Over the last couple of months, we have become accustom to hearing members of the Conor McGregor camp and some other people in the MMA world talk about Floyd Mayweather’s past troubles in dealing with southpaws.
Trying to make a case for his charge in a much talked about potential showdown against the undefeated boxer, McGregor’s striking coach Owen Roddy discussed the topic on an early January edition of The MMA Hour, claiming, “Any time Mayweather has taken a serious shot, it’s always been against a southpaw.”
‘The Notorious’ one himself also mentioned it during a Pay-per-view interview with Ariel Helwani on the 28th of last month.
“I know every single shot he’s been hit with,” McGregor told the esteemed MMAFighting reporter. “I know every single shot he’s been hurt with. I know southpaws have caused him a hell of a lot of trouble. I know everything.”
Even UFC lightweight Kevin Lee, who regularly trains at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas and claims that he has been asked to act as a sparring partner to Floyd in the event that this cross codes clash gets signed, stated in a recent interview with MMAJunkie that ‘Money May’ “hates fighting southpaws”.
Of course, Roddy, McGregor and Lee aren’t the first to claim that Mayweather struggles with lefties. In the build up to Floyd’s bout with Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao, a large number of those who predicted a Pacquiao victory used this as the crux of their argument in his favour.
But in a world filled with ‘alternative facts’, are McGregor and Co. now promoting yet another.
Let’s examine the evidence.
Over the last decade or so, the only fighters that have visibly buzzed Mayweather are Shane Mosley and Marcos Maidana.
Mosley was responsible for one of the most memorable moments of drama ever to unfold in a Mayweather fight when he drilled the normally elusive Michigan native with a sizzling right-hand over the top of a left jab to the body early in the second round of their May 2010 contest. Floyd was forced to grab and hold on desperately as Mosley sought to find a follow-up shot.
Seconds later, ‘Sugar’ Shane found one.
A winging right buckled Mayweather’s legs and they appeared rubbery for much of the remainder of that stanza.
Of course, he survived and went on to turn in one of his most aggressive performances in years over the ten rounds that followed to beat Mosley by scores of 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110.
The misanthropic Maidana afforded himself less time to capitalize when he hurt Mayweather with a right-hand in their rematch in September of 2014. He landed the shot right on the bell that signaled the end of the third round, sending Mayweather staggering back to his corner in a daze.
Once again, though, Mayweather would recover to claim a unanimous decision victory.
Both Mosley and Maidana are orthodox fighters.
If any of the decisions that Mayweather won over the years are contentious, it’s his first victory over Jose Luis Castillo. The hard-nosed Mexican’s intense, high-pressure style caused the American defensive wizard all sorts of problems at the MGM in April of 2002 and many felt that Castillo should have gotten the decision.
‘El Temible’ didn’t treat Mayweather to a picnic in the sequel eight months later either.
The only other time when there was any real debate over the outcome of one of Floyd’s bouts was when he scored a split decision win over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, with many feeling that Oscar’s higher output and aggression had been enough to earn him the victory.
Castillo and De La Hoya are also right-handed and fought out of an orthodox stance.
Throughout his storied professional career, Floyd has fought nine men who operated primarily out of a southpaw stance. Obviously, given that he retired undefeated in September of 2015, he went 9-0 against those men. However, he was given some trouble by a couple of them.
Three of Floyd’s first nine opponent’s, Reggie Sanders, Bobby Giepert and Jesus Chavez, were southpaws, but given that Floyd was a novice pro at the time and that all three men sported modest records, it’s hardly worth talking about those fights.
The next lefty that shared a ring with the mercurial Mayweather, was experienced, tough, hard-hitting and crafty veteran DeMarcus Corley in May of 2004. Corley was 28-2-1 at the time of the bout, but Mayweather beat him by wide margins of 119-107, 118-108 and 119-108.
The big story of this fight, however, unfolded in the fourth round, when Corley badly wobbled Mayweather with a right-hook followed by a straight left-hand.
This is one of the moments that proponents of the Mayweather southpaw curse theory often bring up in an attempt to illustrate their point.
It’s worth noting, though, that Corley was the first southpaw Mayweather had fought since Giepert some seven years prior and it was also his first time competing up at 140lbs. Yet, he still recovered from that shaky moment to dominate the fight.
The other southpaw that caused Mayweather some real bother was Zab Judah.
For the first four stanzas of their April 2006 encounter, Judah befuddled Mayweather, beat him to the punch with regularity and even appeared to drop the Michigan native in the second round, although the official chose not to rule it a knockdown.
However, it was Judah’s blurring hand speed that seemed to be the key to his success.
Few people that Mayweather ever fought had hand speed comparable to his own, but in Judah, he was faced with someone who possessed lightning fists – fists that were perhaps even faster than his.
After four rounds, though, Mayweather had seen all that he needed to see and began to make the necessary adjustments. He became increasingly aggressive, pushing Judah onto the back foot, landing lead right-hands with regularity and hammering his nifty foe to the body. This approach would earn him a comfortable unanimous decision after twelve rounds.
His next southpaw challenge came over five years later, but the less said about his farcical fourth-round KO victory over ‘Vicious’ but apologetic Victor Ortiz the better.
A comfortable points win over California lefty Robert Guerrero followed in 2013, before he finally took on his most famous southpaw opponent, the aforementioned Manny Pacquiao in 2015.
While Pacquiao had his moments in the bout optimistically and, as it turned out, erroneously labelled ‘The Fight of the Century’ he was thoroughly outboxed for the most part. And remember, the Filipino is one of the top two or three southpaws in boxing history.
There isn’t a whole lot of evidence here to suggest that Mayweather has a harder time with lefties than righties. Perhaps you could back up the claim that he wasn’t particularly comfortable fighting them earlier in career, but Floyd seems to have improved in that regard as time has gone on and he dealt with his two most recent southpaw opponents expertly.
Many feel that Mayweather’s patented shoulder roll defence is less effective against southpaws. While he is often able to deflect right hands thrown by orthodox fighters with his shoulder, the back/left hand of a southpaw comes from the opposite side, where he is more open.
There is certainly some merit to this claim.
However, Mayweather has more in his defensive arsenal than the shoulder roll. He has quick feet, excellent movement, he parries shots well with his gloves and controls distance expertly though his shot selection. These factors play a more significant role when he is faced with a right-foot-forward opponent and he makes little use of the shoulder roll on those occasions.
His offensive approach against lefties is also different. He generally throws fewer jabs and makes greater use of lead right hands.
Yes, he is forced to adjust his style against southpaws but he is no less effective.
If one was to create a list of the fighters against whom Mayweather had the most difficulty, Mosley, Maidana, Castillo and De La Hoya’s names would be joined by those of other orthodox fighters like Miguel Cotto, Jesus Chavez and Emanuel Augustus. The only southpaw that one would confidently add to the lineup is Zab Judah. Manny Pacquiao might make it at a push.
So, McGregor and Roddy should probably drop this tired old angle.