Floyd Mayweather and the ‘Great Debate’

floyd mayweather jr.27.11.06 - By MICHAEL KLIMES: The water is deep and I asked myself before I wrote this article – am I going to wade into it and let the water gradually drown me or shall I jump in head first? I decided on the latter.

In recent weeks, ‘Pretty Boy’s’ announcement that he was going to have one more fight and then retire has been (for numerous fans) a surprising low blow on whatever side of the debate one stand’s on. Following the civil war over ESB’s chat rooms and the Internet in general; it has dawned the debate about Mayweather’s reputation, his refusal to accept Margarito’s challenge and his general standing are bitterly contested issues. Mayweather, whether intentionally or not, has constructed a Berlin Wall in the boxing community with each side scanning the other for weaknesses and training their guns to fire at maximum velocity. It is almost impossible to set a general trend of opinion as the compass spins in crazy directions and no one is willing to compromise on unflinching dogmas.

Scoop Malinowski dropped an atomic bomb, twenty times more powerful than Hiroshima with the glaringly provocative article, ‘Why Should Oscar Waste His Time On Floyd?’ James Slater took an opposing trajectory by defending the self-proscribed prodigal son, writing that Mayweather has more right to the ownership of bragging rights compared to other lesser mortals. Izyaslav “Slava” Koza has moved in more cautiously than either, tickling the controversial subject with a delicate reconnaissance but thankfully, no headline grabbing acrobatics. Ted Sares has had a more balancing effect but still the controversy rumbles.

It is time to clear out the conjecture from the facts and get down to business because there has been much truth and lies in this hot climate so roll up your sleeves because this is going to be a long one.

Mayweather, for the last four years has not defeated an ‘A Class’ fighter. He is (in what is becoming very mundane to mention) a world champion at four different weights, undefeated, a millionaire, not even thirty and exceptionally talented. His combination punching is just about the best and most artistic in the world with speed, power and accuracy. His defensive reflexes are a marvel but his cockiness, one liners and general demeanour are counter-intuitive to the megastar he could be. Sugar Ray Leonard was and remains that shimmering legend below the heavyweights, which everyone aspires too. This iconic model was summed up in one word- ‘flash’, he was handsome, charismatic and could match his smile with his smooth style. Exactly the same is true of Oscar de la Hoya but not Floyd Mayweather.

His egoism is the black hole to the reservoir of star dust he has, put it this way: if a surgeon could remove Mayweather’s ego and put it in a fridge, it would not freeze. In certain fighters, cockiness maybe attractive and Muhammad Ali punched out the memorable phrase, ‘It is not bragging if you back it up.’ This is fair statement of fact but it does not logically entail you can conclude that you are better than Sugar Ray Leonard when you are clearly not and gesturing your shadow towards those of Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.

Whatever Floyds gifts, he does not have the class, grit or names on his record to match these three indisputable legends and remember, Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard consistently put Robinson above themselves in the pantheon of greatness. That is saying something about the original Sugar’s sweetness as his legacy has humbled the likes of the heaviest admires one can find.

Credit has to be given to Mayweather for defeating the linear welterweight champion in Carlos Baldomir. Now, the Argentinean was no Tommy Hearns or José Napoles but he was a solid veteran enjoying a bright spell in the cloudy greyness of his mid-thirties. He had come off two brilliant victories in a very talented but tantalisingly frustrating Zab Judah, who has the capacity to be a leading man in the hot welterweight division. His speed and southpaw stance would give anyone problems but his issues were always mental never physical and in boxing a weak psyche is an Achilles Heel. Baldomir also took out Arturo Gatti and yes Gatti was old but let us remember, Gatti did acquire a fine set of boxing skills in his later years and was an experienced professional. Baldomir’s late renaissance reminds fans, writers and boxers never to underestimate a fighter if he/she is confident, on a home run and receiving a kind pat from fate.

James J.Braddock was not Joe Louis but he managed to have the best ride in the twilight zone, concluding his little romance with success by defeating Max Baer, who would have thought of that? The same was true of Baldomir and Mayweather boasted a comprehensive showcase of his tools in dethroning the old king. Respect to ‘Pretty Boy’ for that. Similarly, admire his eight title defences at super featherweight. He was not always the acute weight campaigner like now but was an excellent champion, enforcing a long reign, which now has attained mythic comparisons with those other two titans in Alexis Arguello and Julio Caesar Chavez.

At lightweight, he annexed José Luis Castillo to his record and even if he lost the first fight he took a rematch and erased any doubt about who was the superior boxer. Since then, Mayweather may not have had the most magnificent competition but one cannot say he was a slouch by taking on Philip N’Dou and Demarcus Corley. His foray into the light-welterweight division was weak but he saw bigger riches moving up in weight.

It is hard to agree with the accussations that Mayweather is avoiding Antonio Margarito even though he was offered $8 million dollars. What we have to concede is that $8 million is peanuts to Mayweather. A man in his prime, considering his legacy and aiming to reel in the biggest purses is not a coward, far from it, if he flatly refuses to fight a gladiator who is not on his level. No disresect to Margarito intended, it makes perfect financial and business sense for him to try and snare Mayweather into a confrontation as he would then be able to bath in a jicussi with dollar bills. It is a vision to strive for in life but everyone involved, not just Mayweather is clamouring for the showdown with Oscar de la Hoya.

Margarito’s size, agression and power would give Mayweather a headache, maybe a migraine as people make the connection between Castillo and a bigger version in Margarito but Mayweather’s decision to fight de la Hoya is as much business orientated as for legacy. Boxers are not soley motivated by a desire to take on the best but also the factor of money. Anyone spinning the theories that Mayweather and Margarito are avoiding anyone is (to me) simply ridiculous. They are two top class boxers who get our juices flowing but one has to keep the political and finanicial quandries (basically one and the same thing) when considering why some fights do and don’t happen. There are forces in boxing that move behind the scenes which move mountains and tumble others. Fighters are not always in control: the television networks, promotors and sanctioning bodies also have a wrangle in who fights who. Never underestimate the horrible and at times ugly nature of boxing negotiations.

So where does this yarn conclude? The answers are Mayweather’s fight against de la Hoya is going to be an event and potentially a classic shoot up. There is enough difference in age, style and ego to spark up scenes for the camera. Margarito, although not getting the attention he deserves from many circles has many compelling tear ups ahead of him, even if he does not get that golden target in Mayweather. He is not the only one who wants to eat the the forbidden fruit like Eve as there is a long cue of nagging men grovelling at Mayweather’s robe.

As for Mayweather’s claims he will retire, the ever shrewd Steve Farhood has dismissed retirement plans as waffle because Mayweather will not be able to withstand the temptations of abdicating his throne like status as being the king sure knocks out being anything else in life. This includes retirement, sex and money.

Ultimately, behind Mayweather’s sneering veneer is a man who is sensitive to what others think of him. He knows in his heart he has not done enough to be considered an all time great, not yet. There are too many unwritten adventures lurking in the future with Hatton, Williams, Cotto, Quintana, Margarito, Mosley and of course the ‘Golden Boy.’

He desperately needs darkness in a nemesis foe, someone like Frazier was for Ali or Duran was for Leonard. Until Mayweather is given a brutal obstacle, where he has to bite down on the gum shield and chew leather; the question mark will aways remain, shining above him like a bright neon sign. We only have to see the spotlight on Roy Jones’s head, don’t we?

Article posted on 27.11.2006

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