When setting out to write my first piece here on BR, it took a long time to settle on my favorite athlete for the topic. Mainly because Floyd Mayweather Jr. has become such a controversial figure that an article about him is bound to set people so firm on either side of the debate that they are likely to not even read it.
I picture the vast majority of readers seeing the headline and jumping over each other to be the first to comment about how much "gayweather sucks."
To me though, this is about something more serious than senseless message board insults, something I love, the sport of boxing. Because I feel that Mayweather hasn't gotten a fair shake from the boxing fan community, I thought I'd give it a shot at doing them one better.
So, here is my case for why Floyd is the greatest fighter that people my age have had the chance to see and one of the best of all time. Notice I won't be discussing his personality, his family problems, or what he had for breakfast. I don't know the man personally, and I won't pretend to. This is a boxing article, so we are going to be sticking to what happens inside the ring.
Floyd is a pure master of the sweet science. He takes the sport of boxing more seriously than any fighter I have ever watched. Despite all the money and all the flashy out-of-the-ring antics, nobody can claim that they have ever seen the man lose focus on a fight. He trains like an absolute animal.
He has never lost, never been seriously hurt, never been knocked down (other than going to a knee himself after hurting his hand against Carlos Hernandez), and to be honest, I am really struggling to remember a time that he has even suffered a cut.
To some people, his genius becomes a fault. There is some desire to root for that "Rocky Balboa" style of champion. A guy who raises the belt with his face a mess, barely able to stand.
When you see a calm, confident Mayweather after a fight looking like he just went for a light jog, it can in a way diminish his accomplishment. Athletes who make things look easy to often face the risk of fans forgetting that what they are doing isn't easy at all. Nobody wants to root for a supremely talented natural athlete that cruises through his matches without ever hitting a bump in the road.
If you find yourself feeling this way about Mayweather, I strongly encourage you to go back and watch what most people feel to be his toughest fight. In his first bout against Jose Luis Castillo, Floyd, limited by injury, found himself in a dogfight with a much bigger and stronger fighter.
In the 10th round, he took a deduction for pushing off with his elbow, and found himself in a position where he could have easily lost a decision. The 11th started with him taking some low blows and seeming discouraged as he danced and looked for an opening. If Mayweather was only the "pretty boy" that many fans made him out to be, this was a perfect time to quit.
Suddenly though, something strange happened. In the middle of the round Mayweather planted his feet in the center of the ring and let Castillo get in close. After dodging a few shots, Mayweather begins to do the unthinkable, trading punches at close range with the much larger man. As strange as the strategy seemed, the result was even stranger, Castillo started to back up.
In one of the most impressive rounds of Mayweather's career, he fights through hand and shoulder injuries to beat a bigger, harder puncher at his own game. While his unanimous decision victory was disputed by some, his effort and heart were not.
These types of "gut check" moments are few and far between for Mayweather, however, and it can be said that when 100 percent healthy and at a comfortable weight, he's never had a fight that was even close. This leads his detractors to the only possible fault they can still imagine, after all, he can't possibly just be that good.
It must be that he is just fighting the right type of guy, and that if he scheduled different opponents, he would be exposed.
Let's look for a second not at who Floyd hasn't fought (get to that in a minute) but who he has. In Zab Judah, he has beaten a slick boxer who could at times match his speed and skill, but not his focus and determination. In Castillo, De La Hoya, and Baldomir, he has beaten bigger men who tried to bully him.
In Diego Corrales and Ricky Hatton, he has knocked out undefeated world champions who had been through previous wars unscathed, but couldn't last 12 rounds with the Pretty Boy. In his most recent fight, he completely shut out and gave a boxing lesson to Juan Manuel Marquez who, although being smaller, was considered by many to be the sharpest technical fighter in the sport.
There is no specific style of fighter that Floyd has not faced and beaten, so why should we feel that any of the guys he hasn't fought would be any different?
The detractors are grasping at straws with names like Shane Mosely (past his prime, has turned down fights with Mayweather multiple times in the past, and other than a victory over a man caught cheating before the fight, hasn't beat an elite welterweight in many years) and Paul Williams (serious doubts about whether he can even make weight at 147 anymore, and has already been outboxed by a man in Carlos Quintana who is nowhere near Mayweather's skill level).
These men may get their chance in the ring with Floyd after Pacquiao, but you would be hard pressed to find a betting man who would put money on either of them.
The best part about Mayweather is that he may not be even close to done. Still a young man and in his prime, how many fights he has left is completely up to him. If he feels he wants to silence the critics, he may very well beat anybody they can think up before he retires.
He certainly has taken a big step by seeming very eager to get in the ring with Pacquiao. As a fan I personally have to come to the realization that there are always going to be people out there who just don't like him, and even if he were to spend the next couple years going through some type of dream schedule like Pacquiao, Mosely, Cotto, Williams, and Margarito, they will continue to criticize.
Also, as much as I would love to see that, I have to understand that he doesn't owe it to anyone to fight longer than he wants to.
In the mean time, me and the few other fans of true boxing skill that are still left can enjoy watching the guy who does it better than anyone has in a long time, Floyd "Money" Mayweather.