How A Journeyman Bloodied Floyd Mayweather’s Nose In His ‘Toughest’ Ever Fight
Twenty years ago, a journeyman boxer known as The Drunken Master fought a peak Floyd Mayweather, bloodying Floyd's nose in what he later called his "toughest" fight.
Emanuel Augustus had 22 wins and 16 defeats when he stepped into the ring with a 23-year-old Mayweather - unbeaten and a world champion for two years. A mismatch on paper, but it proved totally different on canvas.
Mayweather started fast, but the underdog fought back to damage his rival's nose in the middle rounds. He also grinned, showboated and blew kisses at the super-featherweight champ.
"If I was rating certain fighters out of every guy that I fought, I'm going to rate Emanuel Augustus first compared to all the guys that I've faced," said Mayweather, 12 years after the contest - and after he'd fought the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley.
"He didn't have the best record in the sport of boxing, he has never won a world title. But he came to fight and, of course, at that particular time I had took a long layoff."
Floyd came into the ring determined to showcase his dazzling skills. A seven-month break since his last fight, plus a change in trainer from his father to Roger Mayweather, preceded HBO's KO Nation show in October 2000.
Going in, fight fans knew Emanuel Augustus - then called Emanuel Burton - had a deceptive record. He wasn't a boxer who'd been carefully matched or protected by a promoter, but his natural talent between the ropes was obvious.
He'd built up a cult following due to his willingness to take on all-comers on short notice, plus his unorthodox 'string-puppet' style - raised knees, dipping shoulders and bizarre punch sequences - hence his Drunken Master nickname. Though few imagined he'd one day break out his array of tricks against Mayweather.
But after clearly losing the early rounds, Augustus fought back, catching Floyd on the ropes in the fourth round, damaging his nose in the fifth and getting the crowd on their feet.
Mayweather, quicker to the punch, is still banking rounds however and - in the ninth of the scheduled 10-rounder - Augustus's corner pulled him out. A wise decision, despite the fact he was never off his feet.
"He's a true warrior, a true champion," said Mayweather in the post-fight interview. "Before the fight, I heard he had got robbed [via poor judging decisions] a lot of times - and I believe that's true."
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Floyd's next fight showed he was at the pinnacle of his powers. He destroyed unbeaten fellow pound-for-pounder Diego Corrales, knocking him down five times.
To this day, that win is widely considered Mayweather's greatest performance - just three months after Augustus pushed him harder than Corrales would.
Augustus's career continued on a similar path, despite his gutsy display against the world's best. He won as many fights as he lost - including an a memorable war against Micky Ward - before retiring with a win-loss record of 38-34, plus six draws.
Unfortunately, Augustus was the victim of a random shooting in 2014, somehow surviving a bullet to the head. The 45-year-old's health has suffered since but in an interview with Boxing News he recalled the Mayweather fight - and the different approach a latecomer to the sport had compared to a boxer preordained for greatness.
"I don't know who nobody is when I'm fightin' them," he said to Tom Gerbasi. "All I do is sign the contract and that's a wrap... I'm not being rude. But this is a form of business I'm not really with.
"I don't dissect my opponents. [Floyd] Mayweather dissected his opponents. When me and Mayweather fought, he did so much damn background checking on me."
Even so, in the immediate aftermath, Floyd was impressed. "Good fight - he's a tough guy; a tough motherf***er," Mayweather can be heard saying to his corner, as he shakes out his injured right hand.
He later admits on TV, "I had to dig deep." But is Floyd being overly generous when he labels Augustus his toughest opponent?
The answer is probably yes. Jose Luis Castillo came closest to actually defeating Floyd in their first contest - while De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Marcos Maidana each won more rounds from him than Augustus.
But it is true that few fighters have showboated then fired back in the face of a young Mayweather's onslaught. Also, that Augustus gave Floyd more uncomfortable moments than decorated world champions like Corrales, Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and even Canelo Alvarez managed.
Not bad for a boxer who'd retire with a 38-34-6 record, facing off against a man on the path to 50-0 - as the Drunken Master spoiled the Pretty Boy's good looks, even if just for one night.