Love him or hate him, Floyd Mayweather is the best boxer of our generation.
Over the weekend, he fought his last fight… maybe. But for now, Mayweather retires with an unblemished 49-0 record – 50-0 if you count what he did to Big Show at WrestleMania XXIV.
It’s not the perfect record that makes him one of the greatest ever though. It’s the ease with which he got there.
Unfortunately, he makes it look too easy for some to appreciate. It’s hard to tell if his detractors do not grasp the game, or if they hope others don’t know enough to argue.
For a while, I didn’t like Mayweather either, so I understand it.
I still don’t like him as a person. But as a boxer, he won me over with clinic after clinic.
Some of the arguments against him are baseless, and but not all.
He did not fight Manny Pacquiao at his peak. That was not entirely his fault – Pacquaio inhibited the fight from happening as well. The result wouldn’t have been any different but it still remains a reasonable knock on Mayweather’s career.
Criticisms of Mayweather’s boxing style are particularly frustrating though.
The idea that he runs rather than boxes, for example, is just flat out wrong. Making that argument is the easiest way to make sure no one takes your opinion seriously.
It’s a sport, not a street fight. You don’t have to knock everyone out to be the best.
Willie Pep, ranked No. 6 all time by The Ring magazine in 2007, scored only 65 knockouts in his 229 wins. For those who think aggressiveness was weighed more heavily back in the day, just know that a large part of Pep’s legend was that he once won a round without throwing a single punch.
Pep’s 229 wins might have caught your eye – that was no typo. It was a different era in which boxers fought more regularly.
Sugar Ray Robinson, widely considered the greatest boxer ever (yes, ahead of Muhammad Ali), once fought rival Jake LaMotta three times in the course of five months.
Mayweather rose to the top in an era with more medical precautions and a different business structure. He shouldn’t be rewarded for that, but he shouldn’t be punished either.
Just because boxers fought more often in Robinson’s time does not necessarily mean the competition was better. Historians criticize Mayweather’s resume, or lack thereof, so let’s take a closer look.
Robinson defeated eight Hall of Famers: LaMotta, Kid Gavilan, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, Bobo Olson, Rocky Graziano, Fritzie Zivic and Randy Turpin.
Compare that to Mayweather’s defining performances.
Wins over sure-fire Hall of Famers: Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto and Arturo Gatti.
Wins over probable Hall of Famers: Diego Corrales, Zab Judah, Jose Luis Castillo and Ricky Hatton.
Not to mention a win over Canelo Alvarez, who could find a spot in the Hall by his career’s end. Mayweather’s competition does not look too shabby to me.
When comparing Mayweather to many of the greats before him, we have to rely on the eye-test, a completely subjective measuring stick.
Could Mayweather’s technical brilliance, hand speed and impeccable defense carry him in earlier decades? Critics are convinced not, but those are the same folks who think Bill Russell would have been able to handle a prime Shaquille O’Neal in the post. (Sorry, Dad)
No one can administer a fair evaluation. The generation you grew up in will skew your opinions in one way or the other.
If you have watched each one of Mayweather’s fights over the past 15 years, it would be hard to imagine him being the underdog against anyone other than Robinson, the man who inspired the pound-for-pound debates, and maybe a handful of others such as Henry Armstrong.
Every challenger that was supposed to be the next transcendent superstar ended up looking like just another guy when they stepped into the ring with Mayweather. That is a testament to his unique abilities, rather than a knock on the talent in this time period.
I have never seen another boxer like Mayweather, and probably never will. He is a once in a lifetime talent, which is why I hope he comes out of “retirement” soon, preferably to fight Gennady Golovkin.
But in the event he does not, I can still say I was alive to watch one of the most remarkable careers ever, in any sport.
Mayweather is a piece of crap outside of the ring. But he is also the greatest pugilist of our time, and, in my generationally biased opinion, the best ever.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.