For the second time in 2020, the sports world lost a memorable “Black Mamba.”
The boxing world knew their Mamba first. On Tuesday, the sad news of the passing of former lineal Jr. lightweight champion and two-division beltholder Roger Mayweather added to what has been a tragic week for the Mayweather family in general.
Fans who were around in the 1980s may remember Roger Mayweather as a fighter first. A skilled boxer with a lethal right hand and a vulnerable chin, Mayweather’s unpredictability made for some of the fun. So too did memorable extracurriculars. Whether he was responding to a pantsing from a young Pernell Whitaker by planting him on his rear, or decking Lou Duva after he schooled Vinny Pazienza.
Later fans may be mislead by their introduction to the first champion Mayweather. Make no mistake. Roger Mayweather was no one to play with as many opponents found out. Still, millennial types are more likely to recall the trainer version, the often comical, grizzled presence of Mayweather ever there in countless hours of his nephew Floyd’s pre-fight reality shows. “You don’t know shit about boxing,” became a hashtag for the ages (#YDKSAB) as did the mitt routines with Floyd no one else can duplicate.
In honor of the passing of Mayweather, a quick trip to YouTube was all that was needed for this installment of Boxing Without Boxing. While the sports world has come to a stop, why not take a moment and go back to the two nights where Roger Mayweather entered the challenger and exited to the sounds of, “...and New!”
The first is more notable than the second.
Puerto Rico’s Sammy Serrano entered 1983 riding his second reign as the lineal and WBA champion at 130 lbs. In his first reign, from 1976-80, he defended the title ten times. After suffering the Ring Magazine Upset of the Year with a sixth-round loss to Yasutsune Uehara in 1980, Serrano went on the road to Japan to snare the title back with a fifteen round decision the following year. He made three more defenses before the year was out before finding himself at home against Mayweather.
The young Mayweather was a veritable upstart heading into his first title shot. A professional since only July 1981, Roger Mayweather was on an even faster track than nephew Floyd would be 15 years later in the same division. The younger brother of Floyd Mayweather Sr., a contender in the welterweight ranks a few years earlier, Roger Mayweather headed to the hostile sun of San Juan on January 19, 1983, for a huge step up in competition in hopes of bringing the first world title to the family.
Heading Into the Fight
Title: Lineal/WBA super featherweight (1981-83, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBA super featherweight (1976-80, 10 Defenses)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 130 lbs.
Hailed from: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Record: 47-5-1, 16 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Title Fights: 15-1-1, 6 KO, 1 KOBY
Previous Five Opponents: 123-23-2 (.837)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’7 ½
Weight: 130 lbs.
Hailed from: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Record: 14-0, 8 KO
Ring Magazine Ranking: #6 (Cover Date: March 1983)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Title Opportunity
Last Five Opponents: 85-40-3 (.678)
Venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Referee: Isidro Rodriguez
Recapping the Action
The skinny legs of Mayweather are offset by broad shoulders and particularly long arms, the left of which is put to work doubling up as Mayweather pursues the veteran Serrano. Mayweather gets the better of a brief exchange near the minute mark and Serrano circles away, comfortable to feel out the younger man. Mayweather just misses getting all of a nice left hook when Serrano is on the ropes in the waning seconds.
Serrano is more aggressive at the start, attacking Mayweather only to find the return fire hot enough to resume circling the ring. Mayweather traps Serrano on the ropes near the midway point and let’s both hands go. He struggles to find the head of Serrano but digs some good shots to the body. A strong right from Mayweather drives Serrano toward the ropes again but the champion escapes and evades more big shots down the stretch.
Mayweather continues to play the aggressor. Serrano can’t find much offense against the quicker challenger but does find holes for occasional counter right hands over the top. They exchange briefly after the bell.
Mayweather jumps right on Serrano at the bell and Serrano is quickly playing defense on the ropes. Serrano battles back with blows of his own to the roar of the locals. Clinching, grappling, and leaning into each other, both men load up with big shots as they work around the canvas. They end the round with Serrano firing off the ropes as Mayweather again rips best with the left to the body.
Mayweather lands a nice right and follows with two lefts to the body. Mayweather is beginning to blister Serrano every time Serrano comes forward, landing the right hand lead and left to the body several times in the second half of the round.
Mayweather gets Serrano into the corner and works away but Serrano battles back. He’s making the challenger work for it. The round closes with Serrano again taking the worst of it near his corner. It makes for a short trip to the stool at the bell.
Cut over the left eye, a heavy swath of vaseline covering the wound, Serrano is looking for a right hand to stem the tide washing toward him. Usually it is Mayweather making him pay for the effort with counter lefts or rights in multiple, the advantage of speed and youth beginning to tell. With less than ten seconds to go, a Mayweather right has Serrano in big trouble but the bell sounds before Mayweather can complete the intended follow up assault though one more big right lands.
Serrano is up and pacing just before the bell as he attempts to shake the cobwebs loose. Mayweather attacks and Serrano ties him up before backing away. Mayweather catches Serrano near the ropes but Serrano shows his experience evading most of the worst of it. In a dramatic turn, a haymaker lands for Serrano and Mayweather appears to wobble. Mayweather turns the tide back with another hurting right. Serrano fires but his legs are loose and another sailing overhand right puts Serrano hard to the floor. The count gets to six, Serrano trying to rise, but a corner man for the champion enters the ring, draping himself over the fallen warrior to save him more punishment at 2:13 of round eight.
After the Bell
Serrano’s time at the championship level was counted out for good. He would fight only three more times, once in 1984 and then twice in the mid-1990s, winning every time but never again as a serious contender. He would retire with a mark of 50-6-1 and has been on the ballot for the International Boxing Hall of Fame for several years. To date, Serrano remains unelected.
Mayweather would defend the title with a pair of knockouts in 1983 but lost his first defense in 1984, shocked in one round by the excellent, often hard luck, Rocky Lockridge. It was the beginning of a roller coaster for the next few years. Mayweather would lose again, by decision, to Tony Baltazar in his first start after Lockridge before embarking on a four-fight win streak to earn another title shot.
His second chance to be a champion ended almost as quickly as the Lockridge affair, Mayweather pummeled in the second by WBC titlist Julio Cesar Chavez. It was Mayweather’s last fight at 130 lbs. He won a pair at lightweight, was stunned by a then-unknown Freddie Pendleton, won three more, and then dropped a decision to Pernell Whitaker in 1987.
Lightweight having proven an uneven stop, Mayweather moved up in weight again to test the Jr. welterweight waters. Two knockout wins lined him up for his first title opportunity since the loss to Chavez in 1985. On November 12, 1987, Mayweather would challenge southern California favorite Rene Arredondo.
Arrendondo upset one of the division leaders, Lonnie Smith, in five rounds to win the WBC belt in May 1986 only to lose the belt two months later via first round knockout to Tsuyoshi Hamada in Japan. Two fights later, in July 1987, Arredondo was back on the road to stop Hamada in six and regain the strap. Fighting on his turf in Los Angeles, Arredondo set out to stop Mayweather from winning his second major crown.
Heading Into the Fight
Title: WBC super lightweight (1987, 1st Defense)
Previous Titles: WBC super lightweight (1986)
Weight: 139 lbs.
Hailed from: Apatzingan, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico
Record: 40-3, 35 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Title Fights: 2-1, 2 KO, 1 KOBY
Previous Five Opponents: 107-29-7 (.772)
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBA super featherweight (1983-84, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’7 ½
Weight: 139 lbs.
Hailed from: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Record: 28-5, 19 KO, 3 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-2, 3 KO, 2 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 94-13-4 (.865)
Venue: Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California
Referee: Lou Fillipo
Circling to his left, Mayweather begins behind the jab, working at range and looking to pick off the shots of Arredondo with his gloves. The taller Arredondo fires his long jab as well, just missing on some long right hand attempts. Arredondo gets the right home late in the round. Mayweather replies with a buckling right of his own just before the bell.
It’s another high energy attempt from both men to establish the jab. The quicker Mayweather has the better of it, getting his right hand in behind the lead several times. Arredondo seems a step behind the smaller man.
Note: Third round missing.
Seeming already to have the champion timed, Mayweather has Arredondo flinching with each jab whether it lands or not. Arredondo seems ready to throw but finds himself tasting the gloves of Mayweather before he can get off.
Mayweather walks into a short left hook and fires back in combination. Fighting in a zone, Mayweather’s subtle head movement and immediate counters keep Arredondo off balance and discouraged. After missing a series of blows, Arredondo finds a home for some left hooks but Mayweather is there for each with a shot of his own.
Arredondo’s right eye is showing the wear of contact as Mayweather’s stay first and better repeatedly. Arredondo gets in a nasty right hand but Mayweather doesn’t budge. Sensing an opportunity, Arredondo attacks and walks right into a classic Mamba strike, the Mayweather right hand folding him at the knees. Arredondo collapses into the floor. Arredondo beats the count and action resumes with Arredondo acknowledging he’d been caught with a wave of his left glove.
The honorable salute gets no reprieve from Mayweather. The challenger measures Arredondo with his left and detonates a sizzling right hand to drop Arredondo for the second time. Blood running from his nose, Arredondo rises again and goes on. Three Mayweather rights later Arredondo is again on the floor and this time there will be no count. It’s over at 2:00 minutes of the sixth and Mayweather has a title in his second weight class.
After the Bell(s)
Arredondo was done as a serious factor after that night. He would post a mark of 6-9 and be stopped four more times through 1997, ending his career in the first round as part of a brief comeback by 70s welterweight king Carlos Palomino. Arredondo retired with a mark of 46-12.
Writing of Mayweather’s return to championship form in the March 1988 issue of The Ring, Nigel Collins relayed Mayweather’s desire to face Hector Camacho and, sans such opportunity, a willingness to test the waters at welterweight:
“I want to fight at welter,” he said. “I believe I’m capable of winning the 147-lb. Title.” Whether or not another title is in store remains to be seen, but Mayweather has no illusions. He fully understands his appeal to both the public and promoters alike. “I like to try and provide the fans with some excitement, whether it’s me or the other guy who goes,” said Mayweather. “I like it that way.”
Welterweight wasn’t to be nor was a long sought showdown with Camacho. Mayweather would extend ultimately to an eight-fight win streak with four defenses of the WBC belt, including a narrow escape against Harold Brazier and the undressing of Pazienza. It set the stage for a rematch with Chavez in May 1989. Mayweather lasted longer the second time around but was ultimately retired in ten.
Mayweather would never hold another major title but had more chances. He won six in a row after Chavez and was matched with Rafael Pineda in December 1991 for the vacant IBF Jr. welterweight strap. A notably dull affair, Mayweather was even on one card and ahead on another when he was knocked out in round nine. His last title shot came in 1995, the then aged man having enough left to extend Kostya Tszyu to twelve rounds for the first time in a losing decision.
Mayweather would go 5-1 after Tszyu, winning his last three fights before concluding his fighting career in 1999. Mayweather then assumed the role of trainer to his nephew full time as part of a career that included titles in five weight classes, record riches, and an undefeated finishing mark.
Roger Mayweather retired with a mark of 59-13 (35 KO). In those 72 professional contests, he lived up to the desire to provide excitement whether he went or they did.
He liked it that way.
We liked it that way too.
Rest in paradise Mamba.
While the sport is largely postponed, boxing has a rich library of classic fights, films, and books to pass the time. In terms of fights, readers are welcome to get involved. Feel free to email, comment in the forum, or tweet @roldboxing with classic title fight suggestions. If they are widely available on YouTube, and this scribe has never seen them or simply wants to see them again, the suggestion will be credited while the fight is reviewed in a future chapter of Boxing Without Boxing.
Previous Installments of Boxing Without Boxing
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]