Floyd or Roger Mayweather: Who is the Greater Trainer?

By Michael Herron: The Egyptians realized ages ago that the triangle was a powerful design; as a result many of the Pharonic pyramids still stand today as monuments to a great past and wonders of the ancient world. In boxing, the Mayweather family has constructed a pyramid of their own, the triple threat of father, son, and uncle have chiseled and carved their way to the pinnacle of the sport. But like a pyramid, you can not get to the highest peak and position that final stone unless a good foundation is laid. As any fighter knows, it all begins and ends with proper training and it is in this regard that the Mayweather family has excelled and positioned that final stone in the person of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. However, as the Egyptians often learned, sometimes pyramids buckle from the weight..

As fighters turned trainers the Mayweather brothers, Floyd Sr., Roger, and to an extent, Jeff, all contributed to Floyd becoming the fighter he is today. Since nearly the start of Floyd’s professional career however he has worked almost exclusively with his uncle Roger. This has created an obvious rift between father and son that has played out in the media for many years. Though there are many reasons for their past estrangement it is clear that not being the primary trainer of his son has troubled Sr. But rather than cry about it, Floyd Sr. has fabricated a new ego driven identity referring to himself as the “greatest trainer of all times,” Floyd Jr., seemingly in direct opposition of his father, often refers to Roger as the “greatest trainer in the sport.” To quote Floyd’s most recent interview with ESPN’s Brian Kenny, “you can’t have it both ways, which one is it?” With a plethora of documentary footage, training video, fight results, and professional opinions available, is it possible to determine which Mayweather is indeed the greatest trainer?

In a recent interview with Bossip, Floyd gives this opinion of his father and uncles training ability: “Listen, Roger Mayweather has been in my corner since…day one pretty much. We are Montana and Rice. I love my dad and he is an “aight” trainer, but I made him an excellent trainer. People think he trained me the whole way and that is why he is so sought after now. My dad has only trained me for two (professional) fights. People fail to realize that.”

Floyd’s take on his place in the sport has always been a mixed bag for writers but his opinion that he took his father from an “aight” trainer to an excellent one is no less provocative. Usually it is the other way around; an excellent trainer will often make their “aight” fighter better, such as the case with Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao, Emmanuel Steward and Thomas Hearns, and also Buddy McGirt and the late Arturo Gatti. Why Floyd sometimes gives his father credit but then takes it back is a mystery to all but Floyd Jr. himself.

One of Floyd Sr’s strengths as a trainer is clearly his experience. In addition to his son, he has worked with many current and former champions, fighters like Chad Dawson, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Steve Forbes, Joan Guzman, and Laila Ali just to name a few. In addition to teaching his defensive techniques, Sr. prides himself as an excellent ring strategist. It is often easy to spot when fighters are doing specific movements associated with Mayweather, the shoulder role defense in particular, stiff jab and move, in the pocket defense/offense using elbows and head movement, etc…a problem however concerns whether it is wise to teach fighters a style that may not be suitable to their abilities? Watching some fighters attempt to use Sr.’s techniques is sometimes more dreadful than appealing.

In regards to Floyd Jr.’s fighting style it appears (in my opinion) to favor the techniques associated with his father. Though I can be completely wrong considering that fighters know exactly what they pick up from other trainers, I question if Roger is “training” Mayweather Jr., as in teaching new skills and strategy, or did he inherit a finished product and is simply rehearsing for the next performance? In Jr.’s fight against Carlos Baldomir for instance, Roger was not in the corner due to being suspended, yet it was business as usual for Floyd.

Despite questions concerning Roger as a “teacher” what is apparent is the chemistry between the two. Roger and Floyd Jr.’s training footage and pad work has become legendary and one thing they certainly have down to a science is speed, timing, and coordination. A fighter could be very successful with just that alone. In addition, Floyd at times is an aggressor who throws frequent right hand leads and hooks; Roger, an offensive fighter during his career, is often credited with targeting the more aggressive side of Floyd’s offense. Unlike Floyd Sr. however, Roger has not worked with nearly as many champions and is not as publicly sought after as his brother. That in itself does not mean Sr. is better but perhaps Roger is content working almost exclusively with arguably the best fighter in the world. As a consequence, there have been fewer opportunities to observe Roger as a trainer, teacher, and strategist, thus a smidgeon of doubt concerning what he can achieve with a fighter not named Floyd.

A great opportunity to see a trainer in action is not just in the gym but during the fight itself. Actions and instructions given to fighters between rounds are routinely televised and every word is analyzed and critiqued. Floyd Sr. was most recently heard instructing former junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton to keep his hands up and to not jump straight in at Manny Pacquiao; coincidently, it was Hatton’s failure to follow these instructions that many agree led to a dramatic knockout loss. Roger, when working with Floyd Jr., is often heard given these instructions, “keep doing what you doing, we gonna get the motherfucker.” Now those are fine instructions when a fighter is doing everything right, if it aint broke why fix it, but it is clear that Floyd Sr., even when in the corner of a great fighter like Oscar De La Hoya, is forced to work a bit harder on in-fight strategy and motivation.

What both trainers have in common is drive, dedication, and loyalty to the sweet science. Both place emphasis on speed, using the jab, footwork and head movement; fundamentally learning how to box in addition to learning how to fight. Also, each Mayweather, including Jr., is armed with a defiant yet entertaining gift for verbally assaulting any and all fighters, trainers, fans, or media critics who disagree with their narcissistic view of themselves; which to their credit often lead to increased viewer ratings and ticket sales. This overstated confidence however is clearly derived from fighting smart not talking trash.

In the course of observing and reviewing this topic I have learned that analyzing and reviewing fighters is much easier than comparing and contrasting trainers. The goal was to determine which Mayweather is the greater trainer and I am happy to admit I have failed. When comparing Roger and Floyd Sr. the only opinion I can offer is that Roger appears great in the gym and Floyd Sr. seems great in the corner. I like the instruction and strategic advice provided by Sr. but witnessing Roger and Floyd Jr.’s gym work is inspiring. So why criticize Roger for focusing on one great fighter which is a proven way to build a champion and why disparage Floyd Sr. for sharing his knowledge with many fighters who are simply trying to enhance what they already know? Ultimately a great trainer will be defined by their great fighter(s) and great fighters will be defined by their great trainer(s); but even still it is up to the fighter, whether he is a son or nephew, to decide if he will give, share, or simply keep all the credit for himself.

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Article posted on 03.08.2009

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