-- About an hour after Floyd Mayweather Jr. gave Sharmba Mitchell a sixth-round going-away present to the gut, the two fighters were feeling good, about their performances and each other.
Mayweather was well ahead on the judges' cards by the sixth, having dominated with a strategy of shots to the body. His last shot, a right to the midsection, sent Mitchell to one knee, where he stayed for eight seconds.
After referee Richard Steele reached eight, Mitchell started to rise, and he was up by nine. But Steele determined Mitchell was too hurt to continue and stopped Saturday night's scheduled 12-round non-title welterweight bout at the Rose Garden.
Mayweather, widely considered the best in the ring today, improved to 35-0 with his 24th knockout.
Mitchell, a Takoma Park native, fell to 56-5. All five of the losses in his 17-year professional career have been to current or future world champions.
"I have a lot of respect for Floyd Mayweather," Mitchell said. "He's an incredible fighter. But I did a lot of things he didn't think I could do."
Mitchell made some headway early on, with a good combination in the closing moments of the second round, then an aggressive fifth round that was his best of the night. But he couldn't get any momentum going, especially with all of the body shots Mayweather delivered to wear him down. That Mayweather ended the bout with a single punch to the ribs is a testament to his power.
"I may be the number one fighter," Mayweather said. "But I've still got room for improvement. I want to get better as a fighter and get better as a person."
One observer close to Mitchell noted the difference in where the fighters are in their careers.
"He was fighting the best fighter in the world," said Jeff Fried, a longtime adviser to Mitchell. "And he was fighting him at age 35. Not to take anything away from Floyd Mayweather, but Sharmba probably couldn't pull the trigger the way he did five years ago. . . . But everyone counted Sharmba out before the fight."
So as Mayweather, 28, a three-time world champion, moves a little closer toward a desired big payday against top fighters such as Winky Wright, Zab Judah or Oscar De La Hoya, Mitchell has to assess the current status of his boxing career. He's held two world titles, but to get close to another he needs another opportunity such as Saturday's before time runs out.
"I want to get to 60 wins," Mitchell said. "Four more to go. I'll do a couple of tuneup bouts. I don't worry about it."