Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a Floyd Mayweather Jr boxing match. And love it or hate it that means that boxing discussion over the next few months is going to be dominated by talk of him, his career, his opponents, his personal life, his place in history, his matchmaking and pretty much anything else both his “haters” and “fanboys” can think of to say about him. Opinion is certainly polarized; to some he’s the greatest of all time, a masterful boxer better than any to come before him who has never ducked or avoided anyone. To others he is a sham, a fraud, a boxer who cherry picks overmatched opponents, ducks anyone who may be a danger to him and who wins matches by running from his opposition. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of a discussion about Mayweather Jr so below are a series of pointers on how to navigate a discussion about Mayweather without looking like a fanboy, hater or fool.
1) Mayweather is not the greatest of all time.
Comparing athletes of any sport across generations is a difficult task to do at the best of times and when you also have to add in across weight divisions in boxing it becomes more awkward still. That said, the way it is normally done is by comparing résumés; who a boxer beat beat, how they beat them, what they beat them for, who they lost to and how they lost. Floyd Mayweather has clearly had an extremely successful career: currently 45-0 with notable wins over Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo x 2, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, and Miguel Cotto. Yes, some of those names come with asterisks: the first Castillo bout could easily have gone the other way, Judah had just lost to Baldomir (who Mayweather subsequently beat), Oscar and Mosley were both on the downsides of their career (despite coming off impressive victories), the Hatton bout was at 147lbs rather than 140lb where Hatton was more effective, Marquez handled the weight badly and Cotto was past his best… but the same sort of analysis can be given to virtually any boxer’s record of opponents.
It still doesn’t compare to some of the greats.
To go with the obvious example, Sugar Ray Robinson is generally regarded as the best of all time and a look at his record shows why. He has wins over LaMotta (5 wins, 1 loss), Angott (3 wins), Zivic (2 wins), Armstrong (1 win), Gavilan (2 wins), Graziano (1 win), Turpin (1 win, 1 loss), Fullmer (1 win, 2 losses 1 draw), Basilio (1 win, 1 loss), Bell (2 wins) and Servo (2 wins)… put simply Mayweather can’t compare. And Robinson isn’t alone in that; there are a number of boxers who can point to a more impressive list of victories than Mayweather can, impressive enough that their defeats aren’t enough to elevate Mayweather above them. You can certainly argue that it was a different age for many of those boxers and it was far more common for them to box once a month (or even more frequently) which allowed them to pack in all these bouts but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. They still beat the better competition.
If one was being exceedingly generous Mayweather might be able to slip into the very bottom of the top ten all time for his current results. But that would be exceedingly generous. More realistic is probably somewhere between 15-30 depending on the mood that takes you on a given day. Still highly impressive… but not the greatest.
2) That doesn’t mean he couldn’t beat many of the greats.
As mentioned above, I think the only way to fairly rank a boxers place is history is by comparing their résumés. Trying to mythically match them up head to head to determine who was the greatest is an exercise in confusion and twisted logic. That said, if one were to do it I suspect Mayweather would pick up a number of notable scalps. To give my opinion on a number of “dream matches” with others considered great welterweights (the division where Floyd now primarily boxes):
I think Robinson outpoints Mayweather fairly clearly in a tactical bout.
I think Hearns dominates him to either a wide decision or late stoppage.
I think Leonard is crafty and cunning enough to eke out a controversial, narrow decision.
I think Floyd gives Duran a boxing lesson and wins a wide decision.
I think Floyd narrowly beats Whittaker in a debatable decision.
I think Floyd outboxes Armstrong in a bout where Armstrong has his moments but can’t find sustained success
I think Floyd picks off Galivan to win a decision.
As is the way with hypothetical match-ups there’s no way to know what the actual result would have been and I’m certainly not saying a good case can’t be made for those I think lose to Floyd winning or even those I think beat Floyd losing. But I think if anyone writes Floyd off as losing to ever notable welterweight of the past years they’re allowing their personal dislike of Floyd to cloud their judgement.
3) Floyd hasn’t “ducked” as many boxers as people try to suggest…
First off, a quick word on what “ducking” means. “Ducking” doesn’t just mean that there was a notable boxer in about the same division at about the same time as another boxer and the two didn’t box. If it did mean that then pretty much every boxer in history would have a list of boxers they “ducked” as long as their actual list of opponents. “Ducking” also doesn’t describe a situation where one boxer turned down one notable boxer and instead took on another notable boxer. To give an example I’ve previously used, Leonard didn’t duck Duran in the wake of “No Mas” when he took on Tommy Hearns instead.
“Ducking” means when a fighter turns down another who was more than willing to box them and there was no reason other than fear of a loss to do so. There were no notable opponents lined up, no big money bouts to take instead. “Ducking” is Bowe throwing his WBC heavyweight title in the trash to avoid facing Lennox Lewis (despite previously agreeing that the winner of Bowe/Holyfield would faced the winner of Lewis/Ruddock) and instead taking on Dokes.
Put simply, most of the suggestions for boxers Mayweather “ducked” don’t hold up to scrutiny. To go through some of the most commonly suggest names:
1) Joel Casamayor – Over 2000 and 2001 Mayweather and Casamayor were the two premier 130lbs boxers in the world and it is of course disappointing that they didn’t face off. However, the fault is not Mayweather’s. Mayweather tried to make a bout with Casamayor but the Cuban prefered to wait till he had unified with WBO champion Acelino Freitas (at a time when the WBO was starting to gain some recognition as a legitimate world title) so he could demand a bigger purse. Casamayor would go on to lose to Freitas, Freitas would turn down the bout with Mayweather and Mayweather would move up to 135lbs for his first bout with Castillo and quickly outgrow 130lbs.
2) Antonio Margarito – In 2006/7 when Mayweather was first establishing himself at 147lbs many claim he ducked the WBO champion Margarito. And while it is undoubtedly true that he turned down a lucrative offer to face Margarito, I don’t see how it can be considered ducking. At the time Margarito was an alphabet soup title holder with one win anyone regarded as notable to his name (the untested but highly hyped Kermit Cintron as at that point Sergio Martinez was an unknown). Not long before talk of a bout with Mayweather appeared Margarito had lost to solid but unspectacular 154lbs title holder Daniel Santos and frankly, few thought much of him.
Mayweather’s first bout in the period we’re discussing was a superfight with Judah, a battle between two people seen as being near the top of the P4P rankings, a battle against a man who could seemingly match Mayweather’s speed and beat him on power and a battle that when it was signed was for the IBF, WBA, WBC and Lineal 147lbs titles. There was no reason for Mayweather to take on Margarito instead and in truth if he had done we’d likely be hearing to this day how he “ducked” Judah.
The second bout in the period is the one that gets most of the attention and features Mayweather facing Carlos Baldomir rather than Margarito. It was here that Mayweather turned down what was then a career high $8 million offer to face Margarito and instead picked Baldomir. But to put that in perspective Mayweather was also paid $8 million to face Baldomir; he would have made no more money from facing Margarito. Moreover, Margarito was still an alphabet soup title holder with no more notable wins… he’d beaten the then 28-10-2 Manuel Gomez while Mayweather was busy with Judah. Baldomir in contrast was the reason I said all the titles were on the line “when it was signed” with regards to Mayweather vs Judah; in the period between the bout being agreed and taking place Baldomir had beaten Judah (much as Freitas had beaten Casamayor) to win the lineal and WBC belts (Baldomir had not paid the sanctioning fees for the other titles) and had followed that up by beating Gatti. He was the 147lbs champion and again, if Mayweather had instead elected to face Margarito what we’d be hearing today is that Mayweather ducked the lineal 147lbs champion, a man undefeated in more than a decade and the man who had beaten Judah before him to take on an alphabet soup champion.
Margarito had picked up a good win while Mayweather was beating Baldomir, outlasting Joshua Clottey. But Mayweather’s choice for his next bout was between Margarito and Oscar… I don’t think I have to explain why choosing to face Oscar at a higher weightclass for a vast amount more money doesn’t constitute “ducking”.
Could the bout have happened after that? Maybe. But Margarito kept losing. While Mayweather was beating Oscar in a superfight, Margarito was losing to Paul Williams and fell out of title contention. And when Mayweathe returned from his “retirement” Margarito had just lost to Mosely.
3) Paul Williams – Williams frequently called out Mayweather. But he also frequently called out every other boxer around 147lbs, claimed he was the most ducked man in boxing and then turned down awkward opponents because they were too risky. The fact is Williams only arrived on the world title scene with his victory over Margarito and the choice then was between Williams and the man at 140lbs Ricky Hatton in a superfight. Hatton brought more to the table in terms of legacy, money and publicity and yet again, if Mayweather had taken on Williams instead of Hatton people would be claiming he ducked the lineal 140lbs champion who had already won a title at 147lbs. And shortly after Mayweather beat Hatton, Williams was comprehensively outboxed in his first title defence against the limited Carlos Quintana and was out of title contention. He may have gone on to avenge the loss but he then moved up from 147lbs and never returned. Mayweather has had precisely three bouts above 147lbs… all extremel lucrative superfights. Williams would not be one of them.
4) Manny Pacquiao – The big one. Even as long winded as I am I don’t have the time or space here to go through all the twists and turns of this bout. Suffice to say that if we say Mayweather ducked Pacquiao then we must also say Pacquiao ducked Mayweather. Both sides played hardball, both sides featured boxers and promoters who dislike (and possibly even hate) each other, both sides made serious demands and both sides were in a position to walk away (although for the record each time the bout has been close to happening it has been Pacquiao’s side to leave the table). There is no side of the angels in this case; everyone is to blame and trying to put all of the fault on one party or even one side it letting personal feelings about the characters involved cloud ones judgement.
4) … but he has ducked some.
Somewhat surprisingly the two fighters who can claim Mayweather ducked them and have those claims stand up to scrutiny often don’t get mentioned when people discuss who Mayweather supposedly ducked.
In 2005 Floyd Mayweather called out Winky Wright, the lineal and formerly undisputed 154lbs title holder who had just beaten Felix Trinidad at 160lbs and could point to two wins over Mosely. Wright agreed and within days had his team in the Top Rank (Floyd’s then promoters) offices hammering out the details. And the details were hammered out; the bout would be at 154lbs but weigh-ins would be the morning of the bout rather than the day before and Wright would not be allowed to gain more than eight pounds between weighing in and the start of the contest. But Mayweather and Arum suddenly pulled out, demanding changes to the purse split and other such things until the bout was dead in the water.
We can certainly sat Floyd was brave to challenge the naturally larger Wright, a man basically in his prime and with a style awkward for Mayweather. But when you call someone out, all of the details were agreed and you then suddenly pull out instead taking on Sharmba Mitchell? That’s ducking. Whether it was Arum or Mayweather who pulled the plug (Wright’s promoter Shaw blamed Arum and Mayweather seperately depending on who asks him) it doesn’t matter; it was a duck.
In 2007/8 Cotto was the next best welterweight in the world behind Floyd. A thrilling fighter during his 140lbs title run he’d moved up in weight and easily disposed of Quintana, smashed the overmatched Urkal, stopped Judah and then beaten a resurgent Mosley in an excellent bout. He was by any definition the most deserving fighter to face Mayweather and with the rabid Puerto Rican fans behind him he was a legitimate superstar who brought serious financial clout as well. There was no reason for the bout not to be made.
But Mayweather instead signed for a pointless rematch with Oscar.
Seemingly this wasn’t the end of the world for the bout. After all, Mayweather would surely beat Oscar and Cotto only had to get through Alfonso Gomez (which he did with ease) and then the two would match up. It was obvious.
Then Mayweather “retired” instead of take the second Oscar bout.
Of course Mayweather did eventually face Cotto and he should be given some credit for doing it at 154lbs. But that Cotto had been given a beating by Margarito and his controversial gloves, had gone through a war with Clottey and been cut to pieces by Pacquiao. Put simply he wasn’t the same. The 2007/8 version of Cotto with his pressuing inside game, killer hook and snapping jab was a hugely intruiging and challenging bout for Mayweather. The 2012 version may have been good enough to pose Mayweather some problems but he wasn’t the same. Mayweather ducked Cotto. There’s no other way to put it.
5) Appreciate the boxer if not the man.
You don’t have to like Mayweather Jr as either a person or a boxer… I don’t particularly. You certainly don’t have to respect Mayweather Jr the man… while there are some things he has done that are a credit to him there are even more that are not and he has done several things that paint him as a pretty horrible human being.
But you should appreciate and respect Mayweather the boxer.
Watching Mayweather over recent years you are watching a man near the absolute pinnacle of the sweet science. His athleticism is starting to fail him, his legs are nowhere near as quick as they once were, even his handspeed is not the blinding flash it was was. Yet through technique, dedication and craft Mayweather has remained largely untouchable. His record may never been deep enough for him to become the greatest ever or even a top 10 all time great but in terms of sheer talent and skill he’s right up there. His matches may not always… or even ever… be blood and thunder displays but Robinson himself won many of his notable matches using a technical, safety first style. Accept that you are watching pretty much the best that boxing can offer from a technical stand point and appreciate that. Accept that we as a generation of boxing fans have been priveledged to watch such skills on display live and in high definition (or on a stuttering internet stream…) rather than having to read about it in the newspaper, listen to it on the radio or watch a tape weeks later as many of those who came before us had to when it came to watching a great in action.
Mayweather’s upcoming bout with Maidana may not be the most scintillating. It may not be the most competetive. It may not feature him beating an all time great or cementing his place in boxing history. But it will almost certainly feature sublime skills that all boxing fans should be able to appreciate and enjoy.
Frankly, you’re doing yourself as a fan a disservice if you allow your feelings as Mayweather as a person, promoter and matchmaker to lessen your enjoyment of the skills Mayweather displays.