Throughout the history of boxing there has been so many great fighters, some that have been around at the same time, and some that have just missed each other by only a few years. Not content with the careers these great fighters have had many people often question what would happen if Fighter X took on Fighter Y both at their peaks.
Given the recent victory by Floyd Mayweather over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez so many fantasy matchups were made with Mayweather constantly coming out on top. So many forum threads were created pitching Mayweather against true legends of the business from Sugar Ray Robinson to Sugar Ray Leonard to Pernell Whitaker.
Articles were written on many reputable boxing websites claiming that Mayweather has now got to be considered one of the greatest fighters of all time. The problem with fantasy matchups is that the current flavor of the month tends to beat all comers, if this article was written 10 years then Roy Jones Jr would probably be beating all comers in fantasy match-ups, only a few years ago Manny Pacquiao was winning fantasy match-ups left right and centre. How can we evenly compare two fighters from two different era’s and determine who would be the winner?
The pure science of boxing has and always will remain the same, it is two men using their hands to determine who the better man is on that night, but so much around the sport has changed even in the last 30 years. The weigh-ins now take place a day before to allow fighters more time to rehydrate and so many fighters have brought in strength and fitness trainers alongside dieticians to help them reach the target weight whilst maintaining peak performance. Of course this has worked in not just helping fighters lose weight but gain weight in such a way that they don’t lose too much speed. Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez are two great examples of this, whilst some may question the methods and the legality of them they have achieved fantastic results. Imagine if someone like Roberto Duran had the same available to him, perhaps he wouldn’t have ballooned between fights. Sugar Ray Leonard took the rematch with Duran as soon as he could for that very reason, as to give himself an advantage.
One of the other massive changes in the last 30 years or so has been the decrease in rounds in championship fights from 15 to 12 rounds. A return to this would benefit some of the current crop, people like Carl Froch who seems to get stronger as the fight goes on would probably pick up an extra couple of KO’s in those extra rounds. How much difference does those extra 3 rounds make, well you’d have fighters who fought non-stop for 15 rounds, fighting at an even higher intensity and for modern day fighters you would see them adapting their training to cope with those extra 3 rounds. In reality the benefit of a 15 round fight is less chance of the draw due to so many judges reluctance to score a round 10-10, athletes of the level that compete at the elite level in boxing during this era would cope with the extra 3 rounds. If you were to go further back in time when there was no limit to rounds then you are dealing with a whole different kind of beast, how do you compare a fighter who fought under London Prize Ring rules to a modern day fighter especially as you may discover that some used to drink whiskey between rounds.
We’ve all seen computer simulations throughout the years, going all the way back to when Muhammad Ali was in his prime and a computer simulation determined that Rocky Marciano would have beaten Ali. If you were to ask the same question today the vast majority would pick Ali to beat Marciano, but shouldn’t the computer be correct as it is not objective and it is just processing raw data. Right now a lot of people are bored of the Klitschko domination of heavyweight boxing and only recently Boxing News had a feature on who is the greatest heavyweight of all time, and a side note asking how the greats of the past would do against the Klitschko brothers, sure Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali et al took on giants but they were not as good as a Klitschko so it is so hard to picture how they would fight. This is not to say that Klitschko would beat any of those mentioned but it is to say objectivity is needed when comparing a 6ft 1in 220lbs man to a 6ft 6in 260lb man.
Of course great fighters from an era gone by still watch fights today and they think how they would beat today’s greats, Sugar Ray Leonard says as much in his autobiography. Which surely gets your mind thinking about how Leonard v Mayweather would play out but again objectivity must be used, a boxer who started his career as a Welterweight and fought as high as Light Heavyweight taking on a man who started as a Super Featherweight and fights at most at Light Middleweight. There are odd occasions where a discussion is relevant but it tends to be when a pair of boxers have missed each other by a couple of years such as Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward. Doug’s Mailbag for The Ring Magazine often gets asked a few fantasy match-ups and a lot of the time it comes down to the writers personal preference, this writer has even done an article in the past on Mayweather v a few past greats but has perhaps found a bit more objectivity. We all have our own favorite boxer who will we find a way of making to win a fantasy match up but as the term suggests it is a fantasy match up and not one we will see, so we will never know. They do make great talking points and can be quite fun as the older generation will cling to their hero’s whilst the modern day fan will only see their current favourite win.
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