If pound-for-pound lists are pointless exercises in intellectual wankery, as the current fashion in some boxing writing circles holds, then all-time ratings must be some kind of grand circle jerk. You could see both as a kind of intellectual game and interesting debate point, but what’s the fun in that?
With that in mind, I step to the circle in the spirit of debate: I think Floyd Mayweather will eventually be seen as better than Manny Pacquiao in an all-time sense… even if he never fights the Pacman.
There are two things to keep in mind here. First, this is for fun, contains some large assumptions and is not trying to troll the trolls. Second, I think Floyd is a huge douchebag who’s ducking Manny, but the more I think about this, the more convinced I am.
1. Manny is comfortably ahead right now, but Floyd is catching.
If both men’s boxing lives ended today, there would be no contest. Manny Pacquiao would almost universally be accepted to have had the better career. His four lineal titles, epic fights at featherweight during the naughties and amazing rise in weight would assure that. Floyd would still be considered an all-time great, but his runs at junior lightweight and lightweight just don’t have names like Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera. Still, a disturbing trend is emerging. Floyd is fighting better opponents than Manny.
In his last two fights, Floyd fought Shane Mosley coming off a knockout of Antonio Margarito and Victor Ortiz, the number two welterweight in the world. Manny fought Shane Mosley coming off a virtual shutout loss to Floyd and draw with Sergio Mora, and fought Antonio Margarito coming out of disgrace. Who knows when or who Floyd will fight next, but Manny is fighting Juan Manuel Marquez at a weight that virtually assures he has no chance. Floyd is catching…
2. Floyd will fight for longer.
If I said I knew what Floyd Mayweather would do next, you’d either call me Nostra-fucking-damus or an idiot. Still, it’s safe to assume his career is going to last for a lot longer than Manny Pacquiao’s. Pacquiao has signalled that he plans to run for the governorship of his province next year. If he wins, that effectively means the end of his boxing career. Even if he were to lose, he has many, many more miles on the clock than Floyd after a career of give and take battles. I doubt Manny will be with us for more than a few more fights. Enjoy it while you can.
Floyd, on the other hand, can probably fight on until he’s at least 40. Even if he only takes 1.5 fights a year, as is his wont, he could fight nine more times before he retires. The fact that he stays in the gym and looks after himself (physically, at least) bodes well for his longevity, as does his style and ability to stand in the pocket without getting hit.
3. Floyd is legacy conscious.
Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s trainer, likes to quiz people on their boxing history. The whole family is steeped in boxing tradition. Mayweather might like to say he’s the greatest of all time, but I’d wager that he’s acutely aware of how his legacy will be perceived when he retires. That’s why he won’t shut up about being undefeated. In his last two fights, he’s fought two of the next best options after Pacquiao. That trend is going to continue. Who knows who the best in the world will be by 2017, but it wouldn’t surprise me if by then Mayweather has added names like Saul Alvarez, Nonito Donaire and Amir Khan to his resume. If Mayweather consistently beats rated opponents until he’s forty, then he overtakes Pacquiao.
4. Floyd has some weird psychological shit going on in with Manny.
I’m not sure if Floyd is scared of Manny. Maybe he is. That would explain why he keeps making up crazy demands to stop their fight from happening. It could just be that he’s an immature, psychologically disturbed little man who takes pleasure in withholding from boxing fans the one fight that they truly want to see. It could be something else entirely. If Mayweather never fights Pacquiao, his refusal will make it hard to hurdle Pacquaio on the list of the greatest boxers of all time. Hard, but not impossible.