Floyd Mayweather Jr. has often come under fire for his defensive style of boxing where he avoids big hits and often opts to lay back instead of attacking his opponent.
The issue was particularly prominent after his 2015 bout with Manny Pacquiao in which he generally guarded against big hits from Pacquiao and chose to win by points rather than attempting any big punches.
Mayweather seems aware of the criticism, as he’s already vowed to “go to” Conor McGregor when he faces him on August 26.
However, according to Sam Girard, an early Mayweather opponent, Mayweather isn’t doing anything wrong by fighting this way.
Girard, who lost to Mayweather by knockout in two rounds in 1998, told Business Insider that, in fact, Mayweather is playing the sport as it’s supposed to be played.
“A lot of my friends say he runs too much,” Girard said. “He plays defense too much, I guess.
“Me, my opinion of him, he’s a good fighter. That’s the name of the game. You ain’t supposed to get hit, you’re not supposed to let guys hit you. The name of the game is hit and not get it. And he does it real well.”
Girard said that Mayweather was more aggressive early on when he fought as a lightweight. During their 1998 bout, Mayweather actually came after Girard and broke his nose, eventually setting up a second knockdown that forced the referee to call the match. Girard said Mayweather wasn’t as much a powerful hitter as a quick and accurate hitter; eventually, repeated blows take their toll.
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Additionally, Girard said he heard Mayweather’s hands often trouble him, an obvious side effect of throwing punches over several decades. Girard believes that may be why Mayweather sometimes backs off opponents.
“He has some problems with his hands,” Girard said. “That’ll make a guy run too. Your hands are hurt, you can’t punch, what good are you?”
Still, it’s not as if Mayweather’s defensive style is an easy one to master. Girard said Mayweather’s patented shoulder roll is as good as any move in boxing.
“He’ll make you miss,” Girard said. “He’ll make you look stupid. He made plenty of guys look real dumb.”
It remains to be seen whether Mayweather will truly go after McGregor and try to fight an offensive fight. If he returns to his traditional defensive style, though, Girard – and probably many other boxers – don’t have a problem with it.