There are good things you can say about Floyd Mayweather, Jr., but only some of them are correct. His ring return has prompted some very fanboyish poster-worshiping, fawning behavior from people who may be very well affixed as if by glue to his fur-lined jockstrap, judging from the way they’re defending Mayweather on the incorrect counts — namely, that he wasn’t “selective” about his opponents, among other things. Allow me to be the crowbar.
(An actual fur-lined jock strap, from www.harrys.com)
These claims have been circulating in reputable publications, by writers whose work I have often admired, and will no doubt admire again. My attack on their behavior in this case is not an attack on them as people.
I’ll start with the sentiment that I find most ridiculous first: Mayweather’s quality of opposition is unimpeachable.
The two articles I’ll focus on are in BoxingScene and Boxingtalk.
Here’s BoxingScene, attacking HBO analyst Larry Merchant for criticizing Mayweather’s choice of opponents, such as his refusal to fight Mosley:
Showing [promoter Bob] Arum’s flair for revisionist history, Merchant unleashed a
signature anti-Mayweather tangent during Saturday’s broadcast, choosing
to dismiss an 18-0 record in championship fights and title belts in
five divisions as merely the product of a “smart” fighter… Of course, the pithy jab falls short of target when it’s recalled that Merchant’s Saturday example – Shane Mosley – actually pulled back from a fight with Floyd in 2006, and said recently that he’d prefer a match with the Pacquiao-Hatton winner to meeting Mayweather right away.
So if Mosley ducked Mayweather, not the other way around, what am I to make of this article on Sports Illustrated’s website?
Most recently, Mosley has battled for recognition with young welterweights Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. In November 2007 Mosley lost a narrow decision to Cotto, but rebounded in January to emphatically knock out Margarito in the defining win of Mosley’s career. The victory entrenched Mosley at the top of the welterweight division, a position that should have earned him the right to handpick his next opponent from a talented field.
But it hasn’t.
According to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Mayweather, who recently gave his advisors permission to explore a comeback fight, has rejected overtures from Mosley’s camp to lure the former pound-for-pound champion out of retirement.
“I was told by [Mayweather’s manager] Al Haymon that Floyd was not coming out of retirement to fight Shane Mosley,” Schaefer told SI.com. “I feel bad for Shane. It’s as if he looked too good in his last fight. It was the best performance of his career and maybe it made some guys not want to face him.”
Or what about this article from BoxingScene in February, where Mosley explicitly says he wants to fight Mayweather?
“I would like to fight all of the top fighters. Mayweather is out there. If he wants to come out of retirement to fight again – I’ve been hearing rumors of that.”
You can point to articles where Mayweather has said he wanted to fight Mosley, and you can point to articles where Mosley has rejected the idea of fighting Mayweather. Right now, in fact, Mosley is on the record saying he would rather fight Manny Pacquiao. But you can just as easily — hell, I just did it — point to articles where Mosley wanted a fight with Mayweather and Mayweather didn’t want a fight with Mosley. It’s not entirely accurate to say that either man “ducked” the other. At various points in their careers, one has rejected the other, and vice versa. Most recently, Mayweather turned down Mosley, and Mosley has said he will move on to other things. What did Mayweather’s boosters want Mosley to do, wait around for his shot? Mosley is the one who most recently made himself available to Mayweather, and because Mayweather most recently turned him down, if you’re looking to say anyone was “smart” in choosing opponents when the subject is the possibility of a Mayweather-Mosley fight, you’d have to say it was Mayweather.
But it’s part of a general thought out there that Mayweather has always fought the best. At the end of the Boxingtalk piece defending Mayweather comes this:
What this all indicates is that it is ultimately not simply a case of Mayweather handpicking opponents but it is more likely his opponents who are careful about picking him.
The same piece says that it’s contradictory for Pacquiao to be praised for fighting opponents that Mayweather is criticized for fighting. By way of example, the piece says Mayweather has been condemned for fighting Ricky Hatton, whereas Pacquiao won laurels for defeating him. The difference isn’t a “double standard.” It’s that Pacquiao has been moving up in weight to fight top opponents in new divisions, while Mayweather asked Hatton to move up for the fight. And he is doing the same with Juan Manuel Marquez on July 11.
That goes to the root of the problem here. Mayweather, unquestionably, used to fight the top opponents in his division with regularity. Now, he doesn’t. And it hasn’t been that way since after his first two fights at lightweight.
Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo and others were among the best opponents he could have tackled at the time at each division in which he fought. They weren’t all of the best opponents he could have tackled at the time, however. Mosley, Joel Casamayor and Acelino Freitas were boxers Mayweather didn’t end up in the ring with who were in or around his weight class, and all of them at some point wanted a Mayweather fight. Still, fighting the best was once something Mayweather did more often than not.
It’s after that where Mayweather’s record of fighting the top competition in his division severely tapers off. At lightweight, his next two fights were against Victoriano Sosa and Phillip Ndou. Both had their good qualities, but were they the top men in their division? Not really.
During Mayweather’s tenure at junior welterweight, the top men were, at various times, Kostya Tszyu, Hatton and Miguel Cotto. Mayweather fought DeMarcus Corley, Henry Bruseles and Arturo Gatti.
During Mayweather’s tenure at welterweight, the top men were, at various times, Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams and Mosley. Mayweather fought Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, Hatton (moving up from junior welterweight) and took a detour to junior middleweight for Oscar De La Hoya. Before his temporary retirement, he was making plans to fight Hatton and De La Hoya again.
Now do the same exercise with Pacquiao’s level of competition, just by way of contrast.
Done? What did you come up with? Maybe you can knock Pacquiao’s one-fight lightweight “reign.” That’s fair. David Diaz is no Nate Campbell, or Juan Diaz, for that matter. Much of anybody else? I think I’ll be waiting for your answer for a while, and I think you’ll be scrounging. And, at any rate, in a little more than a year, Pacquiao has fought the clearly best opposition while he was in the junior lightweight division, Juan Manuel Marquez, and while he was in the junior welterweight division, Hatton. And if you stack up the fighters Mayweather didn’t fight while in the pertinent division — Freitas, Casamayor, Mosley, Tzsyu, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Williams — and compare them to those that Pacquiao hasn’t fought, I think you’d find more pound-for-pound top-10 guys in Mayweather’s stack than Pacquiao’s.
I don’t dismiss all of Mayweather’s fights over the last few years out of hand. Sure, Hatton was smaller than Mayweather, but I thought Hatton’s style would give Mayweather more trouble than it did, and it’s not as if Mayweather is some giant welterweight. Sure, De La Hoya was getting older, but Mayweather moved up to fight him, and he was still pound-for-pound top-20 at the time. Sure, Gatti had zero chance whatsoever, but he did come with a giant pile of money. Sure, Baldomir had even less of a chance, but he did have the legitimate, lineal Ring magazine belt in the division. Sure, at times some of the opponents Mayweather reportedly wanted didn’t want him, but there are just as many reports the other way around, and it’s always tough to suss those things out. I guess you can find knocks on Pacquiao’s wins of late, too. You can find knocks on any fighters’ wins if you try.
But here is one thing that is just flat true:
Mayweather, since the end of 2002, has not once fought the best boxer in his division, nor has he really come all that close.
And if you want to make excuses about why it’s not Mayweather’s fault, just keep in mind that plenty of other fighters have found a way to consistently fight the best competition in their division. Somehow. Like Pacquiao. Who has done it over and over and over again.
There are other things that are galling about the Mayweather fan club. One is the bard work for M
ayweather’s “business accumen,” as though that’s more important than anything. You can admire Mayweather for getting big fight paychecks and say “Money May” over and over and over again, as though it’s just such a cool nickname, but maybe being a boxing fan isn’t really for you. If you want to see how high people can stack money, I recommend the television show The Apprentice. I’m interested in good fighters fighting other good fighters in good fights. Also, if it’s so cool to watch “Money May” rake in cash, if he’s such a good “businessman,” what do the admirers of his bank account think of all the endless reports about the IRS problems and other money woes of late? Is he still so very very chique?
Then there are lines like this from BoxingScene:
But lest we forget, the “Pretty Boy” has a good side as well. He portrayed himself as a champion of battered women before a KO of later-convicted domestic abuser Diego Corrales in 2001, and has since crossed over to mainstream with a turn on “Dancing With the Stars” and an AT&T commercial.
That would be the same Mayweather who stood trial for domestic violence — he was not convicted — and received a suspended sentence after being “convicted of misdemeanor battery stemming from a fight with two women at a Las Vegas nightclub.” Some “champion.” Mayweather did indeed “portray” himself as a “champion of battered women,” but he was convicted of, well, battering women, so his “portrayal” is no evidence of his good side. What’s the good side of holding oneself up as a “champion” of battered women then battering women?
Listen, you can like a lot of things about Mayweather without being the kind of jockstrap rider I’m attacking here. He’s a magnificent fighter, one who has accomplished enough in his career to crack the top-50 all-time great list, one bound for the Hall of Fame no matter what he’s done since 2002, and, in part, because of some of the things he’s done since 2002. Anyone who writes him off as a “runner” or dismisses his career in its entirety is way off the mark. He even does have a “good side,” a real one, donating to charity and the like, and all accounts are that he’s been a good father. I used to like him a good deal, even some of his villainous schtick, like the sombrero he wore in the ring walk for the De La Hoya fight, before it became boring and one dimensional. But then I got tired of him inside the ring, too.
Let’s just stop glorifying a guy simply because he made money without having to fight the top competition available to him, or because he stood up for battered women a few years before getting into the business of battering women himself. And most importantly, because the personal stuff matters so much less than the professional stuff when it comes to writing about boxing, let’s not pretend that he always fought the best, especially not in the last seven years — a lifetime in this sport.