In perhaps his biggest and dumbest boast, Floyd Mayweather has declared himself the greatest fighter of all time, ahead of Roberto Duran, Pernell Whittaker, Julio César Chávez and Muhammad Ali.
The list is almost as shocking for its order as for the names missing.
Mayweather, the most gifted boxer at work in his business today but clearly no historian, could find no place in his top five for the Sugar Rays –Robinson and Leonard – Henry Armstrong, Rocky Marciano or Joe Louis. One would imagine the names Benny Leonard, Willie Pep and Joe Palooka (kidding) mean little to him, either.
Mayweather’s logic is as flawed as his chutzpah. Speaking in the royal plural, he tells his hosts on the Spanish boxing channel, “We not going to be biased. One thing about us is we gonna have an open mind.” If what follows is not biased, the word has recently changed its meaning. “Every champion up here, I respect totally,” he asserts, looking at the other nine contenders. “These are the guys who paved the way for me.”
You can almost hear young Marciano saying to old Louis before he knocks him through the ropes and out of boxing in the eighth round of their fight at Madison Square Garden in 1951, “Nothing personal, Joe. This is for Floyd – whose father isn’t even born yet but who one day in the next millennium will walk around with an oversized baseball hat to fit his oversized head, proclaiming he is The Best Ever.”
Pointing to his own image on an electronic board, Mayweather Jr says of himself in the third person: “He’s beaten more champions than any other fighter right here. He’s done it in a shorter period of time than any other fighter up here. And he’s done it in less fights than any other fighter up here. Record-breaking numbers all around the board: pay-per-view, live gate, landed punches on the highest percentage and took less punishment.”
He blithely ignores the fact that there was no pay-per-view in Jack Dempsey’s day, that Jack and George Carpentier drew the first million-dollar gate in 1921 (the $1,789,238 of the day converts roughly to $23,415,933 – which does fall short of the all-time record $72,198,500 that Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao generated in May) and that 136,274 people paid to watch Chávez fight Greg Haugen at the Azteca Stadium in 1993. No matter; Floydworld is another place.
He once called himself “Money”, and for good reason. He makes more of it than anyone in the history of the sport: promoter, manager, TV executive or fellow fighter. He is a phenomenon, but there is a case to be made that he is an even better businessman than he is a boxer, a defensive master who, through sheer weight of personality and perversity, presides in a bloodlust sport.
Mayweather can make a good case for being regarded as the best all-round boxer since Leonard. Nobody can touch him – often literally – as he rolls that shoulder and coils up like a rattlesnake before striking with repetitive venom. He has been a world champion for 17 of his 19 years as a professional, since the night in Las Vegas in 1998 when he retired Genaro Hernández to win the WBC’s super-featherweight title, the first of five divisions he would rule.
Hernández, remember, had only lost to Oscar De La Hoya – and we should not forget that when Chicanito died of cancer in 2011 at 45, it was Mayweather who paid for the funeral. As someone once famously said of the Aston Villa chairman, “Deadly” Doug Ellis, Floyd is a largely misunderstood man.
There can be no denying, either, that the hard-won skill that has won him 48 fights has also made him the most powerful individual in boxing and, unless Andre Berto defies all form and logic, Mayweather will reaffirm that status and equal Marciano’s famous record late on the Saturday evening of 12 September.
However, none of this entitles Mayweather to make the outrageous claim that he is better than Robinson, Ali, Leonard or, at a pinch, Duran. He makes no mention, even, of Marvin Hagler or Thomas Hearns. I asked Mayweather once did he not crave a rivalry such as established the legacy of the Four Kings – Leonard, Hagler, Duran and Hearns – and he shrugged those famous shoulders.
We surely will miss him when he is gone – and that will not be until his pay-per-view pull dips alarmingly. Mayweather-Berto will come not within a suburb of the Mayweather-Pacquiao cash bonanza – although a spectacular knockout of an inadequate challenger just might get people excited again.
Amir Khan is still waiting for the phone call.
Still making Haymon
The weekend before that fight, Jamie McDonnell, of Doncaster, appears on another free-to-air CBS show in Texas, defending the WBA bantamweight title in a rematch with Tomoki Kameda, with whom he shared 12 lively rounds there in May.
It is excellent Stateside exposure for McDonnell, under the all-embracing umbrella of the Professional Boxing Champions banner, with Eddie Hearn sharing the promotion with the Californian promoter, Tom Brown.
While Al Haymon’s PBC continues to pull a lot of the strings over there, the most mysterious man in boxing is smart enough to know the value of partnerships. And that puts into perspective fears that he is hoovering up Britain’s best fighters, following the recent acquisition of James DeGale and rumours that Kell Brook might join Amir Khan in the Haymon fold.
Haymon might have as many as 200 fighters queueing up to get on his shows, partly because other doors are shut and partly because he promises them regular work. He is a long way from being the King of Boxing, but he is learning about the process pretty quickly.
As for McDonnell, he is happy to declare: “I am delighted to be going back to the States and facing Kameda again. People wrote me off before the first fight, but I was always confident that I would beat him and I am even more confident that I will do it again.”
Sugar for Shane
One of the surprise returns to the big-time is that of Sugar Shane Mosley at 43. The fighter the late Eddie Futch once favourably compared to Sugar Ray Robinson but who Anthony Mundine forced to quit with a back injury in seven rounds 10 months ago, fights Ricardo Mayorga over 12 rounds for no other reason but money and mutual malice at the Inglewood Forum in California on 29 August.
They are doing their level best to make something out of nothing if their contretemps this week are any guide, the eternally outrageous Mayorga blowing cigarette smoke in Mosley’s face.
When they were both a bit livelier than they are now, Mosley stopped Mayorga in the 12th round in 2008. He should have enough left to stop him again.
This article was written by Kevin Mitchell, for theguardian.com on Monday 10th August 2015 14.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010