Sunday, May 5, 2013

Floyd Mayweather Jr. And All-Time Greatness

By Peter Silkov

When Floyd Mayweather Jr steps into the ring this weekend with Robert Gurrerro, he will not only be defending his WBC World Welterweight Championship, but his position within the boxing world as the number one boxer pound for pound in the world today. It is a position which ’Money’ Mayweather has coveted for almost a decade now, since the fading of Roy Jones Jr, and in recent years the only other boxer to mount a reasonable challenge to this status has been Manny Pacquiao. Indeed, there has been a lot of talk over the past three or four years about Mayweather and Pacquiao meeting in the ring, in order to settle once and for all, which one of them is truly the pound-for-pound king. Alas, for various reasons this has not happened, and now since Pacquiao’s knockout defeat by Juan Manuel Marquez, all Manny’s pretensions of being the pound for pound boxing king have been shattered, leaving Mayweather’s pound for pound dominance unchallenged.

As a result of Manny’s recent defeat, (I don’t include the Bradley result, which was a plain robbery) there is simply no other boxer on Floyd’s level at the moment, either in skills or in status. Over the course of his seventeen-year career, Floyd has built himself into the closest thing to royalty that boxing has had since the days of Sugar Ray Leonard. It says a lot for Mayweather and the often-begrudging recognition, which his skills have gained for him that he, can emerge once more from a period of inactivity, and indeed incarceration, with his reputation as the sports number one boxer, not just undiminished, but actually enhanced.

Throughout his career, Mayweather has been controversial and often unpopular in many areas, with many citing his boxing style as unexciting and his out of the ring persona as arrogant, thuggish and immature. Indeed, over the course of his career Mayweather has probably received the harshest media suffered by an elite boxer since Muhammad Ali. However, like Ali before him Mayweather has used the negativity to positive effect in his career, and over time made believers out of many previous doubters. Even Mayweather’s harshest remaining critiques, would struggle now to deny ’Moneys’ exceptional boxing skills and achievements.

The mixture of sublime boxing inside the ring, and his abrasive often-controversial personality outside of the ring, has resulted in a charismatic mix, which makes Floyd a boxer that people want to see. Mayweather was named recently as the richest athlete in the world, having earned $85 dollars last year, including his $45 million purse for the Miguel Cotto fight. Floyd’s recent deal with Showtime will make him a minimum of $200 million for six fights in 30 months, and this is before taking into account sponsorships and international broadcasting rights, which could quadruple the $200 for Mayweather. Perhaps most important, for Mayweather, is that with his Showtime contract he keeps his autonomy. Despite the huge sums of money involved, he retains control of his career and boxing destiny.

Floyd Mayweather seems on track to become the richest boxer of all time. The only other boxer to earn more so far in his career is Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd is getting closer to overtake Oscar’s earnings record. At this point in his career, few would deny Mayweather is one of the all time greats, but where does he stand exactly amongst the greats of the past? Mayweather has claimed to be the ‘greatest boxer of all time’ but, in the history of boxing, there are many legendary fighters who would have given Floyd a lot of challenges in the ring. It is very difficult and perhaps unfair to compare fighters from different eras, but if we are asking is Floyd Mayweather the greatest boxer of all time, we have to look at the entire history of boxing and all of the eras that have produced legendary boxers. If we are going to begin comparing Mayweather to the boxers of the past, we have to look at the amount and the quality of their opposition, compared to Mayweather’s, in order to gauge where certain fighters stand, in relation to Floyd.

How does Maywether rate amongst the top ten, pound-for-pound, of the ring? Does he, in fact, make the top ten? In my opinion, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. does not make the top ten list of all time, pound-for-pound fighters. It is hard to deny the fact that modern day boxing is much more shallow, with fewer boxers, and is further diluted by multiple champions at every weight. When considering Floyd’s standing, as an all time great, these factors have to be taken into consideration. Part of Mayweather’s success has been due to the scarcity of talented opposition. A look at some of the fighters from other eras will illustrate why Floyd, despite his undeniable superlative boxing skills, unfortunately can not hold the title of ‘Greatest Pound for Pound Boxer of All Time’

A look at the careers of three fighters, who could lay claim to being perhaps the best ever, reveals the disparity between their respective careers and Floyds.

Henry Armstrong was a human windmill of a fighter who achieved the astonishing feat of holding the Featherweight, Lightweight and Welterweight World titles at the same time. He should also have been given a 4th World title but was robbed of a decision against Ceferino Garcia when they fought for the Worlds Middleweight title.

In his Welterweight reign from May 1938 to Oct 1940, Armstrong made a record 19 defenses, which is still a division record. Armstrong’s title reigns came in an era when there was one World Champion per division and only eight weight divisions. During his prime of 1936 to 1940, Armstrong went 59-1-1 with 51 knockouts. ‘Homicide’ Hank’s final record was 150-21-10 with 101 knockout wins.

Willie Pep was an untouchable boxer who could have taught Floyd some things about defense. He reigned twice as World Featherweight Champion from 1940 to 1950. He won his first 62 professional fights and his final record was 229-11-1 with 65 knockouts.

Sugar Ray Robinson is considered by many as the greatest boxer ever, he had marvelous speed, skill and also power. In his 25 year career Robinson dominated the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions, winning the Middleweight World title five times on his way to compiling his 173-19-6 record with 108 koes.
Just a brief look at these boxers careers shows the difference between the modern day boxing world and the eras of the 30s and 50s, when competition was so much deeper and fighters often fought two or three times a month. This is barely scratching the surface. Joe Gans and Benny Leonard were two others who could lay claim to being the best ever boxers; just to name but two of the pre-30s era.

Looking at boxers closer to the present day era, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Wilfred Benitez of the 70s and 80s would all have given Floyd a rough time. Then, more recently Pernell Whitaker had a defense which rivaled Mayweather’s and would have given ‘Money’ all the trouble he could handle.

It is hard not to penalise Mayweather for his long periods of inactivity, even taking into account the fact that he has largely fought the best boxers available of his era, within his weight divisions, the fact that he has done so on such an infrequent basis is a sure black mark upon his resume. Also Floyd’s career lacks that defining super fight, aside from match with Oscar Delahoya. Mayweather’s super fight should have been against Manny Pacquiao and the fact that it didn’t happen is a loss to both of their careers.

In all honesty, it is impossible to really say with certainly who is the definitive ‘greatest’ boxer of all time pound-for-pound, such are the many vagaries of the boxing game. One thing for certain is that Floyd Mayweather would have had a lot of competition just to reach the top 20. So, looking at Floyds career overall, he is most definitely a great boxer and would have figured in any era as either a contender or champion, but he needs to be looked at in the context of the limited era in which he is fighting.

Perhaps Floyd’s greatest accomplishment as a boxer is his achievement of autonomy, to be able to manage and promote himself, and make tremendous amounts of money for himself, rather than for his promoter and manager. In this aspect he has shown the way for boxers of the future; to have more control over their careers and earnings. Floyd also represents a link to the greats of the past, in that he has skills which are so seldom seen in a modern boxing ring. Perhaps the best thing you could say about Floyd Mayweather as a boxer is that when he fights he is an illustration of how at its best, boxing can be called the sweet science.

Originally published at The Boxing Tribune 5-3-2013

Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. 
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1 comment:

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