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There is no disputing that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the best boxer of his generation and one of the greatest of all-time to lace up the gloves. Uncanny timing and Houdini-like defense inside the squared circle have carried him to a 49-0 record and allowed him to make a number of hall of famers look like bumbling fools.
However, that is where one of the sports great myths was birthed.
The mainstream sports media -- and quite a few guilty parties who cover boxing full-time -- has latched on to the idea that Mayweather will have broken one of boxing’s most hallowed records if he beats reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Conor McGregor on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Should Mayweather prevail, he will have eclipsed former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s career mark of 49-0. Therein lies the problem. If you read what the so-called experts write or listen to what they have to say, you’d be duped into believing Mayweather can make history against McGregor. Nothing could be further from the truth: 49-0 is not an all-time record in boxing and hasn’t been for more than a century.
Chicago’s Jimmy Barry was the first great boxer in recorded history. The former bantamweight champion never lost inside the ring. Granted, those were the days when prizefighters did not wear gloves, but “The Little Tiger” retired with a 59-0-9 record and 39 knockouts. Barry was the first man in history to retire as an undefeated champion, even though those claims have been debated by historians for decades.
If you’re looking for an example from this century, you need to look no further than Mexican great Ricardo Lopez. Arguably the finest fighter to ever emerge from that boxing-rich country, “El Finito” enjoyed a remarkable career and packed quite a punch for someone so diminutive in stature. After capturing world titles at minimumweight/strawweight and junior flyweight, Lopez walked away from the sport with a 51-0-1 record and 38 knockouts.
For those who want to argue that their resumes, unlike Marciano’s, were marred by draws, there are others at which to point. In keeping with the Mexico theme, let’s examine Julio Cesar Chavez. He smashed Marciano’s mark and never looked back until his incredible career was finally starting to wind down. By the time Chavez fought to a draw with Pernell Whitaker in 1993, “El Leon de Culiacan” had already compiled a staggering 87-0 record. Yes, he fought his share of questionable opponents, but Chavez also tore apart many of his elite contemporaries when called upon to do so.
What Marciano accomplished inside the ropes -- and what Mayweather has done to match him -- is indisputably impressive. Pro boxers fighting at the highest level do not amass 49-0 records by accident. However, to suggest that Mayweather is “going to break Marciano’s record” is disingenuous. The true unbeaten record belongs to Chavez, so if the so-called experts continue to hype Mayweather eclipsing this record, remember, he still has 39 wins to go.
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