January 25th, 2010 By Brian Gorman
WITHOUT PEER OR WITHOUT A REAL THREAT?
Pittsburgh, PA- After the implosion of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. – Manny Pacquiao event, followed by Pacquiao’s selection of the formidable Joshua Clottey as his opponent, the debate now centers on whether Mayweather’s greatest asset is ducking punches or opponents. His detractors generally claim that, after a highly successful first act with terrific victories over the likes of Genaro Hernandez and Diego Corrales, he chose the path of least resistance after two narrow escapes from Mexican warrior Jose Luis Castillo at lightweight (135 lb.), eschewing the greatest available challenges in favor of safe, marketable fights to protect his undefeated record and status. They bemoan his boasts that he belongs on all-time lists and spout off a litany of elite boxers they contend he has avoided. His apologists, on the other hand, point to his ring mastery and suggest that he would easily defeat each of the boxers whom he has supposedly ducked. So what are we to make of his divisive career? Hindsight as it is, if we are to examine his career decisions and his choices of opponents, perhaps we should do so by considering the pulse of the sport at those times.
EARLY YEARS OF LITTLE FLOYD”
Two notes: First, I will not address Mayweather’s approach inside the ring. The issue on the table here is his chosen career path, not whether his safety-first technical excellence deserves rebuke – this column ain’t big enough for the both of ‘em. Second, I’ll operate under the premise that the debate about his choices of opponents should focus on his opponents over the past six years from junior welterweight (140) through junior middleweight (154). Learned boxing fans can throw out a few names in the lower classes that he didn’t meet, but in fact he enjoyed remarkable success against excellent opposition, as we saw when he left the lightweight division in the hands of Corrales and Castillo, who waged the greatest high-stakes fight I’ve ever seen. Before jumping to 140 in 2004, Mayweather built an outstanding record of 31-0, with 21 knockouts. His nine fights since have been the subject of endless debate.
THE SQUIRRELY YEARS
By 2004, Mayweather became an HBO staple, and he was showcased in two junior welterweight title eliminators against capable fighters but, by that time, sub-standard opposition for him, DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley and Henry Bruseles. Three weeks before his June 2005 challenge of legendary brawler Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, Ricky Hatton upset Kostya Tszyu on Showtime via Manchester for the real 140 pound crown. Unsurprisingly, Mayweather went for the HBO pay-per-view dollars with the Gatti mismatch for a paper WBC title (though it bears noting that each of his titles, in five different divisions, have been under the WBC banner). Gatti had no chance against the superb Mayweather, barely even making contact as Mayweather couldn’t miss in a maestro performance. Though Hatton now seems the next obvious choice for that point in time, he had yet to invade either HBO or America and was still not well known; moreover, Mayweather jumped to 147 immediately after beating Gatti. Regardless, we could have done without yet another soft touch in Sharmba Mitchell, a faded old southpaw whose best years were a distant memory in November 2005.
PART II: THE WELTER YEARS
Tomorrow we’ll go with part two on Floyd Mayweather’s life as a prizefighter.