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Ranking Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the Top Fifty of All Time

Floyd Mayweather JrBy Joseph Hirsch: Love him or hate him, it’s getting mighty hard to make a case against Floyd Mayweather Jr. being an all-time great. The main sticking point for people who believe he doesn’t belong near the top of the list is that unlike greats like “Sugar” Ray Robinson, he doesn’t have over one-hundred fights and therefore cannot be considered in the same breath. This is an impossible standard by which to judge a modern fighter. In what many people affectionately term as “The Golden Age” of boxing, it wasn’t abnormal for a fighter to have between three and five fights within the space of eight weeks. These days, as everyone knows, it can take six months to build a proper pay-per-view fight. If Floyd were even to attempt to match Robinson’s record, fighting at this pace, he would be in his late-fifties or early sixties before he even came close. It’s just not realistic.

Everyone’s favorite grumpy uncle, Bert Randolph Sugar, boxing expert and cigar aficionado, published a book entitled “Boxing’s Greatest Fighters.” I have a copy with me here. It was published in 2006 and lists what he believes are the greatest one-hundred boxers of all time. In the 100th and final spot, there is “Iron” Mike Tyson. Thumbing further through the book, in the appendix, is a list of elite fighters who came close to being included, but fell a little short. “Money” Mayweather is on this list. He should not be on this list. Even the 2006 version of Floyd Mayweather deserves to be located somewhere in the top one-hundred, arguably in the seventies, perhaps adjacent to Sonny Liston.

Speaking of Liston, does it make sense for him to be ahead of Tyson? Liston was the first boxer to win the heavyweight crown in one-round, knocking out Floyd Patterson. But he also has the lowest number of average rounds of any heavyweight fighter in history. Tyson was the youngest champ ever. This list smells a little fishy. The Mayweather who was 35-0 and bested Sharmba Mitchell and Arturo Gatti deserves a spot somewhere in the seventies. He had up to this point in his career already beaten Corley, Castillo, Chavez, and Corrales. The guy fairly murdered everyone whose name started with a “C.” One gets the feeling that if he had the time, Floyd might work his way through the entire alphabet.

People of course, love to hate him. Those who may accuse me of bias need to understand that I don’t personally enjoy all of his antics. If given the choice between spending a night on the town with Floyd, spreading hundred dollar bills in clubs and listening to him regale everyone with his greatness, or wiling the hours away with Ricky Hatton in a pub, tossing back a few pints, I’d probably opt for a quiet evening with the “Hitman.”

But this is not a personality contest. People had been predicting Floyd’s downfall as early as his fight against Angel Manfredy, who was 25-2 when he met Floyd, who had less than twenty fights under his belt at the time. Manfredy’s two losses had come in his first five fights. Since then he had rebounded and gone on a twenty-three win tear. That is a hell of a streak, and many regarded Floyd as a speed bump on Angel’s road to ascension. Mayweather ended his reign by stopping El Diablo in the second round. Some called the stoppage premature, but it was only a matter of time before Floyd won.

Since 2006, Mayweather has done nothing but win. His only competition in the lighter division is Manny Pacquiao, who has picked up Ws and belts with the same kind of alarming alacrity as Mayweather. Floyd beat the very fast and skilled Zab Judah, the “2006 Hall of Fame Fighter of the Year,” Carlos Baldomir, followed by a more controversial split decision win over the Golden Boy himself.

After this, Mayweather fought England’s best junior-welterweight, Ricky Hatton, and handed the Hitman his first defeat, and a knockout loss. He beat Juan Manuel Marquez in the most lopsided fashion possible. His critics argued that beating a natural lightweight at a higher division proved very little, but how they can say this with a straight face is puzzling, since Floyd himself moved up from lower weight classes as well.

A constant nagging criticism against Floyd, and a somewhat fair one, was that he was selective about his opponents. His resume, while impressive, lacks some of the biggest names that had been circulating in the lower weight divisions, men who would have all probably loved to have fought him, men like Margarito, Cotto, or Shane Mosley. More recently there is Paul Williams, all six feet of him, and Manny Pacquiao, the other half of a mega-fight that would probably generate more money for both fighters and their promoters than any other fight in history, a fight so desired by fans who love or hate either Pacquiao or Mayweather so much that to think about why this fight has not been made yet might cause their heads to explode.

At any rate, Floyd answered his critics, fought Shane Mosley, and dominated him except for during one round, the second. To my knowledge, no one who had previously said Floyd was scared to fight Shane has stepped out of the woodwork to apologize for being wrong, and nor do they seem to step away from their assertions that Floyd is a serial ducker.

Either way, the books should now open for Floyd. He should not only be in the top one-hundred, but he should also probably be somewhere in the top fifty. He does not deserve to be higher on the list than “Sugar” Ray Leonard or George Foreman, who are in the top thirty. Nor does he deserve to be above Hollyfield, who is forty-two. But he does deserve to be above #44, Maxie “Slapsie” Rosenbloom, who had 210 wins against 38 losses, and picked up his “Slapsie” moniker for punching in a style that makes Joe Calzaghe look like Earnie Shavers (no offense to Joe).

Floyd does not yet deserve the same accolades as either Thomas Hearns or “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. It does have to be remembered though that Floyd is not just a prick with a lot of money and a big mouth. He is a prick with a lot of money, a big mouth, and one of the most technically-sound defensive styles in the history of this sport.

There is one area, however, where Floyd has never been criticized, where he does deserve some criticism: Never, in all of his forty-one fights as a professional, has he ventured outside of the United States. When one considers that 16 of his 41 fights have been by some form of decision or another, this record is almost criminal. In a close fight (which Floyd has had) if he had been on the road, he might have already tasted defeat.

In order for Floyd to be as good as the greatest (Ali, Robinson, etc.) he needs to make these last few fights count. Whether or not his next retirement is genuine or not, the clock has already begun ticking. Floyd wisely said, “There’s nothing cool about taking punishment.” We all love the blood and guts fighters like Arturo Gatti, but in giving us these crowd-pleasing all out wars, these fighters essentially cut their sell-by date in half. Floyd has the pedigree to fight on into his forties, whether or not it’s his goal.

But right here, and right now, he has some choices to make. He says he doesn’t care about legacy, that “legacy don’t pay bills,” but he can be forgiven for lying. He wants to be the best and he says he is the best. If he’s talking about the best alive, then he’s right. But if he’s talking about the best of all time, at this point, he’s not even halfway there.

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