With the return of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has come the return of some of his more fanatical followers, as recent weeks here prove. As with all fans, there are some who are quite intelligent and respectful in their defenses of Mayweather, but there is a segment that thinks “I bet you don’t get much ass” is a real argument worth making [<— real comment
left in this space].
As with Manny Pacquiao’s fanatics, responding to some of the more rabid members of the Mayweather cult has become a rather repetitive task on this blog. When I wrote the blog entry “20 Ready-Made Replies To Fans Of Manny Pacquiao
,” originally 19 items long like this one, I ended up saving myself a lot of time by making it so I could post a link to that entry in the comments section of future entries on Pacquiao and say, “read #2 on the list.” And so I seek to save myself time with this new list.
(One note in advance: I also don’t care if you think this blog entry is too long. It’s not meant to be short. But it will save me countless hours of my life.)
1. Floyd Mayweather is not the greatest fighter of all time. Make no mistake, Mayweather is a sublimely talented boxer, arguably the best boxer of his generation, who has accomplished a great deal in his career. It’s my personal opinion that he would give a lot of all-time greats a very difficult time in the ring.
But there is no boxing historian at all who would utter the phrase “Floyd Mayweather is the greatest fighter ever.” Bert Sugar, the most famous living boxing historian, doesn’t even put Mayweather in the top 100, but I’d disagree with that. I’d say top-50 — where this ESPN list
from a few years ago put him, although he’s surely climbed a few spots since — is a better ballpark. The thing about being the best fighter of all time is that there’s a lot of competition from fighters who fought and beat more good opponents, and better opponents, than Mayweather has. Mayweather can climb the list by fighting and beating more good opponents.
Ex.: Here’s just one fighter who’s better than Mayweather: Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson beat 10 Hall of Famers (Henry Armstrong, Jake LaMotta, Carmen Basilio, Kid Gavilan, Gene Fullmer, Rocky Graziano, Fritzie Zivic, Randy Turpin, Sammy Angott, Carl Olson) in a career that included 175 wins. Mayweather has beaten two sure-fire future Hall of Famers (Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez), perhaps more (Ricky Hatton, Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo, Diego Corrales, Gernaro Hernandez are all possible HOF material, although not all of them are likely to win entry) in a career that includes 40 wins. The two fighters Robinson beat that rank highest on the ESPN all-time list are Jake LaMotta (#28) and Henry Armstrong (#3). Mayweather has beaten only one fighter who was on the ESPN all-time list, Oscar De La Hoya (#39) although Marquez probably has cracked the top 50 himself since the ESPN list was produced, albeit no better than the high 30s.
2. While Mayweather has some good wins since 2002, he has not once fought anyone who might be feasibly considered the best opponent in his division since then, and he often has fought lesser opponents even than that. This point, really, is central to the complaint a large segment of boxing fandom has about Mayweather. As such, it deserves some lengthy attention.
It is not that Mayweather doesn’t have some quality wins since 2002: He beat a version of Oscar De La Hoya that wasn’t at his prime but still was top-20 pound-for-pound to many, and at a higher weight than Mayweather had ever fought; Ricky Hatton may have been severely degraded at welterweight, but he still was a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter one division south; etc.
But not a single time since Mayweather beat Jose Luis Castillo in a rematch in 2002 has Mayweather fought an opponent who might be considered by anyone to the best opponent in his division. The list of people at junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight since 2003 that might include: Kostya Tsyzu; Ricky Hatton (at junior welterweight); Antonio Margarito; Miguel Cotto; Shane Mosley; Paul Williams.
In some years, he hasn’t even gotten close. For instance, in 2003, as a lightweight, he fought Victoriano Sosa and Philip Ndou as opposed to Acelino Freitas, Stevie Johnston, Leonard Dorin and a good many others were more highly regarded.
Despite what some Mayweather fans say, there are a great many of his critics who would be appeased if he fought, say, Mosley. It is our recognition of Mayweather’s incredible capabilities that frustrates us so, watching him take opponents who aren’t at all as legitimate as other available opponents. The moment I went from “Mayweather fan, with some reservations” to full-fledged Mayweather critic is when Cotto, Margarito, Mosley and Williams were available to him as opponents in 2008 but Mayweather was talking about wanting rematches with Hatton and De La Hoya, opponents he’d already beaten (in my mind) handily, and who would only fare worse in second bouts. (Even in May of this year, in his return, Mayweather was talking about wanting a rematch with a retired De La Hoya, despite criticizing Manny Pacquiao for taking his “leftovers.”)
Perhaps you enjoy watching Mayweather fighting just about anyone; just don’t pretend that he’s fought the best opposition since 2002.
3. Although Mayweather’s record of fighting the best men in his division in 2002 and before is very good, his record does have some minor but noteworthy gaps there, too. There is much less to criticize in Mayweather’s record in 2002 and before than there is after. Fighting Jose Luis Castillo twice at lightweight and Diego Corrales at junior lightweight, in particular, stand out as the highest-possible-risk, most-dangerous fights he could take at the time, and are among the areas where Mayweather deserves the greatest praise.
Not fighting Joel Casamayor and Freitas, though, are his two biggest omissions from that era. Wins over those two would have enhanced his legacy greatly. This is a minor quibble, as I said; but when you add them to the list of other tremendous fighters Mayweather has not fought in his weight class as an active boxer, the missed opportunities become more painful to those who have wanted to see Mayweather fulfill his potential.
4. Mayweather expressing his desire to fight someone and then not fighting that person is no evidence that that person ducked him; usually, the people Mayweather has said ducked him also had expressed a desire or willingness to fight Mayweather. At various points, Mayweather has said he wants to fight virtually every man I’ve mentioned him not fighting.
But then, they’ve often also said they’d be willing to fight Mayweather. They haven’t, however, always said it at the same time as Mayweather has. Let’s just take one of the oldest and move to one of the newest: Freitas said he was willing
to fight Mayweather. In 2009, Mosley has made it quite clear he wants to fight Mayweather.
How can one ascertain who’s truly to blame for a fight not being made? It’s often difficult to determine, since both sides say they want the fight and say the other side is responsible for it not happening. In other words, don’t assume that just because Mayweather has said he wanted to fight someone means he actually did. But it does feed into the next point.
5. Almost every top fighter or big-name fighter active since 2002 has somehow found opportunities to fight the top available opponent in his division. From 2003 to 2009, here’s a list of elite fighters around Mayweather’s weight classes who have managed to fight a man who warrants consideration as the #1 opponent in his division, often more than once (excluding Mayweather as a potential opponent): Oscar De La Hoya; Antonio Margarito; Miguel Cotto; Shane Mosley; Paul Williams; Kostya Tszyu; Jose Luis Castillo; Ricky Hatton.
From 2003 to 2009, here’s an almost-complete list of even borderline-elite fighters outside Mayweather’s divisions — from heavyweight to junior featherweight only — who have managed to find a way to fight a man who warrants consideration as the #1 opponent in his weight class, often more than once: Wladimir Klitschko; Jean Marc-Mormeck; O’Neil Bell; Tomasz Adamek; Steve Cunningham; Bernard Hopkins; Antonio Tarver; Roy Jones, Jr.; Glen Johnson; Joe Calzaghe; Jermain Taylor; Kelly Pavlik; Mikkel Kessler; Winky Wright; Diego Corrales; Manny Pacquiao; Juan Manuel Marquez; Marco Antonio Barrera; Erik Morales; Rafael Marquez; Israel Vazquez.
Many of those fighters are people who have claimed to be
ducked and avoided — Hopkins, Wright and Williams for starters — the way Mayweather often does. And yet, all of them have found a way to do what Mayweather has not, usually without even a fraction of the financial incentive Mayweather brings. Doesn’t it beg the question whether the common link between Mayweather and everyone he hasn’t fought is… Mayweather?
6. Although Mayweather has won six title belts in five divisions, and his ability to win bouts at higher weights is commendable, in some cases — in one case even by his own admission — those belts are diminished by how he obtained them. Set aside the feud over whether the alphabet title belts should be recognized or the lineal Ring championship belt should be recognized, for the purposes of this point.
Assuming alphabet title belts matter at all, what value was there in taking a belt from a man even Mayweather called a “paper champion,” Gatti? Gatti got his junior welterweight belt when the WBC stripped Tzsyu, prompting Mayweather to say
: “I’ve never in my life won a vacant belt. Any belt I won, I honestly beat a champion to get it. That’s why I call Arturo Gatti a paper champion.” But what value is there in beating a champion who, according to Mayweather, got his belt dishonestly?
Mayweather celebrated his “championship” win over Zab Judah, but Zab Judah had lost a fight just before Mayweather beat him, and was only able to retain his IBF belt because his opponent, Carlos Baldomir, did not pay sanctioning fees and the IBF decided not to vacate Judah’s title. There hardly exists a soul in the boxing world that doesn’t consider that decision a terrible, laughable one.
7. There is no correlation between how much money Mayweather makes and how good a fighter he is, nor are some fight fans impressed by Mayweather making money. One of the common responses to any criticism of Mayweather is, “So what, he’s making millions and that’s all that matters, so he must be doing something right.”
People who say that kind of “so what” aren’t going to win over people who don’t agree with it. There’s a fundamental divide here between boxing fans who like the sport because they enjoy watching exciting bouts pitting top opponents against one another and a strain of Mayweather fan who admires Mayweather’s money-making abilities. Fans of the former aren’t suddenly going to enjoy the latter just because you say that’s what matters to you.
So don’t even bother saying it. You’re wasting your breath. Boxing isn’t even what you should watch on television, really. If you enjoy businessman competitions, the show for you is “The Apprentice.”
8. Mayweather has been knocked down, and he has lost rounds, not that it should matter all that much. To me, it doesn’t matter how many times a boxer gets knocked down or loses a round. Even the best boxers of all time, when fighting other great boxers, have lost rounds or been knocked down. What matters, in terms of their accomplishments, is whether they fought the best and won more often than they lost.
But because it matters to so many Mayweather fans whether he’s been knocked down or lost a round, it must be said that both have happened. Mayweather suffered an official knockdown against Carlos Hernandez, even if it was only the result of him hurting his hand and touching it to the canvas in pain. Mayweather was knocked off balance by a Judah punch and his glove clearly touched the canvas — the definition of a knockdown including instances where a boxer’s glove touches the canvas as the result of a punch — but it wasn’t ruled an official knockdown.
Mayweather has lost rounds in many, many fights. Most notably, he pulled out two narrow decisions over Castillo, fights in which the scorecards officially had Mayweather losing as many as five rounds according to three of the six judges; unofficially, there are very few people who think Mayweather won enough rounds to win the first Castillo fight, and most scored it approximately eight rounds to four for Castillo.
9. An undefeated record in and of itself means very little. “40-0” does not, as some Mayweather fans assert, “say it all.”
There is very little value in never losing, if one doesn’t fight the top competition. Sven Ottke, a popular super middleweight in Germany, retired in 2004 with a record of 34-0, but he is considered a great by virtually no one. It’s because he didn’t fight top competition.
I’m not saying Mayweather’s record isn’t impressive; that he is unbeaten against some of the quality opponents he fought is noteworthy. But it’s easier to go 40-0 when you don’t fight the top opponents in your division for a six-year stretch. I’d actually be more impressed to see Mayweather at 38-2 having fought Mosley, Cotto, Tszyu and Casamayor instead of Bruseles, Sosa, Ndou and Mitchell. “40-0,” I’d amend, “says something, but far from everything.”
10. Just because Mayweather started his career at 130 pounds does not mean that him fighting a smaller man now is somehow a fight on even terms. This issue has come up a lot lately because some Mayweather fans felt it was unfair to say he had a weight advantage over Marquez.
But size does matter. When Mayweather left the junior lightweight division in 2001, it was because he said he no longer could squeeze his frame into 130 pounds. He since has fought capably as high as junior middleweight, although he was pushing his upper limits of how far up he could go in that division. Mayweather has shown no diminishing of his abilities at welterweight. It’s a remarkable feat.
When Marquez moved up to junior lightweight in 2007, it wasn’t because he couldn’t make featherweight anymore — it was because there were fights he wanted at that weight. At junior lightweight, Marquez showed signs of diminished abilities because of weight, although he fought capably there and at lightweight.
So when Marquez moved up to welterweight to fight Mayweather, he was fighting four full weight classes above a division where his body was ideally suited. Ask yourself: Would Marquez beat even a top-20 welterweight? What’s more, Mayweather almost certainly weighed in on fight night at junior middleweight, although Mayweather wouldn’t let HBO weigh him. I wonder: If Mayweather were to fight an opponent five full weight classes above the welterweight division to which he is ideally suited, similar in number to the weight class leap Marquez was making beyond a comfortable weight, would anyone believe a loss Mayweather suffered to an elite cruiserweight had nothing to do with size?
Mayweather fans often bring up the De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight as an example of why weight doesn’t matter. But De La Hoya was heavily criticized — including by yours truly — for wanting to fight a lightweight, same as Mayweather. And when Pacquiao defeated De La Hoya, the achievement was so unusual that Pacquiao was drawing comparisons to one of the finest boxers of all time, Armstrong. Clearly, Pacquiao’s body has proven capable of moving up in weight over and over again, much as Mayweather’s has – but someday, Pacquiao, like Mayweather has, will find a weight that is too high for him.
My big question here is this: If size doesn’t matter, why didn’t Mayweather move down to lightweight to fight Marquez? Answer: Because he probably couldn’t have made the weight if he wanted to, which indicates he’s naturally bigger than Marquez at this point in their lives, and because even if Mayweather could make the weight, he surely knew he’d have a size advantage over Marquez at welterweight and didn’t want to give that up.
11. A small weight difference in a fight can be a very real advantage. It may seem ridiculous on its face to argue that the two pounds of difference between the Mayweather-Marquez contracted weight (144) and the weight Mayweather weighed in at (146) can make any difference in the fight at all, but it can.
Again, consider whether so much effort would be expended by both sides over those two pounds if it wasn’t meaningful. Before the fight could be made at all, the two sides spent some time arguing whether the limit should be 144 or 145. That’s a mere pound.
Additionally, if those two pounds didn’t matter, why didn’t Mayweather just lose them? He sought to alter his contract with Marquez days before so he didn’t have to even try to get below 146. Boxers know that losing weight below their natural weights — or even trying to do so — can result in them being drained, easier to knock out, with lower stamina. Boxers know that gaining weight above their natural weights can lead to them suffering a power disadvantage and being hurt more easily by a naturally bigger fighter.
I’m on the record as saying that I doubt Marquez would have beaten Mayweather even if they were the same age and size, but the size gap — the one in list #10 and this one — made the prospect even more distant.
12. No one can be considered the pound-for-pound king indefinitely without fighting. Even though Mayweather’s retirement was most likely a charade from moment one, he did retire. And he didn’t fight for almost two years, either way.
There are some who have said Mayweather never should have lost his pound-for-pound status because no one beat him in the ring. But that’s just one factor people take into account when considering who’s the pound-for-pound king. It’s perfectly valid should someone’s pound-for-pound list eject an incumbent from the throne for being inactive or for fighting and beating lesser competition than another fighter. If Mayweather retires for 10 years, or dies in a plane crash, he’s not the permanent pound-for-pound king simply because nobody beat him in the ring. But pound-for-pound lists are totally subjective, ultimately.
13. Don’t assume everyone who dislikes Mayweather is racist. Mayweather himself often plays the race card, saying that he is disliked because he is black. And surely there is a part of boxing’s fan base that is racist, be it toward blacks, Asians, Hispanics, whatever.
But if it were true that the only reason Mayweather is disliked is because of his skin color, then it would also be true that every other black fighter would be disliked, too. Yet Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, just to pick two big names, were wildly popular with people who weren’t the same race as they were. Perhaps, though, it’s Mayweather representing, somehow, some kind of “dangerous blackness” because of his association with hip-hop and brushes with the law? If that were the case, then Mike Tyson, who always emanated danger and had plenty of brushes with the law, would never have been the most popular athlete on the planet.
Hell, even racists in America have at times liked black fighters. Joe Louis fought in a period far less racially enlightened than this one, and when he fought Max Schmeling, all of America, be they black fans or white racists, united behind Louis. This point relates to the next.
14. Generally speaking, name-calling, unfounded allegations against people who disagree with you and other such tactics hurt your arguments more than they help you. Maybe you get some kind of cathartic release out of attacking people personally when they argue with you.
But it is sure to only deepen the divide between you and the person with whom you disagree. Furthermore, it makes you look bad, like you’re not intelligent enough to come up with a real rebuttal. Next time you want to call someone racist even though they use no racial epithet in their remarks, next time you want to call someone “gay” because you disagree with them, give a moment’s thought to what, really, you’re proving.
15. Not everyone who dislikes a fighter’s personality therefore dislikes the fighter, although if someone chooses to root against Mayweather because of his personality that’s their prerogative. Lots of boxers are jerks. Many people happen to think Mayweather is one. And some people root against him because of that. There’s nothing wrong with them doing so if that’s what matters to them.
But don’t jump to the conclusion that anyone criticizing Mayweather is doing so just because they find his personality to be sour. There are a number of fighters I quite like in the ring but quite dislike outside it. I think Vic Darchinyan, for example, is a total jackass. But I don’t question whether he’s a good fighter. Furthermore, there are fighters whose personalities I really enjoy, but whom I’ve been critical of inside the ring. In other words, the allegation “You’re just saying [something critical about Mayweather] because you don’t like him” isn’t necessarily true. Judge a criticism by its validity, not by its motive.
16. Not everyone who dislikes Mayweather dislikes him because he’s “on top.” This is related to the point about Mayweather and his money, but it’s slightly different.
The thinking in some quarters is that Mayweather is only a target for criticism because he’s so talented and famous. Maybe that bothers some people, who knows. But how much criticism does LeBron James get, by way of disproving that? James is as talented and famous as a basketball player gets, but he receives a mere fraction of the criticism Mayweather does. Certainly, not everyone who criticizes Mayweather has any problem with him being famous or talented. I know I don’t. I like the idea of boxers being famous and talented. I want boxing to succeed, and when individual boxers succeed, they can help lift the sport as a whole.
17. Some people don’t like to watch defensive-minded fighters, even if they appreciate skilful defense. I’ve always thought that Mayweather, when he focuses on offense, is a really wonderful fighter to behold.
But Mayweather rarely focuses on offense. His first priority is not to be hit. Mayweather’s defense is breathtaking; I actually really enjoy watching him practice it. However, I wish he’d spend more time on O than D. And a lot of other boxing fans feel the same way, not only about him, but about other defensive-minded fighters, like the Klitschko brothers.
If you enjoy watching Mayweather, that’s totally fine. It’s your prerogative to do so. But it’s also my prerogative, and the prerogative of others, to call it boring. It doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate boxing technique or the sweet science, because I like the brand practiced by Chad Dawson, Shane Mosley and other fighters who are adept defensively and skilled technically but also aggressive offensively. It’s just a matter of taste.
18. You don’t have to be a boxer to have an understanding of boxing.
I’ve covered this extensively here
. The short version: Consider applying this standard to any other profession. Can an anthropologist study then write a paper about a native tribe if he or she isn’t a member of that tribe? The answer is, “Of course.”
19. If you say you don’t care what someone else thinks about Mayweather, then defending him against someone else makes no sense. One of the most common responses I get when I say something negative about Mayweather is, “I don’t care what you think.”
If you don’t care, why did you even bother to type that comment? You must care. If you really don’t care, you won’t tell me you don’t, and you won’t visit the site again. Feel free to be quiet and never come back. I feel more than comfortable enough with the number of readers I have so as not to miss the ones who say they don’t care what I think.