Just when was Floyd Mayweather Junior at his best? Just what was Mayweather’s best weight-class in terms of him giving us his finest ring performances? It could be argued (and it is here) that Mayweather was at his best, his meanest, his most exciting and his most impressive when he was plying his trade as a super-featherweight. It was at 130 pounds that “Pretty Boy,” later “Money,” won his first world title – the 130 division being the first of five Floyd would conquer – and what a dazzling boxer/puncher he really was at the poundage.
Mayweather was 27-0 as a super-featherweight, with a most impressive 20 KO’s scored. At 130, Floyd made eight title retentions over a rapid period of just three years and one month, and Mayweather registered the win many point to as his career-finest: the ten-round, knockdown-filled hammering of the dangerous warrior that was the late, great Diego Corrales.
Indeed, it would take a brave fan/historian to not give Mayweather at least a 50/50 chance against ANY 130 pounder in boxing history. One of Mayweather’s somewhat often overlooked scintillating performances came 20 years ago this week (Dec 19, 1998) and it was in the 21 year old’s first title defence. Just over two months on from winning the WBC crown by stopping Genaro Hernandez (this title win being the closest to Floyd’s heart in terms of special achievement), Mayweather met the 25-2-1(20) Angel Manfredy.
The fight, that took place in Miami, saw Mayweather face a proven puncher, one who had not lost since 1994 (this loss coming in Manfredy’s fifth pro bout, his other loss coming in his pro debut). Manfredy had been stopped just once (in his debut) and there were plenty of people suggesting the fight would be the toughest, and roughest, yet for Mayweather. Two short rounds later and Floyd had proven these people wrong.
It was a fine display of speed, power and accuracy from the emerging superstar, one that was light-years away from the “boring” and “safety-first” performances Floyd would give us years later. And Mayweather went from strength to strength at 130 – stopping Justin Juuko, Emanuel Augustus, Corrales and Jesus Chavez over the coming months.
So, who agrees with the notion that the world saw the absolute best of Floyd Mayweather in the years 1998 to 2001, at 130 pounds? It could have been an even more impressive and exciting time in Mayweather’s career. For immediately after his destruction of “Chico,” Floyd called out Naseem Hamed. “I would like to fight Prince Naseem,” Mayweather told HBO. What a crying shame this fight failed to materialise.
Still, had it done so, there would have been only one winner. “Pretty” beats “Prince.” No doubt about it. Mayweather was darn near unbeatable at 130 pounds.