Donald Curry, Michael Nunn, Terry Norris. Is Floyd Mayweather Next?

03.11.05 - By John Way: Ever since his flogging of Arturo Gatti, "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather jr. has been haunted by the twin specters of Zab Judah and boxing writers nationwide. After a mere three fights at junior welterweight, the Grand Rapids native is already contemplating a precarious leap to welterweight, not against pound-for-pound rated Judah, or even dethroned king, Cory Spinks. Instead, the fastest man in boxing has opted to take a more reasonable fight against former junior welterweight champion, Sharmba Mitchell.

Even back at lightweight, where he beat the likes of Jose Luis Castillo, Phillip N'dou, and Victoriano Sosa, Mayweather seemed smallish when compared to fellow lightweights like Julio Diaz and Cesar Bazan. Naturally, a bevy of questions were set to be answered when the cocksure city boy announced plans to move up to 140lbs to pursue a third world title in the hottest division in boxing. Not wanting to waste any time, he handed fast fisted transvestite, Demarcus "Chop Chop" Corely the beat down of his career, hardly losing more than three whole minutes throughout the entire fight.. Dropping his resilient opponent twice, Mayweather seemed ready to do battle with the junior welterweight elite. What happened instead was an extended period of inactivity brought on by legal trouble, when he decided to take a swing at the mother of his children, rather than Kostya Tsyzu, Vivian Harris, or any of the other fighters dying for a chance at the pound for pound kingpin. Finally, after nearly a year out of the ring, Mayweather was set to battle the most anonymous man in boxing, Henry Brusseles. Brusseles-a feather-fisted foozebag if there ever was one-had only two dozen fights under his belt, and the closest thing he had to a claim-to-fame was the fact that he was from Puerto Rico.which promoter Bob Arum thought was enough justification for making this mismatch happen. Additionally, Brusseles had previously sparred some rounds with countryman Miguel Cotto, who's style is about as comparable to Mayweather's as Catherine Zeta-Jones is to Barry White.

Now, following his six round dismantling of Gatti, Mayweather has his sights set on top welterweight contender Mitchell, who less than a year ago, was thought by some to be the finest junior welterweight in the world. In fact, during the summer of 2004, there was a sizable demand within the boxing community for this fight to happen. Not the case now, considering the deafening criticism aimed at Mayweather, citing the used up story that "as pound for pound king, he's obliged to face better opposition than Mitchell".

Plain and simple, the whole quality of opposition line is a load of crap! Even if Floyd were to set a date with Jermain Taylor, Antonio Tarver, and Chris Byrd all on the same night, Mayweather would still have to answer to the critics. Let's review a few of the 2 rate opponents served up for top rated fighters in recent years: Patrick Carpentiers, Joey Gamache, Derrick Parks, and Jean Patrick Coopman.

In fact, if you want to split hairs (I'm in a mood to), then take a closer look at several historic weight gains in the past. For instance, when Pernell Whitaker leapt from his indigenous lightweight to junior welterweight, did he face division kingpin Julio Cesar Chavez? No, instead Whitaker opted for vastly inferior IBF champion Rafael Pineda, whom no one will ever mistake for Julio, or even Jesus Chavez for that matter. It is hardly a remarkable thing for a great fighter to take a less demanding opponent for his debut into a heavier division.

As acquainted as I may be with boxing's hypocritical side, I was surprised never the less by the wave of anti Mayweather vs. Mitchell sentiment I've encountered. Every time I hear a writer call Mitchell "shot", "used up", or a "patsy", I can't quite forget how Mayweather was written off as "inexperienced", "smallish", and "feather-fisted" prior to his title winning effort versus Genaro Hernandez. Perhaps the most puzzling part of this whole deal is the fact that Mitchell has faster hands than any other fighter Mayweather has fought up until this point. In fact, once you look past Corely and Emmanuel Augustus, there isn't a fighter on Floyd's record that can brag of hand speed even remotely close to Sharmba's. Deigo Corrales, Justin Juuko, Carlos Alberto Hernandez, and Angel Manfredy were all light years slower than is Mitchell.

Sharmba "The Little Big Man" Mitchell first lept into prominence with an easy win over faded battler Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, who was a far cry from the rugged bomber who shocked Bobby Chacon back in the 1980's. Shortly following his win over Limon, Mitchell hit Rocky Lockridge with everything but the bible en route to a dominate decision win, earning him
a chance at undefeated Chad Broussard. Unbeaten in thirty five fights, Broussard was also a tremendous puncher, with twenty eight knockouts to his credit. In one of the biggest wins of his career, Mitchell dropped his foe three times in one round for a sensational upset. 31-0 himself, "The Little Big Man" fought like a pipsqueak a few months later when he was chopped down to size by recently deceased Leavander Johnson in eight bruising rounds.

In his next fight, Mitchell was dominated by clever speed demon, Stevie Johnston in a ninth round TKO defeat (for what it's worth, Sharmba hasn't faced a man with John in his last name since.hmm). Shortly after his second professional loss, Mitchell rebounded with wins over Terron Millet and Khalid Rahilou. After winning the WBA crown against Rahilou, Mitchell retained his title against the likes of Elio Ortiz, Padro Saize, and Reggie Green, before facing Aussie champion, Kostya Tsyzu.

Fresh off a string of crushing knockouts, Tsyu was largely considered to be the best fighter in the junior welterweight division, and was expected to walk right through his American rival. Instead, Mitchell gave an inspired performance, bamboozling Tsyu with his lightning fast combinations and brilliant ring generalship. For the first three rounds, Mitchell looked like prime Sugar Ray Robinson, until Tysu's unrelenting pressure and steady commitment to the jab started to swing things in his favor. Then, after much roughhousing in the fifth and six, "The Little Big Man" pulled out of the fight with an alleged knee injury, and a perfect reasonable demand for a rematch. Instead, Tsyu opted for a more lucrative fight with Zab Judah, while Mitchell was forced to feed upon superb but obscure opponents like Vince Phillips, Ben Tackie, and Carlos Wilfredo Vilches before his return bout with fate finally came to fruition last fall.

Hugely-and justifiably-confident, Sharmba did well in the first round before getting dropped hard by a barrage of punches in the second. Things didn't get much better in the third, when Tsyu consistently walked him into hard right hands, dropping Mitchell a total of four times before the fight was stopped after just nine minutes of action.

With his dreams of revenge crushed, Mitchell took more than six months out of the ring before staging his comeback fight on the Mike Tyson versus Kevin McBride undercard. Looking slick as ever, "The Little Big Man" did seem somewhat lacking in his five round technical decision win against once beaten contender Chris Smith. Though obviously gun shy (as would be expected after the mauling he got from Tsyu) Mitchell used his enormous speed advantage to handle Smith fairly well before a gruesome clash of heads forced a premature end to the contest.

Obviously, as the world's best pugilist, Mayweather is obliged to face and beat the finest challengers, however, it's simply unreasonable for journalists and fans to demand that Floyd should have to faced undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah in his first fight at 147lbs. Still dissatisfied with Mayweather's level of opposition? Then take a look back through time and consider the opponents served up for other top fighters. Michael Nunn is the best example I can think of. "Second to Nunn" proved to be second to none in the art of knocking over marquee, but overmatched foes; think Donald Curry, Marlon Starling, Iran Barkely, Juan Roldan et. al. And yet during his reign as 160lbs champion, Nunn was considered to be one of the three best fighters in the world.

Not convinced yet? How about recent Hall of Fame Inductee Terry Norris? Though Norris was a truly great fighter blessed with gifts granted only to a few people every generation, at times during his various reigns as champion, his quality of opposition was sadder than watching Ken Norton get his brains blown out by Gerry Cooney. Guys like Troy Waters, Joe Gatti, and Brett Lally make Sharmba Mitchell look like an all time great in comparison. Look for Mayweather to struggle, losing at least four rounds when he faces Mitchell in their upcoming bout.

Comments and questions are welcome below.

Article posted on 04.11.2005

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