Floyd Mayweather Jr. With his dismantling of Shane Mosley and his 41-straight wins, where does he belong in the annals of the sweet science?
Casual observers and those mesmerized by his lightning-fast reflexes and brash approach to the sport are in agreement. Mayweather has to be the best pound-for-pound boxer ever, they say.
Not so fast.
Good? Oh, absolutely. Great? Sure. The best-ever? No sir, not at all.
Sorry to burst your Mayweather bubble, but he may not even be the best fighter in the game today. He'd have to beat Manny Pacquiao to claim that title. (We'll get to that in a bit.)
No, I'm not crazy and I'm not an over-the-top Mayweather hater. I've seen all of HBO's 24-7 episodes leading up to his fights and I've seen Mayweather on fight night. He's definitely the fastest in the ring, which gives him an awesome defense. I'll give him that. However, Mayweather's rise to the top is unlike the roads taken by the true greats he so much wants to rub elbows with. Fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and a young Mike Tyson earned greatness by taking on all challengers and dodging no one. Each of these legends has a resume filled with defining fights and epic showdowns against the best of the day.
Despite his skills and quickness, Mayweather's career has been built by avoiding high-risk fights and serious, top-notch contenders. In the business of boxing, it's an art called "cherry picking." The art part comes from picking inferior opponents or one-time great fighters at the end of their prime and making the fight appear as a true pay-per-view worthy prize fight, when in fact it amounts to little more than a colorful mismatch.
HBO's 24-7 is the perfect platform for selling these hyped-up Mayweather fights. Find just the right storyline, lighting and camera angle; throw in a hint of trash-talk mixed with the pageantry of the sport, and even the most mediocre of boxers can appear as a real contender.
Ricky Hatton, the so-called "Hitman," is the best example of the magic of 24/7. He was presented to the U.S. boxing scene as the greatest thing from the United Kingdown since the Beatles. Seriously. By the time HBO was done with Hatton before his 2007 fight against Mayweather, he seemed well on his way to invading the game here. However, it didn't take long to realize the great U.K. fighter is apparently only great in the U.K. His attempt to invade the upper eschelon of boxing in the U.S. failed miserably. Hatton, with his legion of singing boxing fans, looked great against chumps; not so good against top-level fighters.
Mayweather beat him by a TKO in the 10th round of the fight.
It's just one of a handful of overrated wins on Mayweather's list of 41 victories.
Unfortunately, Mosley, a former welterweight and light middleweight champion out to prove that he still belongs in the ring, was one of these hyped-up opponents.
For all of his dedication and love of boxing going into the bout, Mosley wasn't much more then a veteran - very veteran - fighter whose best days are way behind him. At age 38, he's over-the-hill by welterweight standards. The fact that Mosley, who began his professional career in 1993, provided Mayweather his sternest challenge in some time only proves my theory - Mayweather is hardly the greatest-ever.
The list of Mayweather's latest fights is much of the same.
In 2009, he won a unanimous decision over Juan Manuel Marquez, a 36-year-old Mexican brawler at the end of his career. Not even his weird practice of drinking his own urine was enough to rejuvenate the gutsy, yet aging brawler. His credentials going into the Mayweather fight included a TKO victory over Juan Diaz, but it was a total upset caused by a freak cut near the Houston fighter's left eye. Take the cut away and there may have never been a Mayweather-Marquez fight.
The once-great Oscar De La Hoya is also on his list of conquests. But like the other greats, De La Hoya was on the backside of his legendary career. Still a great technician in the ring, De La Hoya, who had left boxing for a spell to start his own boxing promotion company before making a return to fight Mayweather, wasn't nearly as quick nor as sharp as he was in his prime. Even in that condition, Mayweather only won by a controversial split decision that some say should have gone in De La Hoya's favor. The smart money would have to be against Mayweather against a much younger De La Hoya.
There were also wins against Carlos Manuel Baldomir, Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti; all of whom were worthy opponents, but none of whom can help Mayweather's claim of greatness.
Which bring me to Pacquiao. As much as Mayweather appears to not want the mega-fight, he needs it. His legacy needs it.
A win over the speedy and physical filipino would be the crown jewel on Mayweather's throne. He would immediately be in the same company as the other undisputed greatest pound-for-pound fighters boxing has ever seen. But for a chance to beat him, he has to fight him, and that doesn't seem like a cherry Mayweather really wants to pick.