him right on the chin,” Mayweather Sr. said.