Postcard To The Amy Winehouses Of The World: Floyd Mayweather Is Not The Greatest Fighter Of All Time

Perhaps Amy Winehouse is bringing crack back into vogue. Because somebody’s smoking something to think that Floyd Mayweather’s the greatest fighter ever. Too often lately, people have been spouting that nonsense. It’s amazing that anyone would even have to try to debunk such a notion. But someone has to try. That Jr. himself would say he’s the greatest is not all that weird; what athlete doesn’t have delusions of grandeur? That uncle Roger, his trainer, would say it isn’t that strange, either. He’s family, and besides, he’s crazy. Judging by the comments sections and message boards around the Interwebs, though, there are plenty of people who aren’t Floyd or Roger Mayweather that think he’s the best. And a blog at Forbes Magazine, too? Really? Maybe Forbes just got a little too far afield. It’s not as if boxing’s is its specialty. That looks like what happened here: How else to explain including Carlos Baldomir on a list of “three fighters that may ultimately go down in history as among the best of this era?” (The other two: fellow Mayweather victims Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya.) Baldomir’s only got one excellent win, an upset defeat of Zab Judah. He was a good story, but limited to the extreme. Wait, why does this need elaboration? Anyone with eyeballs knows that Baldomir was nowhere near “the best of this era.” There’s some common confusion here about the lack of a loss on one’s record for equaling greatness. In the case of Forbes, Baldomir’s lengthy undefeated streak coming into his fight with Mayweather suggests Carlos’ greatness. A number of fans are enamored with Mayweather’s 0 losses. But the lack of a defeat doesn’t in and of itself equal greatness. It helps, but it’s not the end-all and be-all. Let’s say it mattered a WHOLE LOT, just for a second. Which is more impressive, Sugar Ray Robinson — the consensus best fighter ever — going 96-0 for a time, or Mayweather going 39-0? The answer’s pretty easy. Mathematically speaking. There are just a handful of five-division champions, another Mayweather accomplishment. Most of them are in the Hall of Fame or are Hall of Fame-bound, and being a champ at one weight, then several other weight classes up to 20 pounds higher, is quite an accomplishment. But don’t forget, there are nine more weight classes today than there were when Robinson fought. He won titles at 147 lbs. and 160 lbs., and came a couple rounds short of winning a title at 175 lbs. He would undoubtedly have won titles at 154 and 168, had such weight classes existed at the time. Who knows how many more five-division champs there would’ve been in the old days if there were so many more weight classes to choose from? Heck, Henry Armstrong — another fighter who, like Robinson, is significantly further ahead of Mayweather for “greatest of all time” — held three belts from 126 to 147 at the same time. And back then, there weren’t four belts in every division to hand-pick for a challenge. There was only one champ in each division. Winning a belt was obviously much harder. Mayweather’s been rather selective about which “champs” he fights. Arturo Gatti was a great brawler and an all-time fan favorite, but he was no one’s definition of “the man” at 140 lbs. That would have been Kostya Tszyu, at the time. Baldomir might have been the linear Ring Mazagine champion at 147, lending some credence to Mayweather taking his belt, but he was basically a gutty dude and the slowest available wildebeest for Mayweather to pounce upon. And that, more than anything, leads to Mayweather’s greatest flaw when it comes to discussions about “greatest of all time”: quality of opposition. Robinson fought and beat eight fellow Hall-of-Famers. Mayweather’s resume only has one name on it, Oscar De La Hoya, sure to be inducted. At best, it has five others who might — might — make the Hall of Fame. Gatti and Gernaro Hernandez were both “on the bubble” for ESPN’s Dan Rafael in 2006, who said he would likely vote for them but others probably wouldn’t. The other contenders for the Hall of Fame that Mayweather has beaten are Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo and Ricky Hatton. No way all five get in. Even if they do, he’s still several short of Robinson’s ledger. Not to diminish De La Hoya, but he’s nowhere near Armstrong’s league, a fighter Robinson beat under circumstances similar to those of Mayweather-De La Hoya — a prime young gun catching an older gentleman at the tail end of his career, on a distinct decline. As beloved as Corrales is, he was nowhere near as good as Kid Gavalin, another Robinson victim. Gatti was fun, too, but Carmen Basilio — yet another Robinson victim — did his “take a licking and keep on ticking” act far better, to far greater results. So how good is Mayweather? He’s very good, even truly great. He’s a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer himself. When ESPN put together a list of the 50 greatest boxers ever last May, Mayweather clocked in at 48. That was about right at the time. He may have leap-frogged Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones on that list since then by defeating Ricky Hatton so thrillingly and convincingly — Hopkins credits Mayweather as the best of his era, anyhow. Being exceptionally generous, maybe a rational person could put him in the top 20. A rational person may not put him anywhere near that high. Boxing historian Bert Sugar didn’t even put him in his top 100 in his 2006 list. Mayweather suffers, as do many modern fighters, from not fighting as often, and for fighting in a time when boxing is not the attraction it once was, meaning fewer talented would-be fighters are being drawn to the sport. Boxing’s far from dead, and 2007, as written here previously, was one of its best years ever. But for fighters at his weight, during his era, there have been few all-time greats available to beat. Unfortunately for him, that’s how history is judged. Larry Holmes only recently got into the Hall of Fame, in part because beating everyone in an era presumably suffering from a lack of quality heavyweights hurt his historical standing. It’s just how history works. Some of the United States’ best-regarded presidents had the advantage, historically speaking, of serving in times of trouble. Nor should Mayweather suffer too much, as he seems to in the eyes of some critics, for “doing what he was supposed to.” Mayweather was supposed to beat De La Hoya. He was supposed to beat Hatton. But is there any fight near his weight class Mayweather could conceivably participate in where he wasn’t the favorite to win? Nope. Yet he has himself to blame for some of this. Beating Tszyu would have helped him move up the list tremendously. Tackling a few more tough tests along the way would have helped, like, say, a fight with Acelino Freitas. Taking a rematch with De La Hoya, instead of fighting fellow top-10 pound-for-pound best Miguel Cotto, hurts his chances of moving up much. If he retires for the bazillionth time after that, he’ll be stuck where he is now. Mayweather’s a unique talent in boxing history. He deserves a place in it. He would have been a difficult match-up for virtually any fighter of his size who ever lived because of his blazing speed, incredible ring intelligence and outstanding defense. But for anyone considering him the best ever, the only possible remedy is “Rehab.”

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.