I saw the Mayweather/Marquez fight last night. (It was, as everyone else reports, a major mismatch; I couldn’t give Marquez a single round.) Watching it, I was struck by two things: First, Floyd Mayweather is an undeniably talented boxer, and second, I really want to see someone clean his clock. In this, he reminds me of another much-praised sportsman: Michael Schumacher.
Michael Schumacher is a former F1 pilot (mostly for Ferrari) who holds most of the major records in that sport. (Championships, wins, poles, etc.) He’s a legitimately great driver, and a guy I could never stand. The reasons for this are a little hard to pin down, but I’ll take a stab at them, since I think they apply equally to FMJ.
Schumacher, in my opinion, owed his extraordinary successes primarily to his formidable talents off the track. He seemed preternaturally gifted at assembling a team of supremely able people dedicated to getting him over the line in first place. Combined with his great talent behind the wheel, the result was a superlative career.
Those off-track talents, however, meant that, to me, he almost wasn’t playing the same sport as everyone else. As a result, when he eclipsed Fangio for career wins, or Senna for career poles, it struck me as not quite right; that, for all his talent, he wasn’t quite worthy to surpass these legends. At any rate, I don’t think he was the best pure driver even of his generation; I was more of a Hakkinen fan.
I find that I feel much the same way about Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather is a highly talented boxer – specifically, a great defensive counterpuncher. I also think that he owes a great part of his success to his out-of-the-ring abilities; primarily the ability to pick (and get) opponents against whom he matches up well.
Some people claim that Mayweather is the best fighter in boxing today. (Let’s leave aside the claim that he’s the best ever.) Is this claim justified by his record? Let’s look at his last 6 opponents (since moving up, more or less, to welterweight):
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Ricky Hatton
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Carlos Baldomir
- Zab Judah
- Sharmba Mitchell
Now, without intending disrespect to any of these guys, who are all skilled, brave men who acquit themselves well in the ring: I don’t think this is a list of opponents that makes one the best WW in the world, let alone the best fighter in boxing. To wit:
- Marquez was coming up 12 pounds in weight, and did his best work at 126
- Hatton was a greatly weakened force above 140
- ODLH was well past his prime
- Baldomir, Judah, and Mitchell are second-tier welterweights
You’ll notice who Mayweather has not fought:
- Miguel Cotto
- Shane Mosley
- Paul Williams
- Joshua Clottey
- Antonio Margarito (a legitimate challenger pre-plastergate)
In my opinion, Mayweather is a good fighter, even a great defensive fighter, who does an excellent job of picking fights that suit his style, and offer an excellent risk/reward ratio. I can’t fault him for that, nor for taking a “safety-first” approach in the ring, nor for talking up the gate with an abrasive persona; it’s his neck on the line, and he has a right to look after it. But all of that doesn’t make me a fan, and it doesn’t persuade me that he’s an “all-time great”. He moved up to WW 4 years ago, and hasn’t come close to cleaning the division out – he hasn’t even fought one of its top guys. Not a fan.