Lee Groves

10: Floyd Mayweather’s greatest fights

5. November 1, 2003 – KO 7 Phillip N’dou, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan


In the weeks leading up to this fight, there was a groundswell of opinion suggesting that the South African “Time Bomb” was capable of producing an explosive upset. In winning 21 straight fights, N’dou (31-1, 30 KOs) had scored 20 knockouts and his out-of-nowhere right cross was perhaps the best sneak punch in the sport. Plus, at 5-foot-11 he was three inches taller than Mayweather and was a proven winner away from home as he prevailed in Madison Square Garden, Bethnal Green, Mandalay Bay and the Staples Center.

Meanwhile, Mayweather had struggled to win his first fight against Jose Luis Castillo and he looked less than scintillating in his rematch win over Castillo and Victoriano Sosa. Plus, Mayweather was having problems with chronically brittle hands.

Confronted with these variables, Mayweather did what all great champions do – prove their critics wrong in the most sensational manner possible.

Within the first 90 seconds Mayweather had already diagnosed N’dou’s long-armed volume punching style and proceeded to drill punches through every exposed gap. While remaining dangerously close to the vortex, Mayweather’s quick trigger fired painfully accurate bullets. N’dou mounted a courageous stand in the fifth as he fired cluster bombs at Mayweather’s head and body but the champion calmly negotiated the crisis and cerebrally prepared his response. Two sizzling hooks stunned N’dou at the start of the sixth and a cross-hook appeared to floor the challenger, but referee Frank Garza called it a slip. Still, Mayweather smartly recognized N’dou’s duress and produced an almost animalistic attack. N’dou somehow managed to survive, but only because Mayweather became temporarily arm-weary.

Mayweather reloaded in the seventh with an awe-inspiring symphony of violence. Combination and after combination riddled N’dou’s body and this time no respite was in sight. Three consecutive rights to the jaw, all thrown with impeccable form and leverage, drove N’dou to the floor and prompted chief second Nic Durandt to throw in the towel at the 1:50 mark.

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