WHAT do Queensland captain Cameron Smith and pound-for-pound boxing king Floyd Mayweather have in common?
Not a lot, I hear you say. At a cursory glance that’s fair enough but if you peel back the layers and look at how both men approach their chosen vocation, the similarities become uncanny.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have caught at least some glimpse of the Mayweather-Connor McGregor circus that officially went on the road on Wednesday.
We should all enjoy what’s sure to be an entertaining press tour, because the fight itself won’t be all that much to see – Mayweather will win comfortably by a method of his choosing.
It’s as close to a forgone conclusion as one can get in a combat sport. There are plenty of people – most often looking at the odds on various betting apps and counting chickens that won’t hatch – who’ve asked Kick-off why we’re so certain – what makes Floyd so good?
There’s obviously the physical gifts, the pedigree and family lineage, but what sets Floyd apart from the rest is his in-ring ability to quickly deduce an opponent’s strategy and adjust his to nullify it.
It often involves doing the unexpected to take his opponent out of their rhythm. Nowhere was this more apparent than his 2013 win over Saul Alvarez. ‘Canelo’ was 42-0, younger, stronger, superior punching power.
People expected Floyd to dance and dodge for the entire fight. Instead, he walked the bigger man down and pressed the action. He figured out Canelo was a stalker. Being stalked made him uncomfortable.
It was a strategy far removed from his usual style. Mayweather is not a pressure fighter, or a walk-down fighter, but it was what made his opponent most uncomfortable. Before Alvarez could figure it out the fight was over. Mayweather simply out-thought the bigger, stronger, younger opponent.
It’s exactly what Smith did to NSW on Wednesday night.
The Blues had made no secret of their plan to dominate through the middle of the park. It was where most people thought the Maroons simply couldn’t match them. So what did Smith do? He decided he’d play through the middle. Ask questions of the Blues that none of them expected to have to answer.
Smith is not a “running hooker” and yet he ran the ball 11 times in the first half alone. It would not have been on the Blues pre-game tip sheet. Smith had run the ball just 10 times combined across the opening two games of the series so it was nothing they would have anticipated.
All of a sudden, the supposed strength, from which they drew the most confidence, was suddenly where they were most vulnerable. By the time NSW figured it out, the game was out of reach and another series was gone.
Smith was not the best player on the field on Wednesday night. (Cameron Munster deserved man of the match) but, as always, he was the most influential. That ability to think slow and act fast is why McGregor is no chance against Mayweather in August. It’s why we probably should’ve known the Blues weren’t either.