By: Ronald Cameron
It’s been a while since I’ve done this and I enjoy doing them because these “dream fights” always cause plenty of debates among boxing fans. This time will be no different, I can assure you. In my lifetime, I’ve seen many defensive wizards. I’ve also read many stories about the great Willie Pep. My dad’s best friend would talk to me for hours about the greatness of “Will o’ the Wisp” and how Pep once won a round-without throwing a punch! Truthfully, I’ve seen a few Pep fights, but they were when he was past his prime. But the two greatest defensive fighters I’ve ever seen in their primes were Hall of Famer Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker and the great Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
So what would happen if these two defensive wizards would have met in their primes? Before I get into this, let’s first establish what weight they should fight at.
For Whitaker, one could argue that he was at his best between 135-140lbs and the same can be said about Mayweather yet you could argue that he’s still in his prime as a Welterweight. So to be fair, let’s make this a Jr. Welterweight fight at 140lbs. And to make it more interesting, let’s place this fight in the Mecca of sports areas: Madison Square Garden. And, if you have read my work, you know what I think of title belts in this day and age so let’s call this belt the “Undisputed Best Defensive Fighter Of All Time” belt.
Both guys had great amateur careers and are both technically sound.
Starting with Whitaker, I’ve followed his career ever since he was an amateur, fighting on that great 1984 Olympic team with Evander Holyfield and many others. Whitaker was so technically sound, he had an underrated jab, good power in his straight left hand and he was a decent body puncher. He could avoid punches by slipping to the side, moving his head side to side as his opponents attempt to land punches on him and he could make you look foolish swinging at air. Whitaker was a good counter-puncher not a great one but he was effective. And while the southpaw was a defensive guru, he was never afraid to stand toe to toe and mix it up with you.
Whitaker has been knocked down a handful of times, yet I’ve only seen him seriously hurt once… against Floyd’s uncle, Roger Mayweather (The Original “Black Mamba”) who knocked him down with a vicious right hand. He did recovered and went on to out-point him. Whitaker has been robbed on more than one occasion, his losses to Jose Luis Ramirez and Julio Cesar Chavez were two of the worst screw-jobs in boxing history and I also believe Whitaker beat Oscar De La Hoya.
The one knock on Whitaker is that he didn’t possess one-punch knockout power but he still got the job done by out-boxing his opponents.
As for Mayweather, he too is a defensive genius but he does it a little differently than Whitaker. Floyd avoids punches by blocking with his famous shell defense where he keeps his jaw tucked under his left shoulder, his left arm guards his body, and his right glove is placed near the right side of his face – capable of avoiding his opponents left hooks. And with that defense, Floyd is in a great position to counterpunch, throwing fast lead right hands and check left hooks out of that stance.
Floyd is also great at adjusting often giving away the first two rounds, but when he figures you out, you’re in for a long night. Floyd can be physical when need be and beat you by fighting in close quarters as he did against Ricky Hatton. Mayweather is also a good body-puncher. One of his most effective punches is his left jab to the chest, a punch that saps the energy out of his opponents. Money Mayweather has rarely been seriously hurt, but in two of those cases, he was stunned by southpaws DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley and Zab “Super” Judah. And while some of his critics would like to see Floyd be more of a finisher like Sugar Ray Leonard or Roberto Duran, Mayweather is more content with winning on points (much like Whitaker). But if you press the issue with Floyd, he is capable of stopping you as he did against the late Diego Corrales and Ricky Hatton, two guys who were very aggressive and who offered little to no defense.
The Pre-Fight Interviews Would Be Must-See TV.
Just imagine the pre-fight interviews? We all know that Mayweather is not afraid to trash-talk his opponents and Whitaker is not the type of man that would back down. I could see Floyd making fun of Whitaker not having a lot of knockouts on his record and I could see Whitaker responding by saying that he’s the best defensive fighter in boxing history. And their respective trainers, Roger Mayweather (Who rarely gets mentioned as one of the best trainers in the sport by casual fans, but he should be near the top of the list) and legendary trainer Lou Duva, two guys who have no filter or mute button. One thing is for sure, there would not be a dull moment in those press conferences.
This will be a fast paced chess match, yet whoever decides to take risks late in this fight may lose.
Usually when a fight takes place, one guy has a definitive advantage over the other and it’s just a matter of how he will utilize that advantage. But in this case, these two are so similar in so many ways, and if one has an advantage, it’s not a huge one. For instance, I believe Floyd is faster and is a better counter-puncher than Whitaker, but I also believe Whitaker was a better defensive fighter and he has more ring generalship. But in all cases, I believe the margin is very close in every area.
This is why I believe this fight will come down to who will be the one who takes risks and when they decide to do so. And surprisingly enough, I believe the one who is the most aggressive will be the one who may come up short. That might sound odd, but both guys fight better when their opponents come at them. Both fighters have shown that they can fight moving forward, so it will be interesting to see who will take the bait and becomes the aggressor.
As for the fight, I believe it would be a fast pace chess match for the first 8 rounds. Floyd would be effective with his jabs to the chest and with his counter-right hands, while Whitaker would score with his right hooks and left leads. Both would be effective when they fight inside, trading hard body shots and uppercuts. There will be times where they make each other look bad because of their great defense, but still the action would be intense during these rounds. After splitting the first 8 rounds, things would start to pick up even more.
In the 9th round, after a great exchange in the center of the ring, Floyd catches Whitaker with a perfect right hand counter shot that sends the cagy southpaw to the canvas. Whitaker gets up at the count of 3 with a sheepish grin on his face as if to say and he’s not seriously hurt. Floyd also senses that he’s not buzzed, but he finishes up the round by landing more right leads and good body shots. In the 10th, the counter-punching guru would decide to take the fight to Whitaker, still scoring with right leads and Whitaker would respond in kind with counter-left hands and uppercuts. No clear winner in the 10th. Early in the 11th, Whitaker rocks Mayweather with a picture perfect counter-right hook that sends the Michigan native stumbling back into the ropes. Whitaker is patient yet effective and he hurts Floyd again late in the round with a solid left hand near the ropes. Floyd survives the 11th, but this was a clear 10-8 round for Whitaker.
While waiting for the 12th and final round, both corners tell their fighters that they need to win this round. Whitaker comes out and decides to box Mayweather, while Floyd is desperate and he turns into the slugger in this round. This plays right into the hands of Whitaker, who puts on a boxing clinic in this round, landing good shots, getting out of danger and making Floyd miss for most of the round. With 20 seconds to go, Floyd lands a solid check-left hook that got Whitaker’s attention, but it was too little too late. Whitaker clearly wins this round, but it’s now left up to the judges to decide.
Ladies and Gentleman…….. We have a split decision. Judge Pete Bowe scores it…. 114-113…..Whitaker… Judge Luther Brown scores it… 114-113…. Mayweather.. And Judge Vernest James scores it… 114-112 for the winner….. And the undisputed best defensive fighter of all time….. PERNELL…….SWEET PEEEEEEEEEEE WHITAKER!!!!!
To some people’s surprise, Floyd is gracious in defeat, saying that he knew the fight was close and that he wants a rematch. Whitaker is also cordial, saying that he also wants to do this again because he doesn’t want there to be any debate as to who is better.
This is just my thoughts on how I believe this fight would unfold. If you believe it would have gone differently or if you agree with me, please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section located near the bottom of this article at www.BoxingIQ.com. And while you’re at this great site, be sure to read “Punches In Bunches” by Anthony Whitby, “Zute For Thought” by Anthony George(He also has a great boxing radio show every Thursday night titled, “Zute’s Sports Talk”) and last but not least, the owner and editor of BoxingIQ.com, Joseph Torres, also known as the “Mad Boxing Genius”.