Saturday, March 10, 2012
What a Fool Believes
If you don't believe Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is the greatest fighter of all time he will tell you himself that he is.
To listen to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. tell it - he’s the greatest fighter that has ever lived.
Yes, that’s right. In his mind he is better than Sugar Ray Robinson who is universally regarded with the title of Champion of Champions - or what the Italians refer to as “Il Campionissimo” and better than Joe Louis and better than Muhammad Ali and so on and so forth.
The belief stems from the fact that he is an undefeated fighter with a record of 41-0. Those who know him say the one zero on his record means more to him than perhaps anything else. More than the “big boy mansion” more than the Maybach, more than the “Money” moniker and more than just about any possession that he holds near and dear.
Bob Arum, Mayweather’s former promoter, claims that Mayweather will never risk losing and as a result has hand-picked his opposition for over the past decade with an eye toward preserving that perfect record.
“The one thing Mayweather has had throughout his career is he knows boxing,” says Arum. “Being undefeated is the most important thing for him to maintain. If he ends his career being undefeated then he can say he never lost, therefore in his mind that makes him better than anyone else. It’s a crap argument, but lot of people would believe it.”
Joe Louis (left) and Sugar Ray Robinson are pictured in their military uniforms during World War II.
Mayweather often invokes Robinson’s name when he speaks of his own greatness. The term “pound-for-pound” was invented as a way to recognize Robinson and his vast accomplishments. Perhaps recognizing the original Sugar Ray as the benchmark from which all others are measured, Mayweather once told me, “I’m the best of my era and he was the best of his. But I truly feel I am the greatest fighter of all time.”
However, Mayweather comparing his accomplishments to Robinson’s greatness pales in comparison. Robinson was a world welterweight champion and won the middleweight title an astounding five times. During his 25-year-long career, he vanquished a long list of other hall of fame legends and in the end he won 175 times, with 106 knockouts.
Mayweather has won 41 total bouts and has amassed a total of 26 stoppages. Granted, the top boxers these days fight an average of only once or twice per year, but in Robinson’s first 41 career bouts his record was 40-1 (29)KO with the lone loss coming against Jake LaMotta in his 41st bout. It has taken Mayweather 16 years to establish his current record whereas Robinson fought the same number of bouts in less than 2 ½ years. Robinson avenged his loss to LaMotta numerous times and would not lose again until almost 9 years later in his 132nd bout.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. judges himself as superior to this trio - Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis.
In Robinson’s era, it was difficult (if not impossible) to avoid challengers. Those who controlled the sport and even the fighters themselves were continually pitting the best against one another. A champion could not avoid the top contenders, there was only one world champion with only eight weight divisions and the incentive was always there for the best to fight one another. Mayweather has likely benefited from today’s boxing landscape where the top fighters can earn a vast fortune without facing the perceived number one contenders. He has also benefited from being able to pick and choose his opposition without having to negotiate.
While Robinson eventually worked himself into the same type of negotiating position there was never a time where he avoided or totally priced himself out of facing the best. In the history books, if a Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao is not consummated, the albatross that is hung around Mayweather’s neck will be one named Pacquiao.
To be considered the best, one needs to face the best - a la Robinson, Louis, Ali and others. One cannot declare oneself the best simply because they alone believe it to be so. That label is one that only history and others can properly affix.
Anything else is what a fool believes.