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.

March 2012


Bill Waggoner said...


Once during WW2, in 1943 when I was 12 years old,Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis, who were in the army and were assigned to the Special Services, who entertained the troops came in a light army twin engine beechcraft plane to Ft Huachuca,AZ to entertain the Black troops stationed there by going to the different service clubs on the base, and then later that night, putting on a friendly exposition showing their abilities in the ring. My father Lt Stephen G Waggoner who was in charge of the theaters on the base (and this event) arranged for me to meet these two me. Since I was a boxing fan of the two champions, my dad had my mother pick me up from grade school, which was located on the base and then she and I went to the small air field to pick up both men when the plane landed. I shall never forget having these two men in the back seat of our Maroon colored 1940 model Ford car as we took them around the Army base. I asked Sugar Ray what it would take for me to be a great boxer like him and Joe Louis, and he in turn asked me, do you have any black in you, and my mother said NO. You see, I was a white chubby kid. Sugar Ray then said you had better pick a different sport like football. I took his advise and in 1949 help lead the only high school in Wichita Falls, Texas to their first undefeated season to a state championship as tailback and co-captain.

Sugar Ray had an influence on my life at that moment in time of which I will never forget. That night I saw both men put on quite an entertaining event. They tied Sugar Ray's right with tape to the middle of the top rope on one side of the Ring; he only used his left (of which he was famous for in winning his professional fights). Later when grown, I did go out to Las Vegas,NV to Caesar's Palace to see Joe Louis, who was retired and was a greeter there. I found him and asked if he remembered the above event in 1943 and he said no sorry, but I remember once when Sugar Ray and I went to a base and a boy had a cat named Joe and I wanted that cat. I said Mr. Louis, that was my Big Tabby Cat, and I would have given him to you if I had known you wanted him. I did not know where Sugar Ray lived or worked when I went to Las Vegas and did not look him up; I wish I had done so.


Bill Waggoner

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