If Floyd Mayweather stays true to his word and hangs up his gloves at the end of his current Showtime contract next September, he’ll enter the Hall of Fame rankings having been in the ring a sum total of 49 times during his professional career.
Only three fights stand between the pound-for-pound king and equalling Rocky Marciano’s long-standing record of 49-0. The first, a rematch against Marcos Maidana which will take place tomorrow night at his favourite haunt of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, is arguably one of the most important nights of his career to date.
Mayweather v Maidana
An intense first bout against the Argentine took many by surprise with regards to its close nature, and once again the naysayers, of which there are many, who are baying to see Mayweather fall find themselves out in force predicting that Maidana will be the man to finally put a 1 in the loss column on his C.V.
Regardless of how he fares tomorrow night though, and indeed in the two bouts to follow, Mayweather has already cemented his legacy as arguably the greatest boxer of all time.
To say he is the greatest ‘fighter’ is wrong; he isn’t.
Individuals who routinely engage in wars in the ring and can best their opponents in bloody duels more often than not can be left to compete for that crown, but when it comes to the breakdown of boxing in its purist form, Mayweather remains untouchable.
The greatest ever?
45 fighters to date have tried and failed to batter down ‘Pretty Boy’s’ impregnable defence - he’s fought Jose Luis Castillo twice - and not one of them have so much as managed to put him to the canvas. 45 fighters of different heights, weights, styles and backgrounds have gone toe to toe with Mayweather only to have their flaws worked out and then very quickly exploited.
For their shortcomings have served only to further Mayweather’s brilliance, and highlight the primary reason why he’ll be remembered in the same thought trail as the likes of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard; his ability to adapt and conquer within the space of 12 three minute rounds.
Opponents varying from the tactically astute Oscar De La Hoya to the bullish Ricky Hatton and the plucky Saul Alvarez have tested Mayweather’s ability to change his system midway through a fight, and it hasn’t failed him yet.
His power may not be able to smash rivals to the floor and his fights rarely promise a slugfest, but it’s Mayweather’s unparalleled skill when it comes to taking away the weapons being used against him that separate him from the other greats of his era.
The flashy character
His self-belief has been enhanced to the point of blurring the lines between confidence and arrogance by his stellar career, and it’s cost him plenty of fans that might otherwise have eventually been Mayweather converts. They instead join the side that believe the unbeaten champion will never truly have proved himself until the day he bests arch-nemesis Manny Pacquiao.
I say forget all that. Though the tantalising prospect of a Mayweather vs Pacquiao super-fight probably won’t ever get beyond the stages of a pipe dream nothing can be taken away from the former’s achievements inside the ring, nor his methods when it comes to engineering the downfall of any fighter put in a ring with him.
At 37 it makes perfect sense for Mayweather to retire when his current deal ends, regardless of whether he can draw level with the fabled Marciano or not. The old heavyweight has long been adored and lauded in equal measures for his feats within the squared circle, but even he can’t boast to have beaten the same pedigree of opponents that Mayweather can.
The undoubted legacy
Floyd takes to the ring tomorrow night with the weight of the world on his shoulders and the chances are he’ll serve up yet another critic-defying performance to edge one-step closer to retiring without a single blemish on his record.
He’ll never be the most loved sportsman of all-time, nor the one underdogs draw belief from when they’re looking for some sort of courageous inspiration. Taking absolutely nothing away from a master of his art though, Mayweather might just be the best boxer to have ever donned a pair of gloves.
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