Floyd has skills to floor Oscar

My iPod has just about every Beatles song ever recorded. Heck, I love the Beatles so much, I bought Ringo Starr’s singles. If you’ve ever heard his voice, you know that’s true devotion.

I fell in love when I was about 5, much to my father’s consternation. He could never understand my devotion to all things Beatles.

His complaint? The length of their hair.

He also didn’t understand my idolatry for Muhammad Ali (big mouth), Elvis Presley (drug-crazed freak) or Pete Maravich (hair again).

I vowed never to judge someone because they dared to be different.

And, OK, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is different. I’ve never been big on celebrities who speak of themselves in the third person, like so many are wont to do.

Mayweather was at it the other day, noting "Floyd Mayweather is real," "Floyd Mayweather has never ducked or dodged anybody," "Floyd Mayweather is all about skills," and "Floyd Mayweather keeps proving y’all wrong."

I almost fell asleep as he ran through that list. But when he said, "Floyd Mayweather still can get better — lots better," I paid attention, and not because it was the first time in more than 30 minutes of talking about himself that he sounded humble.

I have reason to be humble. But guys like Floyd Mayweather Jr., who are blessed with otherworldly talents, have no reason to be humble.

Like the man said, he’s all about the skills. Those skills are why I think he’ll win eight or nine of the 12 rounds in his blockbuster super welterweight title fight with Oscar De La Hoya on May 5 at the MGM Grand Garden.

He does things in the ring that very few men have ever been able to do.

Still, Mayweather has an unusually large and vocal number of critics for a guy who has won all 37 of his professional fights while collecting championships in four weight classes along the way.

I suspect that has more to do with his willingness to speak his mind and to gleefully accept the bad-boy persona than anything he’s done in the ring.

Mayweather is a brilliant defensive fighter with extraordinary reflexes. That combination puts him among the best in history defensively.

There have been many exceptionally quick fighters who didn’t understand the sport and thus got hit by punches they had the capability of avoiding. And there have been some who have shared his innate sense of defensive strategy but not his physical gifts and thus got caught by blows that don’t come close to getting Mayweather.

He is among the few fighters ever who could stand in front of an opponent for an entire round and not get hit by a clean punch.

And don’t forget that the best defense is a good chin, and I’d dare say Mayweather has one of the three best chins in boxing today.

If he has the capacity to improve, though, it would be offensively. Mayweather never has been feared by opponents the way, say, Mike Tyson and Thomas Hearns were.

Frank Bruno looked as if he were going to summon a priest to give him last rites before going out to face Tyson for the WBC heavyweight title in 1996.

Tyson and Hearns could win fights with one punch, something Mayweather hasn’t done. And even his punches to the body haven’t been enough to blunt the charge of the most determined of his opponents, men such as Jose Luis Castillo and Emanuel Burton (now Augustus).

But here’s a fact as true as it may be hard to believe: Mayweather has a better knockout percentage in title fights than Hearns, 50 percent to 47.4 percent.

Mayweather is 18-0 with nine knockouts in fights for either the WBA, WBC, IBF or WBO titles. Hearns was 14-4-1 with nine knockouts while competing in bouts for those same belts.

That’s not to suggest that Mayweather has punched, or ever will punch, as hard as Hearns.

"He may not be a one-punch knockout guy, but who hasn’t come out of a fight with Floyd totally busted up?" his close friend and adviser Leonard Ellerbe asked. "(Arturo) Gatti? Please. He was scary to look at. (Zab) Judah? Castillo? Even Burton, which was a bad fight for Floyd, Burton came out all busted up. If he can’t punch, I guess those guys are getting beaten up and swelled up and cut up by magic."

If Mayweather is true to his word and retires after the fight, something Ellerbe says he believes with all his heart, then he has one chance to leave the critics with a memory of something other than his braggadocio.

Even though it is a risky strategy, Mayweather should take the fight to De La Hoya and try to knock out the Golden Boy.

Mayweather says he can get better. And because throughout sports history the greats have always been able to lift their game when competing on the biggest stage, this is the time for him to prove it.

Kevin Iole’s boxing column is published Saturday. He can be reached at 396-4428 or kiole@reviewjournal.com.

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