Defining Greatness

floyd mayweather jr.22.12.07 - By Anthony Coleman: Yes I expect to get negative feedback for this article; but, the hell with it. My job as a writer is to tell the truth and not bow down to the fear of mob mentality; even if that means having my readers curse my name. Now with my disclaimer out of the way, let me preach the “real talk.”

It has been two weeks since Floyd Mayweather’s KO victory over Ricky Hatton, and the boxing world is still buzzing about his amazing year. He defeated Oscar De La Hoya in the most watched fight in the history of the Pay-Per-View era, then scored the aforementioned highlight reel left hook KO victory over Hatton. For both fights Mayweather netted 20 million dollars, finished his ascent into superstardom (did you see all of those celebrities who were at ringside for both the De La Hoya and Hatton fights?), earned his second Ring Magazine “Fighter of the Year” award, and gained the respect of even his most ardent critics (including yours truly). As of right now, I think the overwhelming majority of boxing fans and writers consider Mayweather as the game’s top pound-for-pound fighter. Mayweather is a slam dunk hall-of-famer and one of the most talented fighters of his era. However, his fans are still getting carried away in proclaiming how great he is.

The “Pretty Boys” are now quick to get on the mountain top to scream about how he deserves to be mentioned with the Ray Robinsons and Muhammad Alis on boxing’s Mt. Rushmore. Some of them are so delusional to mention that he is actually the best fighter who ever lived. To believe that Mayweather is the greatest pugilist of all-time is, quite frankly, utter bullshit. To be honest, when I hear Mayweather’s obsessive fans discussing his greatness I usually laugh because they completely abandon logical reasoning and rely on obnoxious insult filled ranting and barking that it seems as if they are intentionally trying to model themselves after their hero. A typical message board rant from a Floyd fanatic goes a little something like this:

“Floyd is the greatest fighter who ever lived, and those who don’t recognize are haters. Floyd can walk on water, jump over buildings, drink champagne and piss out holy water. If he and Sugar Ray Leonard, woof! Woof! would have ever fought in their primes, he would have made him quit on his stool after four rounds. He’d quick Cotto’s ass with one hand tied Woof! Growl! Woof! Woof! behind his back! Why does, woof! Woof! Growl! he need to fight him! We, woof! Woof! all know “Money” Mayweather would win anyway. All of you haters need to bow down to the King of Kings, Floyd Mayweather, Woof! Howl! !!!!”

Based on such childish actions it is usually easy for me to not take the “Pretty Boys” seriously, yet sometimes they’ll get so annoying that you can’t resist the temptation to put them and their idol in their proper place. And the truth is this: Mayweather’s record doesn’t compete with the likes of a Robinson, Leonard, Duran, Ali, Pep, Armstrong or a Louis. To settle this argument once and for all we need to define what makes a boxer an all-time great.

A Boxer should be judge by these two factors:
-Quality of Opposition
-Dominance in a division or multiple divisions.

And that’s it. It is really that simple, yet it’s a shame that I have to define it for the irrational boxing fan who loves protecting their favorite boxer. Yet to further illustrate the point, I’ll go even further.

Quality of opposition is the most important factor for determining a fighter’s true ability. A boxer’s ability to defeat the best available opponents in or around his weight class proves his dominance. The ability to face adversity against foes of comparable ability is the ultimate proving ground. It is what your final win-loss record should be judged by.

Dominance in any a single or multiple divisions goes hand-in-hand with the quality of opposition rule. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike a fighter or opinions of the era he fought in the fact remains: if you defeat the top dogs in your division then you are a great fighter. It doesn’t matter if the division he’s in is crap; the point is that he did what he is supposed to do (that is exactly why Ricardo Lopez’s legacy is going to go through the roof in the intervening years). If he goes from his natural weight class and dominates other divisions; like Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker did, the boxer also deserves points for that accomplishment.

Of course people will make a claim that any given boxer’s talent should place them among the greatest of all-time. The logic is this: if the fighter’s talent is transcendent then they don’t need to prove their greatness by fighting tough guys because their ability alone speaks for itself. Boxing fans will remember that this same mode of thinking was used to defend Roy Jones Jr. Sorry I don’t buy that argument.

A fighter’s talent needs to be proven in the ring. If a boxer is as talented as we think he is, then he’ll have no problems going into the battlefield and slaying dragons. Any guy can beat a Glen Kelly or Morrade Hakkar, but it takes true greatness to defeat a prime Roberto Duran (like Leonard did) or a prime George Forman (ditto for Ali).

Talent is like water. It is responsible for the life of both plants and animals. Without it, we’d surely die. However, if it goes unused then it is worthless, no matter how much of it you have in supply. You can have fresh running water in your house, but if you don’t drink it, you’re going to die. Same goes for boxing skills; no matter how once-and-a-life-time it may be, if you’re only taking on club fighter after club fighter, it is going to waste.

To put it into perspective: Ray Robinson is considered the most talented fighter who ever lived. Yet he is considered the greatest fighter who ever lived because he defeated Gavilan, Lamotta, Basillio, Fullmer, and Olson in both the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions. Roberto Duran is perhaps the quintessential pressure fighter, but he also cleaned out the Lightweight Division and KO’d borderline greats like Buchanan and DeJesus. To this day people rave about Ali’s hand and foot speed, but he wouldn’t be considered the greatest heavyweight of all-time if he hadn’t dominated the greatest heavyweight era in the history of the sport. In fact, if you compare Ali’s list of quality wins over other heavyweights, he blows them out of the water (and that includes Joe Louis).

As great as Floyd is, he simply doesn’t belong in that company. He is an incredible athlete and his knowledge of in ring tactics is amazing, but he simply doesn’t have the quality wins to be mentioned among the highest tier of all-time greats. If he were to take out Cotto, Williams, Cintron, and Margarito then he deserves mention among the greatest Welterweights in history. I wrote a year ago in my first article for this very website that it is up to Mayweather to make these fights because when he’s retired the only thing that will matter is his ring record.

Article posted on 22.12.2007

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