Not just with boxing but in all sports fans love to compare today’s athletes with the athletes from era’s of the past. We often hear questions asked about how would, the current best boxer on the planet, Floyd Mayweather do if he fought in the same era as such greats: Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, and Thomas Hearns. Another name that often gets brought up in the conversation when comparing skills, accomplishments, and greatness, although he fought in a different weight class than Mayweather, is three time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.
How does Floyd Mayweather stack up against some of the greatest fighters of all time in terms of skills, accomplishments, and level of opposition?
Well, even the strongest critics of Mayweather acknowledge his exceptional boxing skills and in terms of accomplishments, winning nine world titles in five different weight classes stacks up with the best of them when it comes to resumes. But, the one area where many fans and boxing aficionados question and criticize is his level of opposition. Let’s take a look at that for a minute. In a seventeen year career Mayweather has a record of 22-0 (10 KOs) in world title fights and of those 22 victories 20 were against former or current world champions. Many on that list are or will be future Hall of Famers. Also of his nine world titles four were against lineal champions, so a fair argument could be made that Floyd has beaten the best available competition at the time.
A lot of people like to say that he fought great fighters like De La Hoya, Mosley, and Cotto when they were past their primes, but those fighters were considered the best or among the best in their divisions at the time and were all coming off of great victories. Mayweather himself was well into his thirties when he fought each man, so when did Mayweather’s prime begin and end? We’ve heard people say that fighters like Fernando Vargas and Miguel Cotto were out of the primes when they were under the age of thirty because of the punishment that they took early on in their careers. Should Mayweather be penalized because he hasn’t taken the same punishment?
Another thing to consider is: Let’s take a look at Mayweather at the age of thirty six compared to the great fighters when they were in their mid thirties. This was a time when fighters such as: Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, and Thomas Hearns were said to have slowed down considerably and were no longer as effective as they were in their mid to late twenties. At thirty six Mayweather has yet to show us any evidence of slowing down and still remains undefeated while the aforementioned fighters were not.
Lastly, let’s take a look at Mayweather’s mental approach to the sport of boxing. We’ve often heard some of the great fighters say that they may not have trained properly for a certain opponent or that mentally they just weren’t motivated and fought down to the level of their opposition. At other times we’ve heard some of them say that they weren’t in the best of shape because they didn’t put out their best effort in the gym to get in proper physical condition. I remember Sugar Ray Leonard said that in his first fight with Roberto Duran he allowed Duran to get in his head mentally and that he ended up slugging it out with Duran and fought the wrong fight because of it. None of these things have ever been the case with Mayweather thus far in his seventeen year career. He has never allowed anyone to get in his head nor has he ever taken any opponent lightly or ever been out of shape for any fight.
Mayweather remains to be highly motivated and supremely conditioned despite his current status and the record breaking amount of money that he has made. He appears to be unflappable in the ring and always fights intelligently regardless of the situation or opponent. Arguably he is the best defensive fighter of all time and may be the most intelligent as well.
Boxing is such a subjective sport and everyone has different criteria for determining the level of greatness of a fighter, so with all things considered should Floyd Mayweather be considered the best boxer ever? Well, at the very least he deserves to be in the conversation.