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“Some people hate Floyd Mayweather Jr., and they’ll say anything to prove it.” -- Craig Medaris
For whatever reason, many people in boxing today put a disturbing amount of mental energy into trying to discredit a man who is obviously one of the most gifted fighters -- if not the most gifted fighter -- of this generation.
Mark Malinowski in a June 13 article for RingObserver.com argued that Mayweather was nothing more than a clever cherry picker -- a common criticism of great fighters who play the “cocky villain” role. Just how credible is this claim, and aside from armchair fight acumen and psychological expertise, is there anything in the actual record to support it? Let us look at the situation presented more closely.
According to Malinowski, Mayweather “ducked” Vivian Harris in favor of Henry Bruseless, who is named as a “patsy.” First things first, Bruseless was no chump. He was a solid fighter with only one legitimate loss on his record, and he trained under Evangelista Cotto. His purpose was simple: to allow Mayweather to get a feel for 140 pounds. Mayweather went after the title in his next fight. Who was Harris at the time? He was nobody, until he showed up to a Mayweather press conference touting an undefeated record he had amassed against no one in particular. Harris had just struggled to get past Oktay Urkal. Isn’t it ironic that Harris’ next bout was on the Mayweather-Arturo Gatti undercard? Does that not normally signify a future meeting between two champions? Harris, of course, got sparked by Carlos Maussa. Getting knocked out on the undercard is not a good way to secure a fight with a guy like Mayweather.
Historically, the fight with Gatti has been a hallmark of Mayweather’s alleged cherry picking. People forget that Mayweather made offers to both Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton. They declined and instead fought each other. Gatti was a good steppingstone for a potential unification bout between Mayweather and either Hatton or Harris. Hatton defeated Tszyu to remain undefeated, but afterward, his representatives once again turned down an offer from Mayweather.
Let’s move up to 147 pounds for a moment and examine the Antonio Margarito situation. Margarito was a solid fighter at the time, but aside from demolishing forgotten foes like Sebastian Lujan, Kermit Cintron and Hercules Keyvelos, what did he bring to the table? He was not a particularly big draw with Mexican crowds. He was another Bob Arum fighter, and Arum made the media rounds to build up the idea that Mayweather was afraid of him. All that kept Margarito out of the picture was his reluctance to drop the WBO championship and pursue other big-name fighters instead of feeding on mandatory title challengers. In 2007, when Mayweather moved up another weight class to defeat Oscar De La Hoya, Margarito lost to Paul Williams -- another opponent “Money” supposedly feared. Keep in mind, this happened after Mayweather captured the lineal welterweight championship in a victory over Carlos Baldomir and then took out Zab Judah to fulfill his contractual obligations. Only then did Mayweather meet De La Hoya to set records and claim a piece of the 154-pound crown.
Meanwhile, Margarito followed his loss to Williams by stopping Cintron, Golden Johnson and Miguel Cotto to become a force at welterweight. He then got smoked by Shane Mosley. Another forgotten fact: When Mayweather defeated De La Hoya and revealed plans to return to welterweight, Mosley was his desired opponent. They teased a potential bout with an argument at a Golden Boy Promotions press conference, but Mosley declined the fight and instead chose to face Luis Collazo. Mayweather moved on and fought a man he had allegedly feared for years, the still-undefeated Hatton. He knocked out Hatton in the 10th round and promptly retired. With Mayweather on the sidelines, Mosley, Cotto and Margarito sorted out the welterweight division, as “Sugar Shane” emerged as the main force when some of the dust settled. Mayweather returned to take on Juan Manuel Marquez -- some people still have the nerve to call Marquez a “soft touch -- and then immediately turned his attention to Mosely, whom he defeated on May 1, 2010.
Around this time, people started to clamor about how Mayweather never fought strong young fighters or southpaws. These were his supposed fears. In response, he vanquished Victor Ortiz -- his only loss at the time was to Marcos Maidana -- and then took aim at Cotto, another opponent he is alleged to have ducked. Critics contend that Mayweather waited until Cotto was an “easy” target. There’s one problem with this claim: It could be argued that it was Mayweather’s most difficult fight in years. Under the direction of trainer Pedro Diaz, Cotto had a bloodied Mayweather frustrated in a few rounds, so much so that “Money” repaired his relationship with his father and rehired him as his lead trainer.
That brings us to Manny Pacquiao. The main source of delusion here is the idea that it was Mayweather who initially turned down the fight with “Pac-Man.” This is categorically false, as a quick google search shows that Pacquiao refused the bout because he did not want to adhere to Olympic drug testing. Remember, Arum at the time stated that Pacquiao was afraid of needles. A guy with roughly 20 tattoos is afraid of needles? The next issue for Pacquiao centered on random testing being at odds with his not wanting to have blood drawn the week of the bout. One search will turn up various videos of trainer Freddie Roach suggesting that Pacquiao was “useless” to him after giving blood. Officials later agreed to exclude testing from the week of the bout.
If Malinowski were seated around the Vegas campfires, he would have known that the fight was pretty much a done deal. They had agreed to face one another within two years. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin recently pulled the same stunt, agreeing to fight a year beforehand. The public forgot and accused “Canelo” of cowardice. Mayweather was training, preparing and hiring sparring partners for Pacquiao, even as people were claiming he was too afraid to fight him. I know because I was instrumental in getting one of the fighters at my gym into Mayweather’s camp.
Mayweather and Pacquiao consciously sold tickets for a couple of years. This is perfectly demonstrated in the fight becoming the richest in the history of the sport. The economic timing of it could not have been more perfect, despite the cries of would-be experts and boxing insiders. With that said, it was Pacquiao’s side that almost tanked it, not Mayweather’s. If you think that’s crazy, look at how Pacquiao almost torpedoed his fight with Hatton by asking for $2 million more and then threatening to withdraw a week beforehand. That’s Pacquiao’s negotiating style, so it was only logical that ticket selling and other promotional particulars for the bout were not going to go smoothly. It was during this time that Mayweather fought another young southpaw, Robert Guerrero, and engaged in a two-fight series with Maidana. The Argentine slugger was on a four-fight winning streak at the time and had just beaten Adrien Broner to win the WBA welterweight championship. Regardless of what Maidana said in the press, he gave Mayweather two of his roughest fights in recent memory. “Money,” who does not grant rematches often, fought Maidana in May 2014 and again four months later. He had followed the same route with Jose Luis Castillo, a man many feel defeated Mayweather in their first encounter on April 20, 2002.
Here’s the moral of the story: There’s Mayweather’s career, and there’s how people want to see Mayweather’s career. I have been critical of him at various times and even dared to put Pacquiao ahead of him on the pound-for-pound list when “Pac-Man” was cleaning up at 130 pounds. However, the quality of his career is unquestionable. You can dislike his conservative style and his “Money” persona, but he has been fighting world-class fighters for well over a decade. That he didn’t fight them when critics think he should have or until they had been beaten by someone else was not always in his control. Malinowski insinuates that either Mayweather or promoter Al Haymon is some kind of god who can make people sign contracts expressly when he chooses. Such criticisms are based on little more than press blurbs from jaded would-be opponents who never made the money and the words of Arum. He effectively ruined business relations with bout Mayweather and De La Hoya and has demonstrated an express desire to always come away with the lion’s share of profit, doing so under the threat of simply matching together the fighters he promotes in perpetuity.
As much as Malinowski wants to paint Mayweather’s career as a house of cards, it’s not. His resume compares favorably to any of his contemporaries, including Pacquiao. “Pac-Man” had a habit of fighting opponents Mayweather had already beaten. You don’t make a fighter solely responsible for everyone else’s hang-ups, especially your own.
Luis Monda is currently a full-time boxing trainer at Johnny Tocco’s in Las Vegas, which is the oldest gym in Sin City. Luis has a deep knowledge of combat sports history, and has spent significant time researching lineages in boxing, specifically. He has been involved in the local-fight scene for nearly a decade: first as a potential competitor, then as the manager of Tocco’s, and now as an instructor to boxers, kickboxers and mixed martial arts fighters.
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