If Floyd Mayweather finds himself in a tough spot on Saturday night in his super-fight welterweight showdown against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, he will likely call on something he has learned while being in the ring with one of the great junior welterweights to come out of Washington.
Former World Boxing Association 140-pound champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley was one of Mayweather’s sparring partners and helped him prepare for the much-anticipated fight.
The left-handed fighter, though, is particularly unique among Mayweather’s sparring partners. He’s the only one who put Mayweather at the most risk of losing when the two fought in 2004.
In fact, no one who has fought Mayweather, undefeated at 47-0 in his nearly 20-year career, has ever had the talented fighter in as much trouble as Corley did. In that year, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the District native stunned Mayweather with two hard right hands early in their 12-round bout.
In the third and fourth rounds of that fight at Boardwalk Hall, Mayweather was there for Corley’s taking after he sent Mayweather into the ropes.
“I knew I had him in trouble,” Corley said. “He went up against the ropes, recovered, got himself back together and started pop-shoting me and boxing me at the end of the third. The game plan was to continue to apply pressure. I hurt him in the fourth round and he went back against the ropes again and recovered once again.
“He changed his tactics after that, went to straight boxing, and placing shots in certain areas to break me down,” Corley said. “He didn’t get into a shootout with me anymore.”
Mayweather adapted and eventually went on to win a unanimous decision, knocking Corley down in the eighth and 10th rounds. But being the smart fighter than Mayweather is, the next time he was to face a southpaw — ironically, another great D.C. fighter, former World Boxing Council 140-pound champion Sharmba Mitchell in November 2005 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon — Mayweather called Corley and asked him to help prepare for the southpaw challenge. Mayweather stopped Mitchell in six rounds.
He made the same call to Corley in April 2006, when he was set to fight another lefthander, Zab Judah. Corley helped Mayweather prepare for that fight, which Mayweather won in a 12-round unanimous decision at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Mayweather made the call again after the fight with Pacquiao was signed.
Now, in the final days before the fight, Corley believes Mayweather is ready for whatever Pacquiao throws at him — and predicts the fight won’t go the full 12 rounds.
“Floyd is going to win the fight,” Corley said. “The first four rounds, Manny will be very aggressive, and Floyd will be very technical with his counter-punching and defense, keeping Manny at bay. From five through eight, the next three rounds, that is when you will see a shift in the fight. Floyd will figure out how to put the puzzle together with Manny and bring him down. I predict the fight will be over by the 10th round.”
Mayweather-Pacquiao is the dominant story not just in boxing, but all of world wide sports this week. But Corley may be writing himself a remarkable boxing story — at a time when he is about to turn 41.
A former National Golden Gloves amateur junior welterweight champion in 1995, Corley won the vacant WBO 140-pound world title in June 2001 in Las Vegas when he knocked out Felix Flores in the first round. He successfully defended the belt twice with wins over Ener Julio and Randall Bailey before losing a split decision to Judah in July 2003 in Las Vegas.
He continued to fight various contenders and others, but his career appeared to be over after losing three of four fights in 2012 and 2013. However, Corley, with a career record of 42-22-1 and about to turn 41, said he has rededicated himself and is now fighting at lightweight, a lower weight class.
“I am in the shape of a 25-year-old,” Corley said. “I’m much stronger than I was before. I’ve been fighting at 140 pounds for 17 years and knowing I can move down to a lightweight and fight at 135 and become world champion is a huge motivation for me. I’ve already had two fights as a lightweight and won them both, and my last fight I weighed in at 132 pounds.”
His next fight is May 16 in Denver against Manny Perez, though his next victory may come Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden, if Floyd Mayweather’s hand is raised in victory.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.