We’re less than two weeks away from Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana, and the boxing world is (sort of) abuzz in anticipation of the return of the sport’s cash king. However, despite the hype, there’s a distinct feeling among hardcore aficionados that May 3rd will be a major letdown in terms of matchmaking. As brave and strong as Maidana is, stylistically he looks tailor-made for a sharp counter-puncher of Floyd’s abilities.
But as with every Mayweather fight in recent years, the argument his team makes is that, no matter who the opponent is, the public should cherish another chance to see and appreciate the best boxer of his generation –perhaps The Best Ever, or ‘TBE’ for short. But only the delusional and the ignorant are to be persuaded by this hollow claim. To be “The Best Ever” implies, among other things, that a boxer has faced and defeated the toughest opposition available, not to mention at least some of the best opposition of all time.
It doesn’t help Mayweather’s case that his generation did not offer a reincarnation of Roberto Duran or Jake LaMotta to push him to his limit. But regardless, it’s up to Floyd to be a true competitor and face the best opponents available if he wants to be granted serious consideration as an all-time great, let alone ‘TBE.’ The reason why the former “Pretty Boy” will not be granted such consideration when his career ends is because he has failed spectacularly at sizing himself up against the best, when they were at their best.
Greats of the past who are now regarded among the finest prizefighters who ever lived did not conduct themselves as Floyd does. Sugar “Ray” Robinson didn’t wait for Jake LaMotta to decline before facing him; Muhammad Ali didn’t ask Joe Frazier to come in at a catch-weight. But time after time, when Mayweather had the chance to make a real statement and accomplish something of historic value, he blundered and instead made a career choice that perhaps made sense in the short-term, but guaranteed his name could never be put beside those of boxing’s true greats in the long-term.
So, without further ado, we present Floyd Mayweather’s six biggest career misjudgments, along with the reasons why these calculating decisions to avoid risk deny him the right to be called ‘The Best Ever’ (presented here in chronological order because, frankly, they’re all equally bad):
Misjudgment #1: Choosing to face the weakest of the light-welterweight titlists, Arturo Gatti.
What ‘The Best Ever’ Would’ve Done: Challenge undisputed champion Kostya Tszyu.
In 2005 Floyd arrived at the 140-pounds division in style by outpointing the tough DeMarcus Corley and then knocking out Henry Bruseles. But after that initial splash, Mayweather began his tradition of taking the path of least resistance by failing to pursue a match with the hard-punching Kostya Tszyu, then the undisputed king of light-welterweight, in favour of a mega-bucks showdown with Arturo Gatti, whom everyone knew he could easily outclass.
Given that Tszyu himself was on a tear—greatly increasing his appeal in late 2004 with an unforgettable knockout of Sharmba Mitchell in their rematch—it’s plausible to believe Mayweather would’ve made a great deal of money by fighting Tszyu. The truth of the matter is that given the chance to earn a comparable paycheck against a lesser opponent in Gatti, Mayweather, ever the smart businessman, took the lesser risk. It’s the kind of decision rational human beings make, but not the kind of decision expected from someone worthy of being called “The Best Ever.”
Misjudgment #2: Going for big paychecks against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton.
What ‘The Best Ever’ Would’ve Done: Face prime Miguel Cotto, Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito to clean out the division.
Back in early 2007, Mayweather was a boxing star on the verge of becoming a super-star. His PPV outings against Arturo Gatti and Zab Judah raised his profile and earned him millions of dollars. What did the self-proclaimed Best Ever do with all that intangible capital he had accrued? Obviously, he used it to enhance his revenue opportunities while forgetting that a true legacy in boxing is measured by the names on your record, not the dollars in your bank account.
Like a junky after having tasted the first sweet dose, Mayweather embarked on an earnest pursuit of benjamins in winnable fights against bona-fide money-makers like De La Hoya and Hatton, while neglecting the new generation of welterweights who were then competing at their prime. Were he truly ‘The Best Ever’, in 2007 Floyd would’ve tested himself against prime opposition in Miguel Cotto, Paul “The Punisher” Williams, and Antonio Margarito.
So instead of cleaning the division—something most believe he would’ve been able to do had he faced those three prime welterweights—Mayweather took on a fading De La Hoya and a blown-up Ricky Hatton and then cashed out, claiming there was nothing left for him to achieve in boxing. In other words, this was vintage Floyd, acting against the best interests of his legacy, and refusing once again to reach for greatness.
Misjudgment #3: Choosing to fight a blown-up Marquez, followed by a faded Shane Mosley.
What ‘The Best Ever’ Would’ve Done: Fight Manny Pacquiao.
The Pretty Boy’s first retirement ended when he stepped back into the ring to face the guy who had given Manny Pacquiao his toughest fights: Juan Manuel Marquez. But in classic Mayweather style, Money May asked the Mexican to jump up in weight almost two whole divisions and then failed to meet him at the agreed catch-weight of 144 pounds. It was a preposterous move by Mayweather, who didn’t even pretend to try to make weight, thus giving himself a huge advantage.
Mayweather followed up his one-sided win over Marquez by besting a faded Mosley who had been waiting on the sidelines for years. While Mosley connected flush on Mayweather in round two, the rest of the contest was a sparring session for Floyd, as Mosley’s deteriorated reflexes and legs disallowed him from competing in any meaningful way. Both of these fights further engorged Floyd’s wallet, and gave him something to do while continuing to avoid Pacquiao, but they definitely did not enhance his legacy.
If Mayweather really were “The Best Ever,” he would’ve welcomed Pacquiao’s rise in 2009 and fought him immediately after Manny defeated Cotto, when he was decidedly in his prime. Even if Mayweather had lost to Pacquiao back then, that would’ve given the world the chance to see how “Money” handled adversity and whether he had what it takes to bounce back from defeat. But by avoiding the biggest challenge of his career, Mayweather guaranteed that the monicker of ‘TBE’ would elude him forever.
Misjudgment #4: Finally facing a champion in his prime only to knock him out with a cheap shot.
What ‘The Best Ever’ Would’ve Done: Not knock out his opponent when he wasn’t even looking.
The hits just keep on coming for Floyd Mayweather, and his confrontation with “Vicious” Victor Ortiz is one that won’t be easily forgotten. In September of 2011, many people believed a hungry young lion like Ortiz—fresh off a savage battle in which he got the best of Andre Berto—would pose a genuine challenge to Money May. Ortiz had shown in his title-winning effort against Berto the kind of aggressiveness and ferocity to give him a chance to rock Mayweather’s world.
At several moments during the initial four rounds, Ortiz did his best to deliver on that promise, as the young champion worked intensely to close the distance and battle on the inside, connecting solid blows to Floyd’s body and head. It was as uncomfortable as anyone had seen Mayweather in the ring since his return from retirement. However, in the dying seconds of round four, Ortiz’ infamous light-headedness got the best of him when he blatantly headbutted Mayweather while working in close-quarters.
Confusion reigned in the ensuing moments as Mayweather complained to the referee, who penalized Ortiz with a point deduction, while Ortiz tried (too profusely, as it turned out) to extend an apology to Mayweather. Floyd then feigned forgiveness and lulled Ortiz into an undefended posture before striking with a check-hook/right-hand combo, earning one of the most cringe-worthy knockouts ever.
Instead of accruing a worthy win over a young and strong opponent, Mayweather gave us one of the most embarrassing endings to a boxing match in recent years, one that failed to give anyone their money’s worth. Hardly the stuff legends (of the good kind) are made of.
Misjudgment #5: Fighting Canelo in the highest-grossing boxing match ever at a catch-weight
What ‘The Best Ever’ Would’ve Done: Fight at the division limit for full bragging rights
Fast-forward to 2013 and Mayweather finds himself center-stage again, as he prepares to face off against another young, hungry champion who also happens to be bigger and stronger than him. Most fight fans, having made their peace with the fact Floyd will never face Pacquiao, gave credit to Floyd for stepping up and squaring off against Canelo Alvarez, perceived at the time as the second biggest threat to the Pretty Boy.
But with Mayweather things are never that simple. The fact that many observers believed Floyd’s skills would neutralize whatever attributes Canelo brought to the ring, didn’t stop Floyd from further tilting the odds in his favor. In his eagerness to get Floyd in the ring with him, Canelo had voiced to the media his willingness to accept a catch-weight, an offer that Mayweather readily accepted. Initially, Floyd’s camp wanted the fight to be made at welterweight, but Canelo’s team managed to lift up the restriction to 152 pounds.
If Floyd Mayweather is so clearly superior to all his competition, then why does he need to have a catch-weight embedded in his contracts? Given that he clearly out-classed Canelo, having the bigger Mexican come down in weight was akin to Mayweather shooting himself in the foot again, needlessly staining what could have been one of the most significant victories in this late stage of his career. Great figures usually demonstrate a degree of magnanimity every now and then, but despite his attributes and domination of the sport, Mayweather feels the need to squeeze every advantage and every penny out of his foes. Is this how ‘The Best Ever’ would conduct boxing business? Not at all. ‘The Best Ever’ would’ve said, “To hell with it, I’ll fight you at any weight you want!” But that’s the kind of thing only true greats like Henry Armstrong and Stanley Ketchel would say, not the one they call Money May.
Misjudgment #6: Putting up an absurd online poll for fans to decide whether he should face an undeserving Amir Khan or a crude Marcos Maidana.
What ‘The Best Ever’ Would’ve Done: Come down to 140 to face undisputed champ Danny Garcia for a chance to make history.
Suddenly fancying himself a democrat and in dire need of an opponent for his annual Cinco de Mayo extravaganza, the would-be Best Ever conducted an online poll which asked fans to choose his next opponent: the foldable Amir Khan or the brawling Marcos Maidana. The official poll declared Amir Khan the winner of the Mayweather sweepstakes, but the consensus everywhere else was that Maidana was the more deserving candidate given his humbling of Adrien Broner. So Mayweather went against the poll results and picked the Argentine for his next fight.
Even with the regrettable Cold War still limiting his choice of opponents, the pretext that Floyd had only two boxers to choose from for his next match was total bollocks. Here’s an option that deserved consideration: Danny Garcia at light-welterweight for the lineal title. Floyd and his team tirelessly proclaim him to be a “small welterweight.” If that’s the case, then what stopped him from challenging Danny at 140 and taking a shot at holding three lineal titles at the same time, something that hasn’t been done since Henry Armstrong achieved the feat? Now that’s a challenge worthy of someone who wants to be called ‘The Best Ever.’
But going for that big a risk is simply not part of Mayweather’s modus operandi, and so the cash king of the sport stayed within his comfort zone to fight a second-tier welterweight rather than challenge himself against top opposition in a different weight class. The hype-pushers are selling Mayweather vs. Maidana as a sort of Russian roulette spectacle, to be defined by whether or not Maidana can land one of his loaded shots flush on Mayweather. But many observers consider the contest as shameful a mismatch as Floyd’s bouts with Gatti and Guerrero. If Mayweather intends to impress as he puts the finishing touches on his career, he’s not succeeding. And he’s definitely not shoring up what little case he has to be seriously considered “TBE.”
– Rafael García