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Floyd Mayweather Jr: A Reply to the Critics

Floyd Mayweather Jr Manny Pacquiao Marcos Rene Maidana Sugar Ray RobinsonBy Joshua Blessman: I recently wrote an article on Boxing News 24 entitled “Floyd Mayweather Jr: The Best Ever and Why the “O” Matters.” In it, I contend that Floyd Mayweather Jr. (47-0, 26 KOs) is truly The Best Ever (TBE) because he is the most extraordinary athlete the sport has ever seen and the only elite fighter in the history of boxing to face the top level-opposition of his time and remain undefeated. As anticipated, my position was met with criticism in the form of comments. Many of these comments are the same that I have heard in different media outlets. While these criticisms may seem valid, they lack serious merit.

Below are my responses to common criticisms of Mayweather that have been presented by boxing commentators in various media forums.

Other great fighters have remained undefeated just like Mayweather: True, but none of these fighters faced the best level of opposition of their time or faced tough enough opposition to even be considered in TBE discussion. Two names that get thrown around in the other-fighters-are-undefeated-too commentary are Rocky Marciano (49-0, 43 K0s) and Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs).

Rocky Marciano was extremely small for a heavyweight. He was 5-11 and weighed 185 lbs. He also had the shortest reach of any heavyweight in boxing history. Presumably, because of his size, he did not get into the ring with big opponents that could have tested him even though a multitude of such opponents were available. Only two of the top eight fighters he faced were over 6-feet tall and only two weighed over 200lbs. An aged Joe Louis was the only top-contender that Marciano faced that was both over 6-feet tall and weighed over 200lb. Marciano either did not face the best opposition of his time or the opposition he did face was not good enough to be considered relevant in comparison to the opponents of Mayweather.

Joe Calzaghe like Marciano failed to fight the best of his time or face “substantive” opposition. He retired one year before the Super-Six Classic, a tournament that featured the best fighters in his weight class while he was active. Andre Ward won that tournament and is now ranked #2 on The Ring’s Pound for Pound list right after Mayweather. Calzaghe’s legacy was seriously hindered by not competing in the tournament. Calzaghe’s best wins were against a 43-year old Benard Hopkins and a completely shot Roy Jones Jr. His wins against Kessler and Bika should not even be  mentioned when discussing greatness.

A sub-argument to the one above is that great fighters such as Willie Pep (229-11-1, 65 KOs) and Julio Caesar Chavez (115-6-2, 86 KOs) remained undefeated for many more fights than Mayweather even though they would eventually lose. Pep was 62-0 before his first lost and Chavez was 89-0. Although both of these fighters are consistently listed among the greatest fighters ever, they both lost and neither Pep nor Chavez had anywhere near the star power of Mayweather. Realistically, Chavez’ resume is weak compared to Mayweather’s. He did not consistently fight and defeat top fighters, true champions, like Mayweather has and he lost when tested against good fighters. He lost to Frankie Randal, Oscar De La Hoya, and Kosta Tszyu. He also lost to three mediocre fighters. His best win was against Meldrick Taylor.

The best fighter ever has to have lost: Mayweather has not lost so he cannot be the best. This is probably the most illogical argument I have heard. We judge pugilists by the quality of opponents they have beat and their apparent skill level. If losing made a fighter better, then the fighter with the greatest loses would be considered the best, which is completely counterintuitive.

What proponents of this argument are really trying to say, but fail to make clear, is that a great fighter will be able to overcome tough opposition, learn for his mistakes, and improve. Guess what? Mayweather has done these things on many occasions. He was in a tough fight with Castillo in their first fight and then came back and dominated in the second. De La Hoya put it on him, so did Cotto. Maidana hit him with some bombs in both of their fights. Did you see Mayweather’s lip at the post press conference after their second fight? In each of these instances, Mayweather faced serious adversity. Yet, he tasted victory. Success when faced with enormous difficulty makes a fighter great not defeat. Mayweather has faced some very tough opposition, but came out victorious each time.

Mayweather has not fought the other best fighter of his time in Manny Pacquiao: In December of 2009, during the first round of negotiations, Mayweather was all in to fight Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs). All terms were agreed to except one: blood testing. Bob Arum called of the fight off because “Manny gets freaked out when his blood gets taken and he feels that it weakens him.” According to Arum, Mayweather’s request for Olympic style blood testing was “harassment.”

In January of 2012, ESPN reported that Mayweather personally called Pacquiao and offered him $40 million, more than Pacquiao has ever made for a fight. The offer was rejected. Pacquiao was brutally knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez later that year.

Mayweather tried on two different occasions to make a fight with Pacquiao. However, Pacquiao declined to fight on both occasions, the first time because of blood testing, the second time because of money. Critics claim that Mayweather is scared of Pacquiao, but based on the facts laid out above, the opposite appears to be a more pure conclusion. Pacquiao does not truly want to fight Mayweather. If he did, he would have taken the blood tests and the highest payday of his career. What is interesting here is that a few months after the first negotiations ended, Bob Arum said that Pacquiao was willing to do the blood testing and that there were no longer any issues with making the fight happen even though he later admitted he never re-entered negotiations with the Mayweather team. Further, more recently, Pacquiao said he would fight Mayweather for free, but did not honestly pursue this option. Bob Arum does not really want it, neither does Pacquiao. If they did, they would give into Mayeather’s demands like everyone else.

Mayweather simply is not TBE, there have been fighters better than him: Could Sugar Ray Robinson (173-19-6-2, 108 KOs), considered by many boxing writers to be the best-pound-for-pound boxer of all time, beat Mayweather? Maybe. Although both fighters, at some time in their careers, fought at welterweight, there is no way to know who would win. There is no way to know if anyone from the past could beat Mayweather. Therefore, the criticism that there were other fighters better than Mayweather is not valid.

In the footage that is available of Robinson, Robinson appears to be a very sturdy boxer/puncher that has a tendency to brawl. Most notably, he has incredible knockout power in both hands. Undoubtedly, based on the footage that I have seen, Robinson would have a good chance of beating Mayweather under today’s rules and under the rules of days past, fifteen rounds with little gloves, Mayweather would be in serious trouble. What a match up.

Regardless of what our imaginations may tell us, it still remains that there is no way to determine if Robinson or other great fighters from the past could beat Mayweather. All we can do is imagine. However, the fact that we are even seriously discussing whether or not Mayweather is TBE is telling. At no point in recent history has there been a discussion about a modern fighter being the best ever. Yet, this debate is taking place at this very moment and there are strong advocates for both sides. Eventually, once Mayweather retires, boxing writers and analysts will vote and they will pick Mayweather. They will pick Mayweather because he will be the only undefeated boxer to defeat the best opposition of his time and because he will still be the biggest star boxing has ever seen.

 

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