Michael Montero’s Boxing Notebook: Mayweather nowhere near “all-time great” status
07.05.07 - By Michael Montero: It was the fight to save boxing. It was the event that the entire sports world was going to be buzzing about over the summer. It was Mayweather’s big chance to gain mainstream acceptance, build his legend, and prove his greatness…
Article posted on 08.05.2007
It ended up being none of those things. I scored the De La Hoya-Mayweather bout 116-113 for the pretty boy (7 rounds for Floyd, 4 rounds for Oscar, 1 round even); with each man clearly winning 3 rounds, the other rounds being close, competitive and difficult to score. I felt the golden boy won the first half of the fight, then fatigue set in and Mayweather took over. Oscar rarely jabbed, but when he did he was highly effective and backed the challenger up. The HBO commentators were puzzled as to why De La Hoya stopped jabbing but it was obvious to me – the man is finished as a world class fighter. After the fight the east LA native told Larry Merchant that he wasn’t sure why, but he just couldn’t get his jab off. When you hear fighters talk this way, it’s usually a clear indication that its time for them to hang up the gloves. Oscar is no exception to this rule.
Now on to Floyd. Let’s be totally honest here – the Grand Rapids, Michigan native did enough to win the fight, but this was hardly domination. The reality is that he beat a full-time promoter/celebrity/family man, part-time fighter, who is years past his prime and nowhere near anybody’s current pound for pound list (in fact he was ranked by RING Magazine as only the #5 Junior Middleweight at the time of the fight). Let’s not forget that this was only De La Hoya’s second fight in almost three years; and he was just 2-2 in his last four bouts coming into Saturday’s event. After all of Mayweather’s talk about how he was going to “brutally beat” his opponent, how it was going to be a “massacre”, how he was going to “go toe to toe” and “dominate” – he played it safe and pot-shoted his way to a relatively unexciting victory. This was hardly the kind of event that’s going to end up on HBO’s “Legendary Nights” series. I’m not trying to take anything away from Floyd’s accomplishment; I’m just stating the facts.
Don’t get me wrong, Floyd Mayweather is certainly one of the best prize fighters in the world and one of the finest ring technicians to come along in the past 10-15 years; but he’s not an all-time great, at least not yet. Since leaving the Lightweight division (135 pounds) in late 2003, he’s carefully chosen past-prime “name” opponents and B-rate contenders. He called out Oscar De La Hoya for a reason; he knew that in the golden boy he was getting the biggest reward possible with only a limited risk. There’s nothing wrong with that at all if you’re a humble young fighter trying to make yourself rich and gain worldwide acceptance; but there is a problem with that if you’re constantly calling yourself the best fighter in the history of boxing. There are fighters like Ricky Hatton at 140 and Miguel Cotto/Antonio Margarito at 147 that are the true challenges boxing fans want to see Floyd take. Cotto takes on Zab Judah next month; Margarito faces tough mandatory challenger Paul Williams in July. There is talk that should they both be successful in their summer bouts they will face each other by year’s end. The winner of that match becomes the legitimate Welterweight champion in my opinion, and the toughest challenge out there for Floyd to take. Who wouldn’t want to see that fight?! Imagine a super bout between two undefeated champions, Cotto and Mayweather, next year in New York around the Puerto Rican Day Parade. That is the kind of challenge that I want to see Mayweather take before I call him the best in the world, the best of his era, one of the greatest ever. Until then, he’ll simply be among the best in the world in my opinion.
Do I hold Floyd to higher standards? Yes. Am I tough on him? Certainly. Why you ask? Because of his own actions (or lack there of) and words. As stated earlier, Floyd calls himself the greatest fighter to ever put on gloves – just watch HBO’s “24/7” series if you don’t believe me. You’ll hear him mention his name along with greats like Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. I’m sorry, but when you make claims like that you simply must back it up in the ring. Floyd states that he is going to retire now after the greatest achievement of his boxing career. If this is true, his record of 38-0, while certainly Canastota worthy, is nowhere near the stuff of legends. His resume has one hall of fame name on it (De La Hoya); and at the time they fought his opponent was well past his prime and hadn’t beat a world class opponent in years. On top of that, Mayweather never unified belts at any weight and dodged tough mandatories like Joel Casamayor and “little but bad” Stevie Johnston. And while he did establish himself as “the man” at 130 and 135, he never fought the best at 140, 147 or 154. For all his talk of “dominance” and “brilliance”, Floyd has only one dominant win over a top-rated fighter in their prime: his knockout win over Diego Corrales in 2001 at 130 pounds. Think about it my fellow boxing lovers – does this sound like the resume of the best fighter of this generation, let alone the best ever?
For the record, I don’t even think Mayweather is the best pound for pound fighter today – that title belongs to Manny Pacquiao in my opinion. If Hopkins beats Winky Wright in July, he would then deserve that distinction. If Wright beats Hopkins, then takes on and defeats Joe Calzaghe, you’d have to give him the nod. One could argue that Rafael Marquez may be higher on the list than Floyd (or at least very close) after his dominant win over Israel Vasquez. If Juan Manuel Marquez ever gets a rematch with Pacquiao and beats him, you’d have to give him a higher ranking than Floyd Jr. as well. The difference between Floyd Mayweather and the fighters I’ve listed above is that they consistently face the best; and whether they win or lose, they are competitive and always come to fight. Only until the pretty boy takes on the likes of Hatton, Cotto and Margarito will he deservingly be ranked higher than the fighters listed above. I don’t care if he wins or loses those fights; as long as he takes them and is competitive he’ll get his due respect (and the adoration he so desperately yearns for).
Ray Robinson? Muhammad Ali? Please! Sugar Ray Leonard? Roberto Duran? Nope. Marvin Haglar? Thomas Hearns? Not there either. Pernell Whitaker? Julio Cesear Chavez? Still no contest. Simply put – there are more than a few fighters in the past 30 years alone that I’d favor over Mayweather. No, he’s not the best ever, not even the best of his time. Guys like Sugar Shane Mosley, Roy Jones Junior, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, the aforementioned Hopkins - even De La Hoya, all have better resumes than Floyd. And there’s little doubt in my mind that by the time they retire guys like Pacquiao and the Marquez brothers will all have resumes that blow the pretty boy’s away as well.
The time is now Mr. Mayweather – the world is in your hands. You just defeated the most popular fighter since Leonard in front of millions. Now is your chance to seriously prove to the knowledgeable boxing fan base that you are indeed one of the greatest ever. You can demand whatever money you want and nobody will argue. You can fight the Cottos, Margaritos and Hattons of the world and control every negotiation simply because you hold a win over the golden boy. If you want to retire and enjoy your riches there is certainly no shame in that; but calling yourself the best ever with all seriousness is just ridiculous - nobody is buying it. The most talented of your time? Probably. But the best fighter of your time? No.
A note on Max Kellerman’s closing comments after Saturday’s fight. Max called Mayweather’s win a “virtuoso performance”. I respectfully disagree with my wide-eyed friend (by the way, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Max blink, seriously). While Floyd clearly won the fight, I just can’t call this a virtuoso performance. When I think “virtuoso”, I think Calzaghe-Lacy, I think Wright-Trinidad, and I think Mayweather-Gatti. In other words, dominating every minute of every round; not merely controlling portions of rounds and doing just enough to win. Maxy boy, your bias is hard to ignore.
And one last note on Jim Lampley’s closing comments. In my opinion, Jim correctly stated that boxing is superior to mixed martial arts. I totally agree that there is nothing in MMA (including the UFC) within light years of the skill and athleticism that is commonly displayed in boxing. While the absolute best of MMA may be able to compete with boxing; on average boxers have far more skill, technique, athleticism and talent by far. There is just no comparison. The UFC is brilliantly packaged and marketed; but knowledgeable fight fans can clearly see that boxing is in a higher class all the way around. It’s a shame that MMA get’s more media attention – if only the powers that be in professional boxing would take note of what the UFC does and see the light.
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