Floyd Mayweather: Different kinds of Greatness

08.11.06 - By Adrian Saba - The significance of Floyd Mayweather’s achievement has been overlooked by most fans and obscured by two main factores: the quality of his opponent and the fight itself. The analogy of the matador and the bull is appropiate, it was an artistic display - but it wasn’t epic. Boring? I understand why many people found it boring. To watch a schooling is fine for ten or twenty minutes, then it becomes tedious and unnecessary, especially when there are no knockdowns..

Almost nobody believed that Carlos Baldomir was going to win, even if there was a shy thought always present that reminded us of a potential upset. In this reality that was impossible, the difference between both pugilists was simply abysmal. If boxing is about hitting and avoid getting hit, this was almost a perfect performance (there is no room for perfection in boxing). Floyd’s reward was what he wanted: a third Lineal Title. He won the first two against Genaro Hernandez and Jose Luis Castillo. Is his accomplishment equivalent to the one of Leonard, Armstrong, Ross and the other Three-division Champions?

Sugar Ray Leonard won his third Lineal Title at the age of 31. He had previously won the Welterweight Title after defeating the defensive master Wilfredo Benitez, and the won the Light Middleweight Title by TKOing Ayub Kalule in 1981. Benitez, the Radar of Boxing, is a pride of Puerto Rico and better than any fighter that Mayweather has faced. Kalule was a fine Champion, but not as good as some fighters that Floyd has beaten. To win the Middleweight belt, Leonard had to defeat Hagler, arguably the best 160 pounds’ fighter of all time. Hagler was damaged after so many years and battles, but Leonard was coming out of a long layoff AND also in his first fight at Middleweight. Mayweather defeated an opponent who is levels below Hagler, but with much more ease. Even if you consider that aspect, Leonard’s win is surrounded by much more splendour. No debate.

Oscar de la Hoya is also a member of the exclusive group of Three-division Champions. He defeated Julio Cesar Chavez for the Light Welterweight belt (JCC was 34 years old), then Pernell Whitaker (33 years old), in a close decision, and finally Javier Castillejo for the Light Middleweight Lineal Title. How does that compare to Floyd’s fights for his Titles? It depends more on who is the judges. Even if Chavez and Whitaker were nothing compared to their best versions, they were active legends. In this case there is also the argument that Whitaker deserved the decision against De la Hoya. Mayweather’s win against Castillo (in the first fight) was also controversial for many fans.

Henry Armstrong had to defeat Petey Sarron, Barney Ross and Lou Ambers to become one of the first Three-division Champions in history. Curiously, Ross is also part of that group. I don’t find him particularly impressive to watch, but he won his three Titles from two great fighters. The first one is Tony Canzoneri (another Three-division Champ) and the other one is a great Welterweight: Jimmy McLarnin. One of the things that decreases Ross’ accomplishment is that he won two of those Titles in just one fight.

Tony Canzoneri is one of the underrated and almost forgotten Trichampions of multiple divisions. To claim that recognition he had to defeat Johnny Dundee (in a boring fight), Al Singer and Jack Berg. I rate Berg as a Top10 Light Welterweight of all time. There have been more Three-division Champions in history, for example Bob Fitzsimmons (Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight) and Emile Griffith (Welterweight, Light Middleweight and Middleweight).

Floyd Mayweather’s road to win the three Titles was tougher or easier? He had to work harder than some, but there are other great fighters that walked through the Calvary to forge their legacies.

In the future, more pugilists will enter the select group. In a couple of weeks, Manny Pacquiao will fight Erik Morales to get his own ticket. Mayweather’s status as the P4P King is clear, but not untouchable.

Article posted on 08.11.2006

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