By John Hively
In early winter of 1935, former world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling boarded a luxury liner en route to New York from Europe to watch the undefeated power punching fistic sensation Joe Louis battle the veteran warhorse and longtime contender Paolino Uzcudun of Spain. The Spaniard was a real contender, not some stiff. He had never been stopped in sixty-nine fights, including three bouts against the heavy fisted Schmeling. Paolino held wins against some of the best punchers of his era including Max Baer, Harry Wills and Jack Renault.
Louis had been a professional for only seventeen months, but he was in the process of cleaning out the heavyweight division like no one since Jack Dempsey, and perhaps no one has since. Unbeaten in twenty-five fights, Louis had scored twenty-one knockouts over such top-notch contenders as Max Baer (KO 4), King Levinsky (KO 1), Primo Carnera (KO 6) and Roscoe Toles (KO 6). He was considered to be an unbeatable power puncher who possessed great hand speed and good boxing skill.
According to Schmeling, who sat near ringside, Louis completely dominated the Spaniard during the first three rounds using his left almost exclusively. Joe looked “almost bored” between rounds. In the fourth heat Louis was giving poor Paolino the beating of his life with only his left hand, but then, “the Spaniard’s guard fell for only a second, Louis rights followed landing with devastating effect.” One put Uzcudun down for the count for the only time in his career. The one-sided pasting sent the Spaniard into retirement.
Immediately after the fight, near the ring, a reporter sneeringly stated matter-of-factly to Schmeling, “’No one stands between him (Louis) and the championship, not you either, Max!’” Schmeling retorted that Louis still had much to learn, he still looked at times like an amateur, and he better not make such mistakes against Herr Max. The reporters laughed at the crazy man in front of them. How could anyone dare suggest that past-his-prime Schmeling could defeat the invincible Brown Bomber? A reporter asked, “’how do you intend to do this?’” Schmeling replied, “I see something.” He refused to reveal what it was. The German saw that Louis dropped his left momentarily when he pulled it back after throwing his jab, leaving the Bomber open for Max’s powerful right hand. People thought Schmeling was crazy to take the match with Joe, including Adolf Hitler.
But history showed that Max Schmeling had indeed discovered a weakness in the great Brown Bomber when he scored a dramatic knockout over the not quite so invincible fighter seven months later.
Speeding up to contemporary times, you have to wonder if Oscar De La Hoya has discovered a weakness in Floyd Mayweather. If so, can the Golden Boy take advantage of it? As a casual observer of several of Floyd’s and Oscar’s bouts, it is conceivable that Oscar can take out Floyd via kayo. He has the skill, speed and power, more so than anyone Floyd has ever fought.
Styles make fights and the Pretty Boy may be made to order for Oscar, especially if Mayweather chooses to fight De La Hoya as he has for the last several years; standing right in front of his opponents, daring them to hit him, yet evading the vast majority of their punches, and countering seemingly at will. This style has proved successful, but the opponents have been carefully chosen. He has faced solid competition during his career, no doubt about that, but he hasn’t stepped into the ring with an all-time great fighter yet. This may be why he has been so outstandingly triumphant while stationed in front of his opponents. It’s difficult to envision Floyd getting away with such tactics against talented and brutal punching warriors like Roberto Duran, Carmen Basilio and quite a few others at or around the Pretty Boy’s weight. Perhaps that’s the reason he has ducked Antonio Margarito for several years.
At best, Oscar is a borderline great boxer, but his peak was several years ago. He hasn’t fought much during the last several years, and so stamina may prove to be his undoing. Floyd has never had a stamina problem, but Oscar has been stamina-challenged now and then, even during his prime, many years ago.
Pretty Boy may prove to be too talented for the Golden Boy during the championship rounds, but I think, like Schmeling in 1935, I see something in Floyd’s style that makes him vulnerable to an early knockout at the hands of Oscar. I could be wrong. Oscar and Freddie Roach may see what I see, but they may think it unimportant, or too miniscule of a weakness to take advantage of. Absent a knockout scored by Oscar, this fight will likely go the distance since De La Hoya has an iron jaw and Floyd’s power is average at best. In which case, Mayweather will win because of his skills and his proven stamina during the championship rounds.
Make no mistake about it, no matter what the outcome Floyd should be put to his first real test since his initial bout with Jose Luis Castillo.