Mayweather Fallout Continues: De La Hoya’s Plans, Reshuffling The Stars, Pound-For-Pound Ramifications And More

Floyd Mayweather’s retirement last week left behind a cross between a ripple and a void, affecting everyone’s list of who’s the best in the sport, shuffling the plans and/or pecking order of stars like Oscar De La Hoya and Kelly Pavlik and shifting the sands in boxing’s top division, the welterweights (147 lbs). And that’s just for starters! And Mayweather’s retirement may not even be real! Absent for a week because of personal business, let’s play catch-up with the fallout. Reality. OK, so I’m now operating under the belief that Mayweather’s retirement will stick at least for a while. There are several indicators. One, he relinquished his Ring magazine welterweight belt. Two, it increasingly appears there is no chance of Mayweather-De La Hoya II happening in September. If, as some (including myself) speculated, Mayweather might have been trying to drive up his asking price by walking away from negotiations, De La Hoya hasn’t bit. He immediately began making other plans. Theoretically, De La Hoya could just be playing the same game. His September dance card is still open. But nobody’s talking like that fight is anything other than dead. Nobody. Mayweather’s motive is more inscrutable. The possibilities include: A. He’s simply lost the passion for the sport, as he said. B. He’s the kind of egomaniac who, seeing that this fight wouldn’t be as big as the first, doesn’t want to take another step down the profile or pay pegs. C. He wanted to stick it to De La Hoya, a long-time rival he got sick of chasing, beat, and now would like to humiliate. (He also screwed over his dad, who was training De La Hoya for revenge, and his uncle Roger, who turned down money to train Steve Forbes against De La Hoya at his nephew’s request; I suspect the latter screwing was not so deliberate, but not much less hurtful.) D. He’s convinced a sudden reemergence post-retirement will make him even bigger. E. All of the above. F. Other. I think the only one we can rule out for the time being is that it was a negotiating ploy to get more cash for Mayweather-De La Hoya II. My current belief also includes a conviction that one way or another, Mayweather will not stay retired. I expect him to come back. And I’ll get into why in a minute. Legacy. I think Mayweather’s a borderline top-50 all-time great, although Dan Rafael of ESPN would put him as high as the top 20 or even top 10 and boxing historian Bert Sugar once said he didn’t crack the top 100. Everyone agrees except him and a few slavish fans that he’s nowhere near the best ever. I examined this in-depth before here. The gist of it is, he fought some good fighters, won every time in a number of weight classes, had almost superhuman talent and skill but didn’t fight some of the best of his time around his weight, most notably future potential Hall of Famers like Shane Mosley, Kostya Tszyu and Joel Casamayor and dangerous challengers like Acelino Freitas and Miguel Cotto. Fighting and beating those five, or even fighting them all and losing a couple, would have greatly enhanced his “all time great” claim. It’s not too late to fight Cotto and Mosley — although beating Mosley at age 36 is less of a big deal — but what are the odds he will? Again, we’ll return to that one in a sec. De La Hoya. After a week or so of fussing, De La Hoya now appears set on his own fight plan. That is: He will skip his September date, and make a December bout his farewell. His statements have strongly indicated he’d like to fight Cotto, should Cotto beat Antonio Margarito July 26 in a sure-fire war. He also has not ruled out Filipino star Manny Pacquiao, who makes his debut this month at lightweight (135 lbs). In trying to fill his September date before giving up, he also reportedly reached out to the U.K.’s wildly popular Ricky Hatton, the boss at junior welterweight; Sergio Mora, the first graduate of “The Contender” TV show to pick up a world title belt (junior middleweight, 154 lbs.); and Winky Wright, a floundering former top-10 pound-for-pound great who is currently a middleweight (160 lbs.) but not far removed from his days at junior middle. Hatton turned it down because, he said, he wasn’t ready, but presumably it’s because he knows he’d be no good fighting at 150 lbs. and doesn’t want to cash in all at once if he takes a thumping. Wright definitely wanted it. Mora wanted it too, but got real busy real quick with a variety of obligations, only one of which was his own choosing, and as such probably wasn’t going to be available. If De La Hoya takes Cotto in his finale, he is a brave, brave man. If he takes Pacquiao, he’ll be beating up a tiny little fellow who might trouble him with speed but little else. Either are big-money fights. Presumably, should Cotto beat Margarito and De La Hoya, Cotto will have become a household name by then. I wouldn’t be surprised if that sequence of events would be enough to pull Mayweather out of retirement to finally fight Cotto. By that time, Mayweather may be finding money is easier to make as a boxer than as a retired boxer, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayweather-Cotto never happens. If we’ve learned anything from the recent travails — or alleged travails, anyhow — of financially troubled ex-stars like Evander Holyfield and Thomas Hearns, it’s that boxers who spend money like it’s nothing often end up with very little in the end. Mayweather, for all his bragging about being a smart businessman, could find himself in the exact same place as those who went before him if he doesn’t watch out. Leftovers. If De La Hoya doesn’t fight Pacquiao, that leaves the Pacman with some good options, assuming he beats David Diaz in his next fight. He can stay at lightweight, where he could make compelling fights with any number of boxers in one of the best divisions in boxing. He should give a rematch to Juan Manuel Marquez, but almost certainly won’t. Edwin Valero, the cult-fave 130-pound punching machine, is finally licensed to fight in the United States, and Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, has talked anew of the two meeting. Another option is to move up to 140 lbs. and fight Hatton. Given that those two have the world’s two most rabid fan bases in their respective countries, that’s nothing but a big-money bout when and if it happens, no matter where it happens. In the meantime, though, Hatton is sticking to his plan to take on his nearest division rival, tricky Paulie Malignaggi — and Hatton offered to maybe rumble with De La Hoya next summer, if for some reason De La Hoya revokes his retirement pledge. Mora has all kinds of minefields through which he must weave. He has a rematch clause with the guy he took the belt from, Vernon Forrest; a mandatory challenger who will soon come knocking; and hopes for a pay-per-view date with Mosley. I don’t blame Forrest for wanting a rematch — on the undercard that same night Mora beat Forrest, welterweight Paul Williams avenged his loss to Carlos Quintana, and his rep was right back where it was before the loss. Wright is right back where he was before, too — getting older, with no fights in the works, although we’ll return to the middleweights momentarily. Pound-for-pound. Some have ascended Pacquiao to the top spot among the best active boxers on the planet, now that Mayweather’s quit. I’ve got super middleweight (168 lbs.)/light heavyweight (175 lbs.) Ring champ Joe Calzaghe in the #1 spot, but only for now. If Pacquiao beats Diaz as expected, unless it’s a disputed win, I will vault him over Calzaghe, as I said I would think about doing. Everyone else moves up one spot, making room for lil Ivan Calderon (108 lbs.) in the top 10 because he’s been more active and impressive in his recent wins than some of the other potential candidates like Hatton, Wright or Mosley. Super middleweight Jermain Taylor cracks back into my top 20. Stardom. Mayweather’s absence, combined with the impending retirement of De La Hoya, leaves a big opening in the near future for “biggest American boxing star.” Middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik has been nominated by many. I second the nomination. He hits hard and fights fearlessly, he’s got that humble Midwesterner thing Americans fall in love with, and unlike Mayweather and even sometimes De La Hoya, he’s not divisive at all. As a Caucasian, he will appeal to white fans who have fled the sport, but he fights in a style that has to be popular with anyone who loves boxing, including the macho all-out preference of Hispanic fans. There are a couple different ways Pavlik could take the throne — all at once, or in increments. It depends on whether Calzaghe fights him or not. One account says Arum is working hard to get Calzaghe-Pavlik made for October, and if it happened, it’d do gangbusters business. Calzaghe’s popularity in the U.K. rivals Hatton’s. I’ve discussed the boxing merits of it before, too. It’s the most meaningful fight that can be made right now. The other option is to take a second consecutive mismatch after pummeling Gary Lockett against a Marco Antonio Rubio or Ricardo Mayorga, then go after acclaimed, but lesser, middleweights like Arthur Abraham and Wright. Beating both, and cleaning out the historically great middleweight division, would do wonders for Pavlik. Arum is more OK with Wright than he once sounded, and Abraham’s his backup plan if Calzaghe falls through. Meanwhile, Calzaghe’s making noise like he prefers Roy Jones, Jr. Pavlik is one of the few young stars out there, by the way. A changing of the guard is afoot. Mayweather was still in his prime at 31 and could still rule for a few more years if he wanted, but Hatton at 29 looks older than his age. Calzaghe’s 36. Manny Pacquiao’s the same age as Hatton and still looks sharp, but confesses “I’m not getting any younger.” And that’s not even taking into account acclaimed but less popular stars like Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez (34) and recently defeated light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins (43) all of whom are near the end of their careers. And forget about worn-down ex-stars who keep fighting on, like Jones. Cotto’s only 27, thankfully, and he’s got some of Pavlik’s potential to be a crossover mainstream star if the stars align correctly. From there, it’s a pretty steep drop-off of people who have a long way to go to get to the big time but very well could. David Haye (27) is exciting and charismatic and could make serious noise in a high risk/high reward sojourn up to heavyweight. Junior featherweight (122 lbs.) warrior Israel Vazquez is exactly the kind of guy you’d like to see make it super-big, but he’s already 30 and has a ton of miles on his odometer. Williams (26) has star potential, although he needs to get the big fights and win them to deliver on it. So does Juan Manuel Lopez (24), the junior featherweight who had a breakthrough performance two weekends ago, and now Arum appears to be looking to build him up with some easy, profile-building fights against the likes of Sergio Medina — who got beat by Rey Bautista, who in turn got blown out by Daniel Ponce De Leon, whom Lopez then blew out to take a title belt — and inexperienced Bernabe Concepcion. There are some other youngsters I’m high on — 126-pounder Jorge Linares (22), 130-pounder Yuriorkis Gamboa (26) — but they’ve got even farther to go. Welterweights. Mayweather’s departure is a good thing in many ways, and his filibuster of the talent-rich welterweight division is foremost among them. He hasn’t fought a top welterweight in forever, and all his plans for 2008 and 2009 focused on a continual desire to not fight welterweights, since rematches with De La Hoya and Hatton wouldn’t qualify. Cotto is now the #1 welterweight, although Margarito very well could take that spot from him in July. And just as Mayweather’s departure gives some other young American blood a chance to shine, so does his departure boost the chances of new American stars in his division. A week from today, exciting 24-year-old Andre Berto gets a chance to fight for the WBC belt against Miki Rodriguez — the belt Mayweather abandoned when he left for the rocking chair on his front porch. What goes around comes around. (Sources not linked include: ESPN; TheSweetScience; Maxboxing; BoxingScene; BBC; Boxingtalk; Yahoo!; BadLeftHook)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.