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Floyd Mayweather: To clinch or not to clinch...that is the question

Joseph Herron Updated
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On Saturday, September 13th, Floyd Mayweather Jr. won a unanimous decision against Marcos Maidana in a highly publicized rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While the biggest name in the sport won in more decisive fashion than in his first meeting with the Argentine banger which resulted in a majority decision that took place on May 3rd, the performance left much to be desired to many fight fans and critics who witnessed the event.

Former trainer and current ESPN boxing analyst, Teddy Atlas, examined why Floyd's performance this past Saturday night was ultimately more effective, but not as entertaining as the first time he faced the hard charging two division titlist.

"Strategy," stated the prolific fight trainer. "Floyd played it really, really safe. It was all about legs and grabbing, because that's what Floyd did. He used his legs more in this fight to create distance, and grabbed on whenever Maidana worked his way inside and didn't give him the chance to get into his caveman and chaotic style where he just lets his hands go like a wild man."


Boxing genius and fight trainer James Gogue, center, with a few of his fans.

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"Floyd usually fights defensively and moves his upper body and head while making you miss. But not in the rematch with Maidana. In the rematch he used his legs more to keep his opponent off balance to where he couldn't get set and in position to really get any kind of offense going."

"When Maidana was able to work his way in range, Mayweather quickly tied him up and didn't give him the same opportunities that his opponent had during their first meeting."

"To be honest, I thought Kenny Bayless was very lenient for not warning or taking points away from Mayweather for way too much holding on the inside. If it were any other fighter than Floyd Mayweather, he would have warned him more or even taken points away."

In what seems to be a great controversy currently swirling about the fight community, many fighters who are proficient at boxing their opponents from mid to long range will often use holding as a defensive strategy to make up for a lack of aptitude in fighting effectively on the inside.

So is clinching indeed a foul, or is it "smart" boxing?

Is holding illegal, or is it a part of boxing that can be exercised as a strategic maneuver?

Because the ABC uniform rules of boxing delegate the interpretation and enforcement of specific fouls throughout a championship contest to the appropriate sanctioning organizations, members of the boxing community must turn to the primary sanctioning body who resided over the Mayweather/Maidana rematch for the correct ruling, which in this case was the World Boxing Council (WBC).

The WBC's rules for a championship contest does indeed recognize "excessive holding the opponent or maintaining a clinch" as 1 of 29 enforceable common fouls that could be cause for penalty or disqualification.

The WBC rules further state: "The referee may deduct points at his discretion at any time for flagrant or intentional fouls. The referee will warn boxers and may deduct points for continuous fouls. The referee may disqualify the offending boxer after warnings, point deductions and for continuous fouls."

Here's where the subjectivity of this entire process blurs the line between fair and foul:

Authority of Referee. The referee has the discretion and authority to:
  • interpret and enforce these rules
  • instruct and supervise the cornermen in their duties and responsibilities during the match, and
  • supervise all medical care of the boxers. He shall have the authority to inspect and confiscate any substance, material, or equipment used in a corner that he believes might violate these rules.

So according to the WBC rules of a championship contest, excessive holding or maintaining a clinch is a punishable foul, but has to be interpreted and enforced as such by the referee in charge of the action.

Therefore if fight fans are looking for someone to blame for the "excessive" holding practiced by Floyd Mayweather Jr. throughout his championship rematch with Marcos Maidana on September 13th, look no further than third man in the ring Kenny Bayless.

But is excessive holding or clinching good or bad for the overall health sport?

To gain more clarity on the divisive topic, three decade fight trainer James Gogue offers his thoughts on the subject of excessive holding.

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"It's horrible for the fans who want to watch an entertaining and dramatic fight," claims the expert boxing coach. "Nothing breaks the flow of action worse than clinching your opponent. I was at the MGM Grand Garden Arena this past Saturday night, and there were a lot of boos from the crowd because there wasn't much action during the fight."

"There just wasn't a consistent flow of action throughout the entire contest, and there never is when a fighter is allowed to resort to clinching on the inside, rather than fighting. The majority of people who I talked to while I was leaving the venue weren't happy with that fight and were sorry they paid a lot of money for their tickets."

"Everyone was complaining that the bout lacked excitement and drama. It's never a good thing for the sport whenever fans feel they've been ripped off. To create a more fan friendly product for the paying customers, the real bosses of the sport, the referees in charge are going to have to start enforcing more stringent penalties for excessive holding and clinching. The third men in the ring are going to have to start forcing these guys to fight like they used to back when boxing was a mainstream sport."

"It used to be common place for a referee to slap or pry a fighter's hand away when he attempted to hold his opponent. Referees like Mills Lane, Robert Byrd, and Jay Nady would never allow excessive holding as a defensive strategy. They would warn fighters and eventually deduct points if it continued."

"In my opinion, this trend of excessive holding and clinching throughout a contest is crippling the sport and it turns fans away from boxing."


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