Boxing

My Eyes on Floyd Mayweather

floyd mayweather jr.23.12.07 - By Michael Klimes: When Floyd Mayweather wrote the conclusion to his bout with Ricky Hatton through a picturesque left hook, it was reminiscent of a fighter which Mayweather has claimed to be greater than – Sugar Ray Leonard. The punch Mayweather used, as all fans know, was the signature blow of his legendary predecessor.

Mayweather’s version was as good as any left hook Leonard would have thrown in his prime. It combined a scientific precision with artful grace that only boxers of Mayweather’s or Leonard’s skill sets are able to produce. This comparison raises important questions: How great is Mayweather? Is he great as he actually says?

One thing is certain; Mayweather believes his own mouth and it is one of the reasons why he has achieved so much. Also, Mayweather thus far can make a legitimate claim to being number one in his field of sport. However, is he the best of his generation let alone the greatest ever to lace up a pair of gloves?

It is difficult to discuss Mayweather as he strikes a raw nerve with numerous fans and commentators. Any judgement of his achievements is dictated more by emotion rather than reason. He is (to use a British simile) like marmite, you either love him or hate him and as a result he is an acquired taste. There is only so much of Mayweather people can chew before they spit him out. H.B.O anchor Larry Merchant is the most prominent example of a man incapable of finding an interview with the pound for pound king appetising.

Unfortunately, Merchant’s distaste of Mayweather is a metaphor of how people let their emotions get the better of them when judging Mayweather. Many in boxing and maybe other areas such as politics equate greatness with likeability and even popularity. Likeability and greatness are not comfortable bedfellows. In most cases, it appears to me that admiration for somebody and affection rarely goes together. Take Winston Churchill: A legendary leader, writer, historian and painter yet also a heavy drinker, smoker, vain, difficult and aggressive person. He was probably someone much easier to admire than warm too. Mayweather appears to generate similar feelings.

Bearing these observations in mind, we can now evaluate Mayweather’s credentials against his audacious claims in a more balanced way. First off, comparing Mayweather to Leonard beyond left hooks is silly. They are two fighters. Leonard was a boxer-puncher and the superior finisher while Mayweather is more of a counter-puncher, especially as he has moved up the weight divisions.

In assessing him, it makes more sense to mention Mayweather in the same group of formidable counter-punchers from the modern era like Pernell Whitaker, James Toney and Wilfred Benitez. They were the most accomplished defensive fighters of their generations and performed brilliantly at the weights they campaigned in. This is the firmest ground to stand on when it comes to praising Mayweather.

Nevertheless, Mayweather’s comments and those of his most ardent fans insinuate he is more than just the best defensive fighter of his generation and could have fought in any era. So far Mayweather’s body of work does not withstand the arguments and evidence presenting the contrary. Even with his excellent defeats of Genaro Hernendez, Ricky Hatton, José Luis Castillo, Diego Corrales, Philip N’Dou, Zab Judah et al, his record is not superior to those of say Sugar Ray Leonard or Oscar de la Hoya. De la Hoya who is part of the same generation, although not as outrageously talented as Mayweather, has fought better fighters in Ruelas, Molina, Genaro Hernandez, Lieja, Chavez, Whitaker, Camacho, Quartey, Oba Carr, Trinidad, Mosley, Vargas, Mayweather and Hopkins. Mayweather has never had to confront a fighter who had the jab of Ike Quartey, the pure punching power of Trinidad or the versatility of Sugar Shane Mosely.

Mayweather has never had to comeback in a bout after losing the first six rounds like Leonard did in his first encounter of Tommy Hearns. He has never fought in forty-five minutes of bruising hell against a pressure fighter of Roberto Duran’s intensity, intelligence, feinting ability and toughness. Some made the case that the Hatton-Mayweather fight was the latter day Duran-Leonard but the match up did not deserve such accolades. Hatton has always been too small to fight at welterweight. Also, it has already mentioned Mayweather does not possess the same fighting style as Leonard.

Mayweather’s bout against de la Hoya might on the surface lend itself to being called the Hagler-Leonard of the era with de la Hoya as the ageing warrior yet the bigger man who could out muscle his smaller adversary. However, de la Hoya was thirty four and a semi-retired champion while Hagler was still an active one. Furthermore, Leonard came out of a five year lay off and was just savvy enough to outpoint Hagler while Mayweather was and is experiencing his heyday.

We have to be frank; Mayweather has had some dud contests in recent years that did not consist of top draw competition. One can counter that every fighter has their fair share of incredible performances and more mediocre ones but if you call yourself the pound for pound king and greater than Ali and Leonard; the burden is on that fighter to deliver stellar victories over the best competition available. Mayweather’s easy demolitions of a very faded Arturo Gatti, lucky Carlos Baldomir and ancient Sharmba Mitchell were very easy pickings for man of Mayweather’s rare talent. They were not battles Mayweather should have been having and were simply taken because they posed no threat to him.

At light welterweight Mayweather has never seen a whirlwind like Aaron Pryor or a boxer-puncher of Alexis Argüello’s stature at the super featherweight limit. This article is not meant to disregard Mayweather’s brilliance but his brilliance needs perspective. It is a brutal fact that after his magnificent runs at super-featherweight and lightweight, where Mayweather was taking on formidable fighters frequently and winning in style; his progress got stunted to a considerable degree. With his dismantling of Ricky Hatton, Mayweather is again moving on the right path but he still has a lot to do (in my eyes) to be mentioned in the same breath as somebody like Leonard or called one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.

How would Mayweather deal with Cotto’s power, strength and determination? How would he get by the ruggedness of someone like Margarito? How would he tackle the height, reach, head movement and inside fighting ability of Paul Williams? These are questions and until they are answered Mayweather remains the best defensive fighter and one of the most talented boxers of his era. He is not yet one of the greatest fighters who has ever lived. He has not earned the bragging rights.

Article posted on 25.12.2007



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