At the heel of one of the most interesting and controversial negotiations in boxing history, a lot of talk about the good ol’ days and other clichés emerged and are thrown around like medicine balls in sweaty boxing gyms. They’re used to describe a time when all was well – the gas station attendant filled up your car, the doctor made house calls, and the best fighters fought the best fighters. You even hear fighters repeat the phrase, “I’m old school”, in hopes of luring a no nonsense fan base that will follow them down the often lonely, dark hallways of their boxing journey
So where does Mayweather fit into all of this? You dare not compare Mayweather to the late, great Sugar Ray Robinson. I can feel the eyes of many strangers hawking at their tablets, phones and computer screens as I type this.
No! He wasn’t forced to jump up a full weight class to take on Gennady Golovkin, today’s version of Jake Lamotta, at least in my opinion, because welterweights feared him. It’s quite the opposite for Mayweather – welterweights beg, cry, and line up at an opportunity to face him. Is it for the money? Sure, but much more. Just look at Victor Ortiz’s rise in popularity after being defeated by Mayweather: a movie role, a spot on “Dancing With the Stars”, all to a fighter who lost. No wonder Britain’s own Amir Khan can’t wait to get in the ring with Mayweather, It’s a win-win opportunity regardless of the outcome in the ring.
What’s been kept from the boxing public about Sugar Ray Robinson, almost like the severity of his diabetes, are his actions outside of the ring. I’m no boxing historian, but I have had the pleasure of absorbing a lot of content regarding the greatest fighter ever to lace-em up. That content includes Pound for Pound: A Biography of Sugar Ray Robinson by Herb Boyd and Ray Robinson II. I’ve also viewed the HBO documentary, Sugar Ray Robinson: The Bright Lights & Dark Shadows of a Champion. So let’s count down the five most noticeable similarities that I have come across.
It’s said by many that Robinson invented the entourage. Everywhere he went he took his stable of friends and workers, including a barber, valet, golf trainer, and few yes-men to keep his ego fed. He also drove a pink Cadillac with gold flecks in the paint that lit up the streets of Harlem, much like the way Mayweather’s Bugatti further lights up the Vegas strip.
Robinson was a great fighter and he knew it. After the death of Jimmy Dole, who died in the ring after a left hook from Robinson, the DA investigated the matter. They asked him when he felt Jimmy Doyle was in trouble, and Robinson replied, “When he signed the contract.” Although not as critical compared to Robinson’s comments concerning Dole’s death, Mayweather has taking jabs at Muhammad Ali’s greatness by questioning his lack of body attack and Ali’s loss to the young, inexperienced Leon Spinks.
Whether it was claims of domestic abuse or his issues with the IRS, Robinson was human and controversial. Mayweather mimics Robinson with both issues, he has served time in jail due to claims of alleged abuse against the mother of his child, and his past troubles with the IRS had been publicized.
2. For the Love of Money
Fans love the story of their favorite boxers as being “born to fight”, as if they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but taking and giving punishment. But that’s far from the truth. In the HBO documentary, The Bright Lights and Shadows of a Champion, Robinson expresses that he never enjoyed boxing and that it was simply about the business for him. Time and time again, Mayweather has claimed his love for boxing has long faded. And that he’s simply motivated by money and the comfortable lifestyle it brings. Looks no further then the name change from, “Pretty Boy Floyd” to “Money Mayweather.”
1. Stern Negotiator
Robinson was a stern negotiator, who understood his worth and the risk he, and his opponents, took every time they stepped in the ring. Throughout his career he made sure to get a cut of the theatre, radio, television, and film money. He didn’t sign the contract to a fight until it met all his requirements. He wasn’t shy about re-negotiating deals long after the contract was signed, or rescheduling fights if he didn’t feel up to it, or didn’t like the current deal that was negotiated.
In Robinson’s first fight with Gene Fullmer, he refused to leave the locker room until he was paid an additional $10,000 dollars after he learned the fight would broadcast in England. He argued his original $50,000 purse was only agreed upon on the belief that the fight would broadcast only in the United States.
Mayweather is content on staying in his big boy mansion, as he likes to call it, counting money and betting on sporting events, until he reaches a deal that fits his requirements. Ignoring critics that consist of writers, fans, haters, and boxing legends that critique his career as they try determine where his legacy fits amongst boxing gods.
In today’s world Robinson would have been called a ducker, and a cancer to the sport. And when you don’t play by the media and fans rules, they will belittle your accomplishments. I guess fighting for money takes away from your accomplishments in the ring. Who wants to root for the guy fighting for money?
If the Mayweather versus Pacquaio negotiations were the Robinson versus Pacquaio negotiations, The Late Great Sugar Ray Robinson would have made sure to get every cent he felt he deserved before stepping into the ring.
So there you have it, the greatest fighter of all time was a flawed human being, who fought for money, and so is the greatest fighter of this generation. Now get over it.