Is Mayweather The Greatest or The Latest?

By Gordon Marino on May 3, 2014
Is Mayweather The Greatest or The Latest?
The question remains where does Floyd Mayweather stand on the all-time list of greats?

Although the welterweight division is as deep as it has been in years, Floyd “Money” Mayweather is running out of potential rivals…

He recently donned a cap emblazoned with the letters “TBE” — a reference that stands for “The Best Ever.”

Is it truth or bluster? Unfortunately, we may never know.

Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, in a fight broadcast live on Showtime pay-per-view, WBC welterweight king Floyd “Money” Mayweather (45-0, 26 knockouts) will try to extend his unbeaten record in a title unification bout when he faces the heavy-handed WBA champ Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 knockouts).

But all-time greatness in the gloved game is usually achieved by some combination of longevity and career defining matchups like Ali vs. Frazier.

Sugar Ray Robinson held the welterweight title from 1946-1951. He then went on to win the middleweight belt. At his peak, Robinson’s record was 128-1-2 with 84 knockouts. In 1938, Henry Armstrong simultaneously held titles in three weight divisions (featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight) when there were only eight divisions. Sometimes known as “Homicide Hank,” Armstrong successfully defended the 147-pound title 19 times and finished with a record of 150-21-10, 101 knockouts.

Even though Sugar Ray Leonard’s resume includes only 40 fights, he is also ranked near the pinnacle of all-time great welterweights. That’s because Leonard notched victories over boxing immortals including Wilfred Benitez, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler.

Mayweather has always been adamant that he is on a short boxing tether and won’t be campaigning into his mid-40s. So in lieu of the longevity factor, who will be the 37-year-old Mayweather’s Duran or Hearns?

It was, of course, supposed to be Manny Pacquiao, but years of wrangling between rival promotional companies, lawsuits about performance-enhancing drugs, and finally the Pacman’s knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez have rubbed luster from the fight that will probably never be.

Although the welterweight division is as deep as it has been in years, Mayweather is running out of potential rivals. In what some call the “Cold War” in boxing, it is nearly impossible to arrange marquee showdowns between Top Rank boxers such as Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley and Golden Boy-related fighters like Mayweather. It is as if there were two different leagues in boxing — without a World Series.

Should Mayweather prevail on Saturday, the short list of future foes includes Amir Khan (28-3-0, 19 knockouts), light welterweight champion Danny Garcia (28-0, 16 knockouts), Keith Thurman (23-0, 21 knockouts), Kell Brook (32-0, 22 knockouts) and IBF welterweight king Shawn Porter (24-0-1, 15 knockouts).

Mayweather is in his third of a six-fight deal with Showtime. There have been suggestions that Mayweather’s grand finale in the ring could be a rematch with a retooled Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 knockouts). Still, triumphs over these highly-accomplished fighters would not carry that career defining stamp.

More so than other boxing champions, Mayweather has always made it clear that the sport for him is a business, a way “to secure his family.” The biggest pay-per-view star in history, Mayweather’s modus operandi has been one of minimizing risk and maximizing profits. But even for “Money” Mayweather, money isn’t quite everything.

When asked what was more important, profits or legacy, Mayweather said, “A little bit of both. Of course, I want my name to go down in history as the best,” before adding, “You also want to keep making smart business moves, to be very lucrative and build your portfolio.”

The question remains where does Mayweather stand on the all-time list of greats? There is universal agreement that his defensive skills are in the realm of Willie Pep (29-11-1, 65 knockouts), perhaps the most elusive fighter of all time.

Former world champion, Paulie Malignaggi, now a commentator for Showtime, said, “In an imaginary tournament I would give Floyd a legitimate chance against any welterweight in history including Sugar Ray Robinson or Sugar Ray Leonard.”

“Mayweather is so smart in the ring,” continued Malignaggi. “He figures his opponents out so quickly. And his body immediately does exactly what his brain tells it to do—without him having to think about it.”

Mayweather acknowledges his unique boxing radar. “Actually, I can feel when a guy’s gonna punch. I can feel it. I don’t even have to see it…this is just with experience and being around the sport so long,” he said. “A lot of times guys telegraph their shots. Their body language gives away when they’re going to shoot because of how they position themselves.”

The sweet science of Floyd Mayweather pivots around his unpredictability and timing. He is in. He is out. He feints with the left, cracks you with a straight right, drops low and pivots out. It is impossible to disturb his rhythm. The verdict that echoes most among boxing experts is that “Mayweather makes very good fighters look ordinary.”

In 2010, Shane Mosley rocked Mayweather in the second stanza, but he lost virtually every other round. Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Robert Guerrero all won a few rounds but that was it.

Opponents have long imagined that the blueprint for beating Mayweather is maul, brawl, and mug him on the ropes. But with his balletic footwork, it is very hard to cut the ring off on Mayweather. When warriors such as Hatton throw all caution to the wind, a short “check hook” will quickly remind them that Mayweather, like Sugar Ray Robinson, can “put a man to bed” with one punch.

In the prelude to most pay-per-view extravaganzas, the combatants usually take digs at each other. But Mayweather has spent much of his promotion for Saturday’s fight trying to convince fans that Maidana’s power is a legitimate danger. The 30-year-old Maidana earned a shot against Mayweather following a dramatic upset victory over Adrien Broner last December. In that spirited contest, Maidana zinged almost a thousand punches, twice sending Broner to the canvas.

As for his date with destiny and Mayweather, Maidana said, “I’m preparing to hurt him every time I throw punches and if a knockout comes, then great, but I am preparing myself to win after 12 rounds.”

A professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, Gordon Marino writes on boxing for the Wall Street Journal. He is on the board and works with boxers at the Circle of Discipline in Minneapolis, as well as at the Basement Gym in Northfield, MN. His The Quotable Kierkegaard was recently published by Princeton University Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @GordonMarino.

Special thanks to the Wall Street Journal.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. bikermike 03:46am, 05/14/2014

    pbf will just have to be satisfied with the money he earned….Clarence George…with his first comment….captures the reality of where pbf ranks with THE GREATEST WELTERWEIGHTS OF ALL TIME…

    I’m interested to see if pbf manages to hold on to his earnings…..when his ring career is done.

  2. barry 12:13am, 05/07/2014

    Regardless of what Paulie Malignaggi said, Mayweather “IS NOT” in the same league as Willie Pep in terms of defence or elusiveness. Willie Pep fought fighters who was themselves legendary operators. Pep also fought nearly 250 fights. Mayweather has clearly avoided his toughest opponents throughout his career. Margarito, Williams, DeLaHoya (rematch) and Manny Pacquiao. Floyd Mayweather is fighting guys like Guerrero, Ortiz, Alvarez, Mosley (40yrs old), Hatton, Maidana who are undeserving of a fight against him. Yet the boxing public should be demanding he face Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather is a legend in his own mind only.

  3. reyocs 08:40pm, 05/04/2014

    its very clear maidana is the pure n sure winner
    another 3blind mice paid by floyd
    the chickenman wins by buying the judges

  4. James Petterson 08:38pm, 05/04/2014

    pacman is one of the greatest…he took 8 world title..mayweather isnt? pacman can fight anyone..mayweather chooses and disrespect people’s word for mayweather! COWARD..then now could we call him Greatest? oh come on guys…we are not fooling ourselves in the boxing history, a champion will never been afraid of face anyone..Mayweather knows he cant beat Pacquiao..

  5. Ramon 01:29pm, 05/04/2014

    just because he makes fighters look like amateurs that doesnt mean that there not good fighters, hes just way better than they are, and he perfected his skills to a higher level than those other fighters. Even if he never fights pacquiao, he is still one of the greatest ever to step in a boxing ring. And for those that say that hes never fought the best fighters out there, i guess u people should go back and look at his whole carrer, and look at all the really good boxers that hes fought, including diego corrales who at the time that he fought him, he was considered one of the best fighters in the weight class, and mayweather made him look like an ordinary fighter. People dont want to give him credit just because he hasnt fought pacquiao, didnt pacquiao get knocked out by juan manuel marquez , in one of the best knockouts that ive seen. Cudos to marquez for taking advantage of his mistake.

  6. Ricardo Rafael 11:45am, 05/04/2014

    being best ever fighter is the one that will fight best fighter in his era and don’t choose or ask for anything in a fighter that he wants to fight.Mayweather is a kind of fighter that think about what advantage he can get to assure that he will win the when he fought Maidana ,he actually ask the corner of Maidana to use gloves that Chino usually don’t used,as a knock out artist.So for me it’s a big NO for him as the best ever,It’s Still ALI.

  7. Floyd Youvwon 08:32am, 05/04/2014

    It cannot be denied that Mayweather is a good boxer but he has to prove this
    against the like of Manny Pacquiao in order to validate his words to be a top
    Elite boxer of this generation.
    It cannot be said he is the best ever only to hype up all his fights which the fight fans around the world know are all made up and orchestrated for a win win ( compare his Loud mouth to all those wrestlers in wwe to sell fights and there is no difference at all except perhaps for wwe muscle modulated voices   ) because his talk would always appear very cheap as greatly oppossite the loud mouthed Great Ali who proved his loud talk by defeating and challenging only the best oppossition in his days.
    But I believe hope I am wrong that Mayweather will never face Manny Pacquiao for the Best Fight ever of his career and if Mayweather should beat Manny even by UD
    Then this will earmark the validation that he is truly one of the greats if not a great

    As an advice…Floyd Mayweather please do not say you are the Greatest.
    Just fight the best Manny Pacquiao
    And wait for all the boxing fans to declare you as a Great Boxer?

    It is not for you to claim you are the greatest because such claim of yours has no
    Strong basis and therefore cheap. Just let the whole world declare who is the Greatest not you.

  8. Thomas 06:15am, 05/04/2014

    Finally speaking; Mayweather; The greatest fighter of all time “NO”.
    The greatest “MOUTH” of Alltime “YES”.

    I used to think “Ali” had the greatest Mouth of Alltime, but he always backed his words up by fighting the best challengers in the world,  at times even accurately predicting what round he would take them out. When you fight the best challengers in their prime and take them out, you have earned a license to Talk.

    Mayweather’s skills are hard to accurately predict because of the lower caliber of fighters he has fought, especially the past two years. Then when he did decided to fight a Top Notch fighter, it was usually at the sunset of their career’s. (Self Preservation) #UnblemishedResume #GreatestMouthofAlltime #GreatestDuckerofAlltime

  9. Edgar Learsi 04:09am, 05/04/2014

    In my book, according to Bert Sugar, Mayweather Jr is the best ever, The Best Ducker Ever and The Greatest Ducker of All Time for ducking the most number of challengers. He ducked 11 fighters in their primes before including Margarito, Cotto, Paul Williams, Mosley (in his prime), and he is ducking 4-5 more fighters now including Pacquiao, Golovkin, Lara etc.

  10. Thomas 10:51pm, 05/03/2014

    Isn’t it funny how Mayweather tries to build up the lower quality fighters he has fought the past two years to make himself look invinsible. He has fought nobody. He says Pacquaio has to fight who is told to fight because he is not under his own banner, Mayweather says he’s his own boss and selects who he wants to fight. WoW! now that’s a news flash. Mayweather hand picks lower end fighters to keep his record unblemished. Is that what the greatest fighter of all time would do? Go back to Ali, Marciano, Pacquaio, Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, Tyson, Duran, De la Hoya, Chavez, they fought everyone and anyone who was perceived to be their match. Mayweather has ducked the best fighters in their prime for years, he hand picked his way to 46-0.  47-0 if you count his ex-fiance. Mayweather, man up and fight the true undisputed pound for pound champion (Manny Pacquaio) beat him and then you can run off at the mouth. STOP all the excuses, who makes you the commissioner of boxing to deceide who should take a random urinalysis or blood test or How much money your opponent should make, Why dont you fight Pacquaio at a neutral site in a winner takes all bout to see who the real man and real champion is.

  11. JUEL DUGAS INDINO 10:20pm, 05/03/2014

    How can Floyd Mayweather become the greatest ever when he beat the mother of their children? How can Floyd Mayweather be considered the GOAT when he went in jail? How can Floyd be considered TBE when he continues to malign Pacquiao through his racial slurs? How can Floyd become the greatest ever in boxing when he ducks all his fierce competitions including Manny Pacquiao? How can Floyd Mayweather be considered the greatest ever when he divulges the downside of her ex-wife in the social media just to promote his fight? It’s more like Mayweather is a gay and not a real gentlemen.

  12. Darrell 09:46pm, 05/03/2014

    Oh, he’d have to be right up there without a doubt.

  13. Thomas 08:03pm, 05/03/2014

    Unless Mayweather fights the Best Fighter in the World (Manny Pacquaio) and beats him. He will never be considered to be the best fighter in the world. He will be considered the greatest ducker in the world, as he has ducked all the great fighters when they were in their prime and waited until their skills were diminished to fight them. He will never fight Pacquaio because he does not want a loss on his resume, this late in his caeer. Then again he may say he will fight Pacquaio on Manny’s 50th Birthday.

  14. David Matthew 05:11pm, 05/03/2014

    Thresh - I really like that TD dance analogy and the point is well-taken.  The point you make about noticing the difference between this Floyd and the Floyd of 5 years ago is also a good one.  I reckon that the “Money May” persona will come to a crashing at end at some point, and in some ways I think Floyd is actually looking forward to that - he’s growing tired of the superficiality of the persona (as are many people).  When it comes down to it, a truly great personality can appeal to both the old school and new school, and every school in between—and while Floyd’s interpersonal behavior could certainly use refining (as is the case for all of us) - his actual command of boxing is what is timelessly appealing, and shouldn’t be understated because of a dislike for his style/personality.

  15. Thresher 04:40pm, 05/03/2014

    David, I have learned to write it off to love/hate fandom.. Once he started to change his demeanor (after he got out of jail), I began to like him a lot better and that allowed me to focus on his skills. The Floyd of today with the one of 5 years ago is like night and day and while he still doesn’t understand that humility will get him more in the long run than vanity, he IS getting better.

    But flaunting wealth is never a wise thing because those who smile at you really hope you hit the skids in the end.

    Let me use a far-reaching analogy. If a pro football player scored a spectacular TD and then simply handed the ball to the official as they used to do instead of going into some insane dance, he would get far more respect for his old school behavior.

    Note that Floyd has no tats so he gets a lot of this. .

  16. David Matthew 04:13pm, 05/03/2014

    Interesting point Thresh.  I think it’s precisely because of the business model that Mayweather has created that he receives antiquated disdain from many commentators on this site.  The irony for me is this: Floyd is the boxing purist’s type of fighter in terms of his in-ring application.  Everything he does in the ring is pure, technical, and scientific.  But people allow themselves to be so turned off by his persona that they suspend boxing analysis and degrade into personal attacks—which is why it’s almost *always* clear as to whether a comment is really a product of objective boxing analysis or love/hate fandom.

  17. Thresher 03:42pm, 05/03/2014

    OK CG. I get that. But today does involve a different business model and some might say that Mayweather was the one who created it That doesn’t make him better than the ones you mention, but it does make him different.

    Christ, I am beginning to sound like Yogi Berra.

  18. Matt McGrain 02:48pm, 05/03/2014

    Yeah, Springs has turned into an absolute beast, Ted.  I got his book and it’s - yeah, it’s worth his releasing.

  19. Clarence George 01:30pm, 05/03/2014

    Excellent as Mayweather is, particularly in terms of defense, he’s manifestly inferior to genuine all-time greats.  Inevitable, really, when you consider the paucity of his ring appearances.  Tonight will mark his 46th fight.  Forty-six in 18 years…an average of 2.5 bouts a year.  Oh be still my beating heart.  Armstrong, on the other hand, defended his welterweight title three times in one month, stopping Bobby Pacho, Lew Feldman, and Davey Day in March 1939.  Mayweather—in terms of ring experience, along with the concomitant toughness and honing of skill—comes up woefully short in comparison to the three I already mentioned, as well as Sugar Ray Robinson, Carmen Basilio, Mickey Walker, Emile Griffith, Kid Gavilan, Jose Napoles, and Luis Rodriguez.

  20. Thresher 12:45pm, 05/03/2014

    Matt, I have spent a long time trying to get my arms wrapped around this historian thing (which clearly I am not unless you count post 1945 being a historian). But I am willing to listen and learn. Springs Toledo has done some stuff on the Black Murderers Row that read like he was at ringside. It knocked my socks off. You are a very able historian as well.

    I am beginning to dabble in some stuff. I think the oldest one I ever did was about Johnny Paycheck but I can’t locate it.


  21. Thresher 12:41pm, 05/03/2014

    Froid, I just got off the floor I laughed so hard

  22. Froid 12:10pm, 05/03/2014


  23. Matt McGrain 12:06pm, 05/03/2014

    Ii think that’s fair Ted.  I think it’s fair enough to say “not sure, can’t see well enough.”  Personally I reckon that there’s just enough footage of these three in particular to make a kind of judgement, a limited judgement - but also personally, I’d only be *confident* of picking Armstrong to beat Mayweather, of these three.
    Anyone see The Ring’s fantasy lightweight tourney this month?

    Interesting read Gordon.

  24. Thresher 11:18am, 05/03/2014

    But CG, aside from reading about them and reviewing blurry footage, can you be that certain? I’m not doubting you, but I only know what I see.

  25. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:39am, 05/03/2014

    More overkill here Gordon….I already dealt with this on the predictions article….both Floyd’s self assessment and Malinaggi’s take away above prove my assertion…he’s a freak….I was wrong on one count though….he’s probably at 1% body fat at weigh in… not 2%.... and this is not his fight…forget Pacquiao, Thurman and Hopkins…his fight is Golovkin which would be a pick’em fight for a change and PPV worthy.

  26. Clarence George 10:33am, 05/03/2014

    There any number of welters far more impressive than Mayweather, including, but not at all limited to, Henry Armstrong, Barney Ross, and Jimmy McLarnin.

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