What's More Important to Floyd Mayweather: His Legacy or His Bank Account?

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2013

Mayweather makes good fighters look ordinary.
Mayweather makes good fighters look ordinary.Al Bello/Getty Images

In sports—not just boxing—there are few more polarizing figures than Floyd Mayweather Jr. 

His talents and accomplishments in the boxing ring are undeniable. But his flashy—some say arrogant—style outside of it rubs many people the wrong way. And that's why, when it comes to Floyd Mayweather, you either love him or you love to hate him.

In 17 years as a pro he has amassed a fortune in the tens of millions, has established himself as the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound and demonstrated a dedication to his craft that is unmatched.

As he would gladly tell you himself, 44 men have walked into the ring confident they had the stuff to silence him, and all have walked out humbled and defeated.

But like most greats in sports, he has his detractors, and many of them are vocal in their contention that his resume is full of managed risks intended to make him the most money with the least challenge. His legacy inside the ring, then, is viewed to be less impressive than his bank account.

They point to the fact that the three biggest names on his resume—Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya—were past their best when they faced him. And that Juan Manuel Marquez was forced to jump two weight divisions for a fight that probably never should've taken place.

Of course, all of these contentions are hindsight. Cotto, Mosley and De La Hoya were all viewed as legitimate threats to Mayweather when the fights were signed. 

All are future Hall of Fame fighters who won dozens of world titles in several different weight classes between them. You can quibble about the timing of each bout but those are legacy-building wins.

Sure, he was well compensated for all of them, but if it was all about the money he could've found easier ways to make it. Not by taking on three men, all of whom entered the fight with the pedigree and legacies of their own to be considered threats.

Of the three, only Shane Mosley got thoroughly outclassed, and he was the one picked by many in the boxing media to have the best chance of an upset. Coming into the fight, he had just knocked out Antonio Margarito and Ricardo Mayorga back-to-back, and before that he went life and death in losing a decision to Miguel Cotto.

That highlights one of the essential issues many people seem to have in evaluating both Floyd Mayweather's career and his eventual legacy. He makes fights look so easy, even against elite opposition, that he doesn't get his due credit. 

Is Floyd that good? Or is his opposition that bad? Or are they that past their best?

You need look no further than his most recent fight for clear-cut evidence of this at work. 

Going into the bout, dozens of articles were written and interviews given about how tough, rugged and difficult Robert Guerrero would be stylistically for Floyd Mayweather. Some even went all-in and predicted that the time could be right for a huge upset.

All that went out the window after 36 minutes of boxing brilliance ended with another lopsided unanimous-decision victory. Then Guerrero suddenly went from dangerous to plodding, one-dimensional, slow and out of his league.

This is the same fighter who won multiple world titles in multiple weight classes—a world-class fighter who on most nights can give virtually anyone not named Mayweather a run for their money.

These are fights that most other fighters would get credit for accepting, but when you're the biggest name in the sport, suddenly nothing is enough. 

Floyd Mayweather will make his money no matter what he does at this point. He's faced many stiff challenges in his career, which would lead many to conclude that legacy is very important to him, and he has the opportunity to have many more. 

Earlier this year, he signed a six-fight deal with Showtime, rumored to be one of the richest in the history of sport, and his financial future is now secure. That's if it wasn't already.

Robert Guerrero was just the first bout of that deal. He has five more and lots of money guaranteed to be coming his way. He could fight a tin can every three months for the next two and a half years, and he'd still make the exact same amount of money.

So that's what it comes down to—the ultimate answer to this question will play out over the next several months. 

Does Floyd Mayweather Jr. care more about his legacy or about his bank account? Right now one is secured and the other—at least in the eyes of some—is not.

There are many legitimate challenges out there that fans would give him credit for seeking out.

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is young, undefeated and possesses the physical strength many believe could be Mayweather's undoing.

Sergio Martinez, despite looking unimpressive his last fight, is the recognized middleweight champion.

A jump to 160 pounds could potentially mean a world title in a sixth weight class, and in one of the sport's glamour divisions at that. It would also give Floyd that little intangible, that legacy moment that some feel he doesn't have.

And does anyone think, given their performances in each of their last fights, that Mayweather couldn't beat Martinez?

Even Manny Pacquiao would still draw a ton of interest and help to settle what for many is the ultimate blemish on both fighters' resumes. 

These are the type of fights that would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that legacy is the No. 1 motivation. All three of these fighters provide legitimate challenge and legitimate risk. 

On the flip side, there are fights out there that would indicate the opposite, that it isn't about legacy but just finding the easiest path to the money.

Guys like Devon Alexander, Kell Brook and even to a certain extent Amir Khan and Adrien Broner have been mentioned as possible foes to fill out the six-fight contract with Showtime.

Alexander is a good, solid, technical boxer, but he provides little to no threat. Brook is hardly known in the United States, and both Khan and Broner have a ton of work to do to be even considered seriously.

So for Floyd Mayweather right now, there are two clear and distinct paths he can go down. One leads to once and for all, beyond a shadow of a doubt, securing his legacy and silencing the naysayers. 

The other will only fuel the debate further.

Lucky for us, we won't have long to wait.