For decades scientists have attempted to achieve the dream of cold fusion, the hypothetical process of producing nuclear fusion in a test tube at room temperature. This concept would be the ultimate exponent of efficiency, for more energy would be produced than would be expended.
Throughout his unblemished 40-bout career, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been boxing’s version of cold fusion – and he works rather nicely at room temperature, thank you. Few fighters not known for one-punch power have ever inflicted more damage with fewer punches on offense while also demonstrating the defensive wizardry to avoid the blows of even the most accomplished opponents.
Such was the case Saturday night in Las Vegas when the man called “Money” was just that – even after 21 months away from the sport. His foil on this night was consensus number two pound-for-pound entrant Juan Manuel Marquez, a battle-tested – and perhaps battle-worn – 36-year-old who lacked the size and skill to solve Mayweather’s riddle.
The CompuBox numbers provided further illumination of Mayweather’s astonishing dominance over an opponent of Marquez’s standing. Consider:
* Despite throwing 41 punches per round – nearly 30 percent fewer than the welterweight average of 58.8 – and unleashing 90 fewer blows, Mayweather rolled up advantages of 290-69 in total connects, 185-21 in landed jabs and 105-48 in power connects.
* While Mayweather achieved statistical synchronicity by landing at a 59 percent rate in all categories, he yielded very little to Marquez. “Dinamita” failed to detonate as landed just 12 percent of his overall punches (69 of 583), seven percent of his jabs (21 of 288) and 16 percent of his power shots (48 of 295). Contrast that with the figures he put up against the counter-punching Joel Casamayor (31 percent overall and 42 percent in power punches) and one gets an idea of the magnitude of Mayweather’s defensive prowess.
* Mayweather held Marquez to single-digit connects in every round (his peak being eight in rounds seven and eight) while landing more jabs than Marquez did overall punches in all 12 rounds. Mayweather hit double-digit connects in jabs in every round except the second, when he landed nine.
* The round-by-round percentage gaps border on the absurd given each man’s pedigree. In overall punches the gulf exceeded 50 points in rounds one (58-8), two (69-12), four (68-16), nine (63-10), 10 (59-8), 11 (63-8) and 12 (64-12). That threshold was reached seven times in terms of jabs (including 59-0 and 58-0 shutouts in rounds five and 10) and four times in power punches (the biggest gap of which was 75-8 in round two).
* After building an unassailable lead on the scorecards Mayweather turned on the jets in the final four rounds as he out-landed Marquez 138-21 overall, 83-5 in jabs and 55-16 in power connects. In that stretch Mayweather upped his output to 55.5 punches per round as opposed to the 33.8 he threw over the first eight rounds. During that same stretch, Marquez showed extraordinary valor by actually increasing his volume in the face of the massive beating he was absorbing, for he threw 55 punches per round down the homestretch as opposed to the 45.4 punches he averaged over the first two-thirds of the fight.
Mayweather’s critics will point out – quite correctly – that he defeated a blown-up 126 to 130-pounder who had just recently moved up to lightweight and who also has the temperament of a counter-puncher. In the end, Marquez had the deck stacked against him as he fought a younger, faster, stronger, fresher, harder-hitting opponent who defied the contracted catch-weight by scaling a more natural 146. The burning question now is how Mayweather will do against a similarly sized fighter with a predatory streak and an iron will to match.
Despite the predictability of the overall outcome, one couldn’t have imagined that Mayweather would achieve this level of dominance following such a lengthy layoff and one of the byproducts of that mastery is that the level of expectations will soar exponentially. Fans and media will no longer tolerate skillful exhibitions against hand-picked opponents but rather showdowns with more challenging foes such as the winner of Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley among others.
True greatness can only be achieved through overcoming adversity and the time has finally come for Mayweather to show he can be just as commanding against the very best competition available. In other words, can boxing’s version of cold fusion go truly nuclear against the hottest heat his sport can offer? If so, then historians can declare “better late than never” rather than “what could have been.”