There’s no denying that the legacy of a fighter is calibrated less by wins and losses and more by entertainment value.
Floyd Mayweather – despite his undefeated record, championship belts in five divisions, and a bank account with more zeroes than a Saudi prince’s – will therefore never be regarded as the best boxer in the sport’s history, a title he so greatly desires.
No one can objectively dispute Mayweather’s position as the top pound-for-pound boxer of his generation. He is, and perhaps by far. But it would be hyperbolic to place him on the same pedestal occupied by Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Joe Louis.
To mention Mayweather in the same breath as those greats would require his interest in engaging in the type of fistic combat that pleases crowds. Instead, his defensive shoulder-rolls, counter-punching, and general unwillingness to stand in the pocket are on par with the Princeton offense and leaves fans wanting more.
Mayweather will point to the record millions of dollars his fights generate at the gate and on pay-per-view as evidence that he gives fans what they want. That the money they continue to spend is worth the product he puts forth. The economics of a Mayweather fight, however, are a testament not to the excitement of the fight but to Floyd’s salesmanship of it.
Mayweather knows that John Q. Public is forking over his hard-earned cash not to see him succeed, but to see him knocked to the canvas, a place he’s never been in his illustrious career.
[Editor’s Note: Floyd Mayweather’s glove did touch the canvas after a hard shot from Zab Judah, but it was officially ruled a slip].
The villainous persona that former “Pretty Boy” and current “Money” Mayweather has created, markets his fights in ways that his unmatched skill cannot. For sure, his tactical brilliance inside the ring is outdone only by his entrepreneurial acumen outside of it. Fully aware of how much action his fights lack because of his refusal to risk any harm by exchanging with opponents, Mayweather shrewdly promotes his bouts by becoming Public Enemy No. 1.
Could you imagine what the media would say about Floyd if he boxed in the 1980s, the sport’s golden age, when the foursome of Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, and Thomas Hearns hammered away at each other, while Floyd ran?
In fairness to Money, he’s beaten a number of Hall of Famers, though too many of them – Arturo Gatti, Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, and Manny Pacquiao – were past their prime. That Floyd’s prime lasted to the cusp of age 40, much longer than his competition’s, is a feather in his cap and speaks how untouched his chin has been.
The list of fighters Mayweather has avoided, though, is prominent. It started with Joel Casamayor and continued with sluggers like Winky Wright, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams, and a prime Pacquiao.
With Floyd set to end his career with another snoozer that will probably go the distance, most likely against the glass-jawed Amir Khan, he will have ducked one more opponent that poses a big threat: Gennady Golovkin.
Floyd would earn more of the respect he craves if he just stepped into the danger zone more often, and that’s not about to happen in the twilight of his career. The bottom line is that the best boxers of all time have been beaten. Losing is a part of the sport. They earned their due not with an unblemished record, but by accepting the violence inherent to their profession.