Perspective: Floyd Mayweather Junior
10.12.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Junior made a tremendous boxing statement with his impressive victory against Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton. In what might well be his greatest performance to date, Mayweather proved that he is not only one of the most talented pugilists in the fight game but also one of the smartest. This unique blend has enabled Floyd to sit atop of boxing’s elite class for many years.
Article posted on 11.12.2007
In addition to having great skills, extraordinary athleticism, and sensational ring smarts, Mayweather also possesses another attribute which has enabled him to remain one of the best boxers of his generation—good management. Mayweather and his team are geniuses when it comes to evaluating “Risk vs. Reward”. This is a very important and often overlooked aspect of what helps constitute ‘greatness’. In fact, a proper assessment of such considerations can often constitute the subtle difference between a great fighter and an elite fighter.
When questioned about his future in the post-fight interview, Mayweather indicated that he has no desire to fight in 2008 or 2009. Citing the fact that he made a great deal of money this year, with mega-bouts against Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd noted he would like to take a break from the sport that has made him rich and famous. On one hand, who can blame him? He is young, he is rich, he has his health intact, and if he retired tomorrow, he would still go down as one of the greatest who ever entered the squared circle. On the other hand, it seems rather convenient that Mayweather would bail now when looming challenges await him.
Luckily for the fans, Mayweather was not about to get off the hook that easily, as Larry Merchant pressed him about his most logical foe in the welterweight division—Miguel Cotto.
Cotto recently scored a career-defining victory against “Sugar” Shane Mosley, and many boxing observers view a potential Mayweather-Cotto showdown as inevitable. Unfortunately for fans, Mayweather expressed zero interest in such a fight at this time, and not without good reason, but we will get back to this a bit later. The most telling aspect of his post-fight comments was, when pressed about Cotto, Mayweather replied, “Cotto is a great champion and Mosley is a great champion!” It is rather interesting that Mayweather went out of his way to mention the name “Mosley” without being prompted to do so by Merchant, especially since Mosley just lost against Cotto in his most recent bout.
As things stand now, future historians will almost certainly view Mayweather in a more favorable light than Mosley. This largely stems from the fact that Mayweather has the ‘Almighty Zero’ in the “L” column of his unblemished record, whereas, Mosley’s ledger currently has a “5” registered under that same column. One of the reasons for this may have a lot to do with the aforementioned ability to evaluate “Risk vs. Reward”. Simply put, in a desire to prove his greatness, Mosley was willing to take on any and all challenges, regardless of the risk they posed; Mayweather seems less willing to take such risks, enabling him to maximize his marketability while maintaining a greater perception of greatness.
This is not to say that Mayweather’s ‘perception of greatness’ is an illusion, nor is it to say that Mosley is (or ever was) necessarily ‘greater’ than Mayweather. Rather, the point is Mosley and Mayweather are both elite boxers who have taken different paths in their respective journeys. In the case of Mosley, he twice made the ‘mistake’ of affording opportunities to fighters who were stuck on the outside looking in. When Mosley faced Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright, the two men were each stuck in a similar predicament—they were top fighters who had difficulty landing big fights because big name fighters like De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad dismissed them due to the high risk and low reward each provided.
Not only did Mosley make the “mistake” of allowing these two on the inside path to greatness, but he further complicated his own difficulties by demanding immediate rematches after losing to both. This resulted in four losses on Mosley’s resume, and in a day and age where too much emphasis is placed on an undefeated record, Mosley’s legacy has no doubt suffered from such poor managerial assessments in the calculation of “Risk vs. Reward”.
Mayweather has not made the mistake of taking these types of fights. This is not to say that Mayweather has taken a path of least resistance, for he has some stellar victories on his resume, including Hatton, De La Hoya, Jose Luis Castillo, and Diego Corrales, to name just a few. However, Mayweather has now reached the crossroads, and he seems less apt to square off against the best available challenges in order to prove his worth. Allow me to explain.
Mosley and Mayweather both started their careers in lower weight classes—Mosley started in the 135 pound division, Mayweather in the 130 pound division. As they both matured and outgrew these weight classes, they continued being successful in moving up the ranks. At a certain point, as a fighter fills out and outgrows former divisions, he reaches a ceiling where the competition is of a naturally bigger stature. It is here where weighing the factors of risk and reward is imperative for any boxer, and it is here where good management can mean the difference between being a “great” fighter and an “elite” fighter.
In the sense of maintaining an unblemished record and an aura of invincibility, Mosley took high risk fights that he may have been better off passing up. Had Mosley not taken on Forrest or Winky, he could have pursued other fights that may have better preserved his perception of greatness for bigger and better things. The fact is, certain styles posed Mosley problems, and these problems were amplified with fighters like Forrest and Wright, who were naturally bigger than him.
Mayweather may well have learned a thing or two from Mosley’s mistakes, for as he now stands at the very same crossroad formerly passed by Mosley, he has a big decision to make. Does he want to prove his greatness by taking on any and all challenges, or does he want to manage his career more carefully so he can continue maximizing his marketability whilst maintaining a proper perception of greatness?
Because right now, there are several welterweights in their primes, all naturally bigger than Floyd, each of whom is jockeying for position to land a crack at him. These include Paul Williams, Kermit Cintron, and Antonio Margarito, in addition to the aforementioned Cotto. All of these fighters pose a huge risk to Mayweather, and he knows it.
Despite the number of challenges looming, the one that most tweaks the interest of casual boxing fans is a showdown with Cotto. In many ways, it is fair to fancy Cotto as a naturally larger version of Hatton. As I accurately predicted in my article Why Mayweather will prevail, the size difference was too much for Hatton to overcome.
Mayweather is not especially known for being a power puncher, and yet, he won by way of sensational knockout. Further vindication of my hypothesis comes from Hatton’s own words, when he stated the difference between fighting at 140 and 147 was that that he ‘felt’ the punches at the higher weight class. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the two worst performances of Hatton’s career occurred on the two occasions he ventured north 140 pounds.
That Hatton was able to provide problems for Mayweather in the early going was quite telling. After five rounds, I had Hatton ahead on my card, and it was obvious to me that Mayweather was not as comfortable as we are accustomed to seeing him. Unfortunately for Hatton, Mayweather’s ring smarts and patience were on full display, as Floyd waited for the opportune moment to take control of the bout. As the momentum clearly began to swing in Floyd’s favor around the seventh stanza, it was obvious that Hatton’s best chances to win had already passed. When Mayweather ultimately sealed the deal with one of the most beautiful left hooks I’ve ever seen, he had proven his superiority beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Mayweather is smart. He realizes that, stylistically, Hatton posed a great threat to him. On the same token, he was also smart enough to understand that Hatton was too small to follow the playbook required to beat him. Ergo, Hatton was correctly evaluated by Team Mayweather for what he was—someone who did not pose a huge risk, but certainly provided a worthwhile reward. Mayweather understands that Cotto is all wrong for him, and this was evidenced by Floyd’s reluctance to discuss a potential match-up. Facing Cotto is a huge risk! If Hatton was able to provide problems for Floyd, imagine what Cotto could do? Not only is Cotto a naturally bigger fighter, but he also happens to be more talented than Hatton as well.
If a contest between Cotto and Mayweather becomes a reality, I would favor Cotto to win. I think Mayweather views the match-up in a similar light, and as such, I do not believe Cotto-Mayweather will be forthcoming anytime soon. I think Cotto realizes this, and if he did not realize it before, then surely he must realize it now. Further enhancing this view is the fact that Cotto recently began calling out De La Hoya in hopes of winning the annual Cinco de Mayo lottery.
Considering that Mayweather recently brought the name “Mosley” to the table, I will not be the least bit surprised if 2008 brings us De La Hoya versus Cotto and Mayweather versus Mosley, because even though Cotto versus Mayweather makes more sense, Floyd is too smart to put his “Almighty Zero” at risk against a huge threat like Miguel Cotto.
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