How does Floyd Mayweather Jr. stack up against the all-time greats? | Photo: Idris Erba/Mayweather Promotions
Floyd Mayweather Jr. made an appearance on ESPN Deportes and was asked to rank his top five boxers of all-time. His list is as follows:
• Floyd Mayweather
• Roberto Duran
• Pernell Whitaker
• Julio Cesar Chavez
• Muhammad Ali
Honestly, nobody should have an issue with Mayweather placing himself on top of his fictional pound-for-pound list. Why wouldn’t he? He doesn’t call himself “TBE” or “The Best Ever” because he doesn’t believe it. If Mayweather doesn’t call himself that, why would anybody else? His credentials certainly are all-time worthy as they stand. The fact that he is 48-0 over the course of a 19-year career is remarkable, no matter how many ways you slice it. Obviously, his place among the all-time greats will likely rise among skeptics after he retires because people do not fully appreciate anything until it is long gone. However, Mayweather’s rationale for why he tops the list is questionable.
“He’s beaten more champions than any other fighter right here,” Mayweather said. “He’s done it in a shorter period of time than any other fighter up here, and he’s done it in less fights than any other fighter up here. Record-breaking numbers all around the board: pay-per-view, live gate, landed punches on the highest percentage and took less punishment.”
So pay per view is one of the criteria for being an all-time great? I digress.
More important than seeing Mayweather on top of the list is an egregious omission and a substandard ranking for the man who has been recognized as “The Greatest.” The absence of Sugar Ray Robinson raises eyebrows for any die-hard boxing fan. The original “Sugar” is on top of the pound-for-pound list for most boxing pundits: Robinson capped off a remarkable 25-year career with a record of 173-19-6, with two no-contests and 108 wins coming by way of knockout. He started his career with a record of 128-1-2. That is downright ridiculous, and it is almost incredulous to believe that someone like Mayweather would deny Robinson placement on his list. However, Whitaker belongs? As great a defensive fighter as he was, Whitaker certainly is not in the same league as Robinson. Whitaker ended his career with a 40-4-1 record and is remembered for his draw with Chavez -- a bout many people thought should have been a victory for “Sweet Pea.” An early blemish against unheralded Jose Luis Ramirez hurts his standing, too, along with the way he closed his career, with losses to Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Carlos Bojorquez. Maybe it is because Whitaker beat Mayweather’s uncle and longtime trainer, Roger Mayweather, back in 1987 that “Sweet Pea” lands on the list.
Seeing Ali at No. 5 on Mayweather’s pound-for-pound list, behind Whitaker, Duran, Chavez and, of course, Mayweather himself, sent social media in a frenzy. This isn’t the first time Mayweather has belittled Ali. Before his fight with Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, “No one can ever brainwash me to make me believe that Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali was better than me.” He cited Ali’s loss to Leon Spinks, who only had seven fights at the time, as one of his reasons why Ali was ranked below the likes of Duran and Whitaker. The other reason was because Ali only fought in one weight class, as if that was Ali’s fault. What was Ali supposed to do, lose weight?
Mayweather suggested that Ali’s status as “The Greatest” has less to do with his boxing career and more to do with what Ali did as an activist, and, you know, he’s not entirely wrong about that. Ali’s decision to put his lucrative boxing career in jeopardy for what he believed in is something that will always be admired by people across the globe. Does it give him a boost in the rankings? Sure it does, so maybe being No. 5 isn’t so bad after all.
However, even if Mayweather doesn’t believe that Ali is a better fighter than him, surely he should see that Ali is better than Whitaker. Aside from being a world heavyweight champion who engaged in memorable wars and aside from being an athlete that transcended the sport, Ali’s ring prowess was extraordinary. We’ll never know how great Ali would have been if he had not lost three and a half years of his prime, ages 25-28, while being suspended for his beliefs. However, we saw how Ali changed his game to outsmart opponents who had a physical advantage over him, i.e. George Foreman.
Who knows why Mayweather chooses to play Ali to the left. Maybe there is some deep-seeded jealously that Mayweather has for Ali because he will never measure up to the man Ali was outside of the ring. He’s too “Money”-oriented and self-centered for that. Whether it is envy or sheer delusion, the fact of the matter is this: Whitaker’s career will never match Ali’s or Robinson’s, and in the eyes of many, Mayweather will never, ever be greater than Ali.
Andreas Hale is a content producer for Jay Z's LifeandTimes.com and editor-in-chief of PremierWuzHere.com, as well as a frequent Sherdog.com columnist. Check out his archive here.
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