3. December 19, 1998 – KO 2 Angel Manfredy, Miccosukee Indian Gaming Resort, Miami
As if the stakes weren’t already high enough, THE RING announced shortly before the fight that it would declare the winner its 1998 Fighter of the Year. It was a wise choice, for Mayweather’s 5-0 year was highlighted by his extraordinary dominance of Hernandez that enabled the 21-year-old to become boxing’s youngest champion while Manfredy’s crushing eight-round knockout of Gatti brightened his case.
For once, Mayweather was upstaged in the ring entrances. Kid Rock belted out lyrics specifically written for the fight while accompanying Manfredy to the ring while an all-business Mayweather simply walked down the aisle with his handlers. What Manfredy didn’t know was that Mayweather was saving all his flash for the ring.
Mayweather sent an instant message by firing a lightning-quick counter right over Manfredy’s low jab and softening up his quarry with pinpoint jabs to the body. During the second half of the round, Manfredy was the more effective fighter as he caught Mayweather with single straight shots. Manfredy continued to press in the second, landing an effective right to the jaw and a hook to the ribs but Mayweather, who felt comfortable enough to briefly turn southpaw, would soon produce a breathtaking response.
With 38 seconds remaining, Mayweather snapped a lead right, a right uppercut, another lead right and a crushing right to the cheek that buckled Manfredy’s legs. Mayweather pounced like a hungry tiger the moment Manfredy betrayed his weakness. A scorching hook forced Manfredy to briefly sit on the ropes before pulling himself upright, and as Manfredy desperately bobbed and weaved Mayweather continued to fire. Twenty-eight unanswered blows was enough to persuade referee Frank Santore to stop the fight with 13 seconds left in round two.