Floyd Mayweather – Is he really a five division champion?

By Anthony Mason - 05/29/2014 - Comments

mayweather344By Anthony Mason: As is the case with Manny Pacquiao, fans are easily tricked into believing that all of Floyd Mayweather’s five division titles are legitimate. Mayweather has established himself as the best post-2005 boxer, but we will soon see that this is not due to Floyd Mayweather being great, but due to him fighting in a watered down era.

As was the case with the Pacquiao article, it is important to closely examine Mayweather’s titles and who he fought in each weight class. After putting everything in context, only then can the value of Mayweather’s titles be assessed. All fans need to remember that a title is only worth as much as who you beat. Victor Ortiz was considered a welterweight champion for simply beating Andre Berto. I highly doubt anyone can rank Ortiz’s title as valuable as Roberto Duran’s when he defeated Sugar Ray Leonard.

And as always, it is obvious that the value of belts today is not worth much. There are 68 belts available in 17 weight classes (4 per class), not including minor titles. There is no way that paper champions such as Victor Ortiz or Robert Guerrero can be considered true champions like Pernell Whitaker or Tommy Hearns simply because they all held a title. When boxing was more about competition than money, the greats like Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong fought in an era with only eight weight classes and with one title per class. Weight classes back then didn’t have four so-called champions that rarely fought each other like today.

Just like Pacquiao’s weight ascension was broken down in the previous article, Mayweather’s titles will be broken down division by division.

First weight class – Super Featherweight (130 lbs)

The best opponents Floyd fought here were Diego Corrales and Genaro Hernandez.

Now what has Mr. Hernandez done to be considered such a marvelous champion? Beating a shot and past his prime Azumah Nelson? I think not, especially when Hernandez beat no other notable fighter in his career. Hernandez being a champion in this class proves how weak the division was.

When listening to a lot of modern boxing fans, they seem to think that Diego Corrales has gotten better and better since his career ended, and they perceive him to have been an unbelievable, near untouchable, great boxer. It seems like these people would agree with the foolish makers of the pound for pound list in 2000 when Corrales was listed right behind Roy Jones Jr. and ahead of Lennox Lewis, Erik Morales, and Bernard Hopkins.

I don’t understand how beating journeymen like Juuko and Manfredy (neither of whom EVER beat a good fighter in their ENTIRE career) make Corrales greater than men who beat Holyfield, Barrera and Pacquiao, and who went on to beat the likes of Felix Trinidad and Winky Wright. Corrales’ fake status as champion was exposed when he went life and death with Castillo, lost to Casamayor (as well as getting a controversial decision), and was easily out-boxed by a journeyman in Joshua Clottey.

Beating Diego Corrales isn’t enough to lay a legitimate claim to the 130 lb title. The fact that he was at the top of the division only proves the division’s weakness, not Corrales’ or Mayweather’s greatness. We see after much in-depth analysis that Mayweather beat absolutely no one worthy of legitimizing Floyd’s status as the 130 lb champion. By today’s standards, perhaps Floyd is a 130 lb champion. By all-time great standards, he would have to be fighting the likes of Petey Sarron or Mike Belloise like Henry Armstrong did. There is no way, if we want to compare Floyd to the greats, that we can consider this to be a legitimate championship.

Second weight class – Lightweight (135 lbs)

Floyd Mayweather actually lost his lightweight debut (but was gifted a decision) when he was exposed as a simply good but far from great fighter by a solid but far from great fighter in Jose Luis Castillo. Mayweather was quick to blame his poor performance on his shoulder, but forgot that great men like Roy Jones were able to dominate opponents like Bernard Hopkins (no Castillo-level fighter by any stretch of the imagination) even with a broken right hand.

These excuses prove that Floyd cannot hang with the true greats. How can Floyd be realer than Real Deal Holyfield, who fought Michael Moorer to a close decision that could have gone either way? Not only did Holyfield have a torn ligament in his shoulder like Mayweather, but he also was fighting against a heart condition on top of that.

To his credit, Mayweather did defeat Castillo in the rematch when he didn’t have any excuses to make. Now, here is where I am confused. Who did Jose Luis Castillo defeat that made him such a great lightweight? What makes Castillo comparable to Ken Buchanan who lost to Roberto Duran, or the likes of Lou Ambers, who Henry Armstrong defeated?

Stevie Johnston? Verdell Smith? Julio Diaz? Joel Casamayor? This is a pretty average list when compared to the all-time great lightweight competition. Once again, Floyd showed that the lightweight title, like the 130-pound title, only belonged to him because of the weakness of the division. It has been proven with in-depth contextual analysis that Mayweather cannot lay claim to any legitimate titles held in these first two divisions. By today’s standards, perhaps he can. By all-time great standards? Not even close. Jose Luis Castillo would never have come close to touching the belt in a competitive era. How could he have survived against the likes of Esteban De Jesus, Ken Buchanan, and Roberto Duran?

Third weight class – Junior Welterweight (140 lbs)

Mayweather only fought Arturo Gatti at this weight. Gatti is known for being a very exciting fighter, but he is also severely limited at the professional level. Excitement does not make a fighter elite. There is not one win on Gatti’s record that is remotely close to elite. Every time Gatti fought good competition, he lost. Mayweather’s defeat of Gatti does not make him a legitimate 140-pound champion just because Gatti held a meaningless portion of the 140 title. That is clear as day. To this point we have not seen one legitimate championship-caliber opponent defeated by Mayweather.

Fourth weight class – Welterweight (147 lbs)

Here, Mayweather somewhat redeems himself. He easily beat Marquez, although it is important to note the incredible size advantage that Mayweather had, not making weight against a fighter coming up two weight classes. His win over Ricky Hatton is not as impressive as most think considering Hattons unimpressive opposition, but it is enough to establish a legitimate claim to the 147 title. Finally, after years of dilly-dallying against weak competition Mayweather finally became a legitimate champion in his first weight class.

Fifth weight class – Junior Middleweight (154 lbs)

Mayweather’s win over Oscar definitely should not count as a claim to the 154-pound title. Oscar was 2-2 in his last four fights and 1-3 in actuality when factoring the Sturm robbery. Oscar’s lone win was over the consistently inconsistent Ricardo Mayorga. Canelo Alvarez is also not an impressive win for Mayweather yet. Canelo needs to prove himself against an elite fighter in his prime before he can be considered a good win, and he will get his chance against Erislandy Lara.

Mayweather does show legitimacy as a champion with a win over a past his prime but still game Miguel Cotto, however. So Floyd shows that he is a legitimate champion at two weight classes. No more, no less.

A short summary of Floyd Mayweather’s ascension in weight

  • Super Featherweight – no elite competition
  • Lightweight – no elite competition
  • Light Welterweight – no elite competition
  • Welterweight – undersized Marquez and Ricky Hatton (first true title)
  • Jr Middleweight – Miguel Cotto (second true title)

Now that we have looked at Mayweather’s career objectively, it is clear that by today’s weight class standards, Floyd only has the right to lay claim to being a two-division legitimate champion. Mayweather has been the best since 2005, but he is clearly not the all-time great that blind sheep following the herd make him out to be.

Now, we need to compare Floyd to the greatest to see if he is anywhere close. Henry Armstrong should be considered a 4-division champ by the standards of his time, factoring in the robbery that took place in his middleweight bout against Ceferino Garcia. On an interesting side note, while Mayweather was having Marquez come up two classes (one class by Armstrong’s era’s standards), Armstrong weighed in as a welterweight for his middleweight title fight against the larger Garcia.

When taking into consideration the expansion of super and junior weight classes in the modern era, Armstrong would be a seven-divison champion in today’s era. And by champion, this does not mean that Armstrong would hold one piece of the title and call himself the champion like Mayweather does. Armstrong was the undisputed champion at every weight in the much tougher era. This is without taking into account that Armstrong fought on average once a month. Not only that, instead of fighting Victor Ortiz or Robert Guerrero, Armstrong was beating Fritzie Zivic and Barney Ross.

Mayweather calls himself the best ever, but he must have forgotten about Sugar Ray Robinson (as well as more than 40 other boxers better than himself). Ray Robinson dominated from 135 to 175. Ray Robinson defeated Sammy Angott, the lightweight champ at the time, but Angott’s title was for some reason not on the line. If not for a heat stroke, Robinson would have been champion after easily outpointing Joey Maxim at 175. By those days’ standards that amounts to four legitimate division titles.

By today’s standards including the additional super/junior weight classes, Robinson would also have claim to being a seven division legitimate champion, not factoring in the watered down competition of today’s era where men like Broner, Ortiz, and Guerrero can be considered belt holders. This is also ignoring the fact that Ray Robinson fought 12 times a year in his prime against some of the greatest welterweights and middleweights of all time.

Think about how far Mayweather is behind Ray Robinson. Mayweather would have to have beaten the likes of Gamboa, Crawford, and Garcia, move up to defeat Pacquaio and Bradley at 147, beat Golovkin and Sergio Martinez at 160, and then defeat Bernard Hopkins and Andrew Ward around 175 to even be remotely considered in the conversation.

Another great weight climber is the under appreciated Sam Langford. Sam Langford fought from lightweight to heavyweight, and due to color barriers he would never be given a title shot, despite beating the likes of Harry Wills, Joe Gans, Tiger Flowers, and Sam McVey. That would be NINE weight classes by today’s standards, all while not factoring Sam Langford’s activeness as a boxer and his unbelievable level of opposition. While Floyd Mayweather was unwilling to fight Sergio Martinez or Paul Williams in their primes at 154, at a class Mayweather has fought multiple times no less, Langford decided to take on a top 10 all time heavyweight in Jack Johnson, despite being a former lightweight.

There may be some claiming that Langford is overrated due to his time period, but Jack Dempsey would say otherwise, openly admitting he would refuse to fight Langford due to how dangerous he was. Joe Louis also stated that he wished to one day be as good as Sam Langford, so Langford is clearly not a Mayweather-like figure being born at the right place at the right time in a weak era. Just one example, Tiger Flowers, famous for fighting the great Harry Greb (almost universally considered a top 10 all time pound for pound fighter) to three controversial decisions, was fighting against Sam Langford at a time when Langford was medically blind. Langford was 39 years old and managed to knock out Tiger Flowers simply by sensing and feeling Flowers’ presence, and anticipating when to throw the knockout blow.

Langford fought for 26 years and ended his career at the age of 43 with 255 fights. By comparison, 37-year old Mayweather took a nearly two-year vacation, and has a mere 46 fights in 18 years. This is all without anywhere near as much of a size disadvantage as Sam Langford. I highly doubt Mayweather would be at the top of his game anymore if he fought against the likes of Jack Johnson or Harry Wills, especially if he had to fight once every couple of weeks like Langford did.

When the truth is examined and put in context, it is easy to no longer be misled. When objectively looking at Mayweather’s career and ignoring the irrelevant undefeated record, money, pay-per-view buys, and hype, it is easy to see that he is absolutely nothing close to the status of the great fighters. It’s just like Marvin Hagler said. Floyd wins because the status of fighters was a lot better years ago.

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