Is Floyd’s success at welterweight due to his “cherry-picking?”
By Kristofer Williams Sr. While most uninformed boxing fans love to throw darts at Manny Pacquiao for his three career catchweight fights, others similarly target Floyd Mayweather Jr for mastering the art of cherry-picking in professional boxing.
As we know, Floyd retired in 2007 after his controversial win over Oscar Dela hoya. Why he retired is anybody’s guess. But most fans will say he left the sport because of his unwillingness to face the likes of power punchers Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Paul Williams, and Kermit Cintron – all of whom were in their prime from 2005-2008. Indeed, the welterweight and super welterweight divisions were ripe with talent. Most importantly, these two divisions were filled with boxer-punchers who possessed the type of style Floyd surely did not want to mess with.
It’s no secret that ever since Floyd settled into the welterweight division, he received his PhD in matchmaking with the help of his “go-to guy” Al Haymon. It all started in 2005 when he faced the late Arturo Gatti at 140 lbs. Any long time boxing fan knows that by the time Floyd fought Gatti, Arturo had already been through numerous wars (vs Mickey Ward) and was an “old” 33 yrs old. It is conventional wisdom that boxer-punchers like Gatti (aka “warriors) age much quicker than defensive specialists who usually have boring fights. And by the time Floyd officially became a 147 lb fighter, he was beating up on opponents like the 35-yr old Shamba Mitchell, 36-yr old Carlos Baldomir, 34-yr old Oscar Delahoya, a bloated 36-yr old welterweight rookie Juan Manuel Marquez, 39-yr old Sugar “Shot” Mosley, and 31- yr old past-his-prime and ever-so-slow Miguel Cotto.
Talk about cherrypicking at its finest. Save for a Ricky Hatton who was out of his comfort zone and the head case known as Zab Judah, ALL of Floyd’s opponents ever since Floyd became a legit welterweight were over 31 years of age. In sum, each and every one of Floyd’s opponents since 2005 have had some sort of major handicap, be it physical, mental, or age-related.
Makes as much excuses as you want regarding Floyd fighting opponents who were coming off wins, but the point here is that Floyd WAITED for his opponents to get older and slower, Floyd fought mentally unstable head cases (and his team knew it too), and Floyd AVOIDED taking risks to fight the premier punchers in the division. Instead of challenging himself in 2007 against elite level competition, he retired and got comfortable with his money. Floyd and Haymon’s method in protecting that ever-so-precious “zero” is brilliant from a marketing perspective, but when it comes to garnering respect as an all-time great who fought the best, Floyd is heads below the rest.
What better proof to cement Floyd’s status as the number one cherrypicker in boxing than to hear him talk about “preserving his health” during his revealing interview with Bob Costas earlier this year. Costas, arguably one of the best interviewers in all of journalism, spoke with an eloquent candor and wit that has never been topped by any other journalist who has ever interviewed Mayweather one-on-one. His directness and serious tone, mixed with the ability to confuse Floyd with startling questions, caught the champion off-guard which caused him to stutter and rattle off answers that revealed to the millions watching around the world that he was indeed the master matchmaker of them all.
Don’t let Floyd’s selection of fighting the young, hungry, and green Victor Ortiz fool you. Because as Ortiz has proven time and time again, he is about as unstable as a mental ward patient. Ortiz was “hungry” alright. He was thisclose from biting off Floyd’s upper lip. Ortiz played right into Floyd’s hands on that fateful September night in 2011.
Of course, Floyd knew exactly what he was doing. A stroke of luck helped Floyd in that Ortiz somehow found a way to snatch the WBC Welterweight Title from Andre Berto, thereby giving Floyd the perfect chance to gain a belt that was once his. So it was the perfect opportunity for Floyd to come out of retirement in 2011, to cherry pick once again.
But I will give credit where credit is due (unlike some other writers I know). When Floyd was a featherweight and lightweight, he fought the best the divisions had to offer. His lineal championships at super featherweight and lightweight are a testament to this. Floyd was more ferocious in his younger days. He was hungrier. He fought with something to prove. His fights were more exciting and most importantly he challenged himself to the max.
But once Floyd felt he had nothing else to prove – the transition from “Pretty Boy” to “Money” – that was when he earned his PhD in cherrypicking.