Floyd Mayweather’s defensive wizardry

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) defends against Manny Pacquiao (R) during their welterweight unification bout on May 2, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Crab Shell

Though his guard is often conflated with what is commonly referred to as the “Philly Shell,” Mayweather employs a Michigan-based adaptation to the Philly Shell. Termed the “Crab” by Floyd Mayweather Sr, this defensive system uses similar hand position to the Philly Shell but makes alterations to the stance to serve different purposes. Where the original Philly Shell suited an offensive style, Floyd’s prioritizes defense.

Users of the Philly Shell – Joe Frazier and George Benton for example – stand more square, allowing them to smoothly transfer weight between both hips and to defend punches by bending at the waist and rolling their upper body back and forth. This also enables throwing powerful lead hooks. In contrast, Mayweather stands heavily side-on, with his lead foot pointing toward his right. His bladed stance takes away from his ability to shift weight laterally but greatly aids in pulling the weight back.

Here you can see the basic starting position of the Mayweather Crab. His lead hand is held low and tight to his body to cover the soft, squishy parts of his stomach. The lead shoulder is used to shield the chin from punches coming from the opponent’s right side. Meanwhile, the rear hand is held higher, varying in position from the nipples to the cheek. This hand is responsible for deflecting jabs with a parry, and the rear forearm is brought up to cover the side of the face against left hooks and overhands.

Mayweather’s bladed stance affords him an additional measure of protection, shielding his center-line behind his lead shoulder, and with it his most vulnerable targets. To an opponent standing in front of him, there’s very little legal surface area to aim at and most of it is covered by Floyd’s glove, forearm, or shoulder.

This sequence provides a look into the mechanics of Mayweather’s defensive system. Floyd lunges into a body jab from outside Marquez’s punching range and immediately takes a backwards hop-step, causing the return to fall short.

As Mayweather steps out with his lead foot to pivot off, Marquez springs into a lead hook, but Mayweather shifts his weight onto his rear foot, pulling his head back out of the hook’s trajectory. Marquez follows up immediately with a right hand, but Mayweather folds on his rear hip and rotates his torso away from the punch, projecting his shoulder in front of his chin to deflect it. Mayweather then rotates his torso the opposite way in response to Marquez’s left hook, bringing his forearm around to block it.

As Mayweather blocks the first left hook, his lead hand posts on Marquez’s lead shoulder. This serves both to raise his shoulder to cover against the right hand and to impede Marquez’s ability to throw the left. As Marquez attempts another left hook, Mayweather pushes on the shoulder and disrupts its weight transfer.

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