“Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, Jr. validates the theory of evolution. His father, Floyd, Sr., and his uncles, Jeff and Roger, were talented professional fighters. Roger became a two-time champion in his day and is now in his nephew’s corner, taking the place of Floyd, Sr., who left the corner in 1999 after a fall-out between father and son, teacher and pupil. Sr. and Jr. seem to be reconciled for the moment, but Uncle Roger remains the man in charge. So despite the familial challenges facing Jr., he comes from America’s premiere fighting family and he’s showed every bit of his thoroughbred class. Born and bred to be champion, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, on top of the boxing world.
From the moment Floyd, Jr. was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, there was no question as to what his destiny would be. Boxing was streaming through his blood at an early age and it was only a matter of time before the gloves came on.
“When I was in the crib, I was already throwing punches. Then, as I grew, I started throwing punches at various objects, such as doorknobs. I first put on the gloves when I was seven or eight years old,” he remembered.
As a five-time U.S. national amateur champion and the1996 Olympic bronze medalist, Floyd, Jr. always seemed headed for boxing stardom. Now, at the age of 28, he is undoubtedly the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport and has surely surpassed uncles Roger and Jeff, as well as papa Floyd, as the most talented fighter in the family.
If there were any reservations as to the talent Mayweather, Jr. possesses, then they were silenced forever after his dominating performance against New Jersey’s beloved action hero, Arturo Gatti. In capturing the WBC junior welterweight championship, Mayweather, Jr. made his opponent look like an amateur. Gatti was barely able to get a glove on the elusive Mayweather, Jr., and in return he received a brutal beating that forced his corner to stop the fight at the end of the sixth round. Now you understand the reason for his “Pretty Boy” nickname.
As Floyd, Jr. explained, “I got that name not because of my looks, but because when my fights finished, I never came out cut or bruised. My amateur teammates gave me the name.”
If we think of boxing as an art of graceful precision, then Floyd, Jr. is our most prized artist. Not only are his hands lightning fast, ripping off blazing combinations with an accuracy that reminds us of the great Henry Armstrong, but he moves like a cat, bobbing, weaving, turning, twisting, lunging, and circling. He’s as close to perfection as we have in the sport right now, a throwback to the all-time great boxers, even reminding us of Willie Pep and Sugar Ray Robinson with his smoothness. So if you’ve never had a chance to see this kid fight then tune in to HBO on November 19 when he defends his title against Sharmba Mitchell. He’s the total package of blinding speed, deceptive movement, impeccable timing, and knockout power combined with that exceptional ring intelligence that makes great fighters legendary.
Despite his dominance, Floyd, Jr. has had a few forgettable moments in and out of the ring. His closest fight to date was his first encounter with Jose Luis Castillo, the heavy-handed Mexican who’s fresh off a knockout victory over Diego Corrales. Mayweather, Jr. won a disputed unanimous decision in a fight in which he allowed Castillo to press forward and dictate the pace. Afterward, the always-boisterous Pretty Boy blamed his lackluster performance on a shoulder injury suffered on the eve of the fight.
“My last training day, I hurt my rotator cuff in my left shoulder so I wasn’t able to use my jab like I wanted to,” he said. “My left wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be, but I don’t have no excuses. Other champions, when they get hurt, they don’t even show up to the fight. I get hurt, I keep fighting. You got to realize, I beat this guy with a messed-up arm, my arm is messed up. I don’t ever back off or turn down fights.”
Mayweather, Jr.’s other big test came in May of 2004 against former junior welterweight champion Demarcus Corley. He was determined to show the boxing world that he was not just a “Pretty Boy,” but that he could stand in the trenches and trade heavy punches. The brash game plan came dangerously close to backfiring as Corley staggered Mayweather, Jr. in both the third and fourth rounds. Floyd recovered and went on to dominate the rest of the fight, winning a unanimous decision against the gallant Corley. And so despite some media skepticism as to Mayweather, Jr.’s performance in the first half of that fight, his ploy worked in the sense that we’ve now witnessed what happens when he gets caught with a big punch. He just seems to shake off the cobwebs and raise his game to new heights.
After that fight, he said, “I knew coming up, I had to show my power. He landed some good punches, but I was never hurt at all. I’m in tiptop shape, I feel good. I went to 130 and beat the best, I went to 135 and beat the best. Now I’m going to 140.”
It’s hard not to compare Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to the once pound-for-pound legend, Roy Jones, Jr., who seems to now be drifting into retirement after being knocked out by both Tarver and Johnson, followed by another decision loss to Tarver.
Jones, Jr. had maybe the fastest hands of any fighter, and his unorthodox style of movement and creating angles made him unbeatable for many years. The big question that always followed Jones, Jr. throughout his career though was whether or not he could take a big punch? What’s going to happen when he finally gets caught? Well those questions were finally, unmistakably, answered as he suffered two brutal knockouts. For that reason alone, Floyd, Jr. seems to be a step above Roy, Jr.
Of course Pretty Boy wasn’t hesitant to point out why he deserves the recognition as the best fighter in the world.
“How many different weight classes has Bernard (Hopkins) been to? I could have stayed at 130 all day and milked it. I’ll be a four time world champion in four weight classes. There is no way you can put him on the same level as me. If Roy Jones was pound-for-pound, and a pound-for-pound guy beat Bernard Hopkins, but he got knocked out twice, where does that rank me at? You do the homework. You do the math.”
As he was quick to point out after a TKO victory over Phillip Ndou in 2003, “He was a big puncher, but I have granite for a chin.” That solid chin combined with his remarkable boxing skills is the reason why he’s the quintessential fighter in the world today, and rightly deserves comparison to the all-time great fighters of his division.
To beat “Pretty Boy” Floyd would require landing that devastating punch to slow him down long enough to put him away for good and so far that hasn’t happened. It’s hard to imagine him losing a fight in the future unless he steers off course and gets complacent. The only knock on this phenom is that his considerable ego gets in the way of his brilliant talent, allowing him to coast in fights and beat opponents without displaying his best performance. Floyd himself explained before his fight with Arturo Gatti why we don’t see his best all the time.
“To be honest with you, I normally beat guys with my C-game and I don’t have to pull my A or B game out. When I do pull my A-game out you will see Gatti not even land his punches.”
His immense self-confidence that frequently bubbles over into self-righteousness even manifests itself inside the ring at times such as when he gets bored during a fight and pauses on the ropes to chat with Larry Merchant and Co. Still, this is the best fighter in the world, and as long as he continues to back that up with mesmerizing performances as he showed against Gatti, we’ll have to accept his brazen actions as par for the course.
Those who’ve grown tired of Mayweather, Jr.’s self-directed filibustering and trash-talking of opponents are only going to grow more weary as Pretty Boy isn’t about to quiet down until someone proves to him that there’s a better fighter out there in the world.
“You know me, I’m running my mouth a lot and I’m looking for a guy to shut me up. If you don’t shut me up I’m going to keep running my mouth.”
Now at the top of the junior welterweight division, Mayweather, Jr. will defend his WBC title on November 19 against Sharmba Mitchell, the crafty, yet aging southpaw who seems to be on the descent of his career after suffering his second knockout loss to Kostya Tszyu a year ago. Still, Mitchell’s confident that he can be the guy who can silence Pretty Boy. Uncle Roger wasn’t so impressed with the fact that Mitchell’s a two-time former champion who holds a record of 56 wins and 4 losses.
“The record’s big—records don’t mean nothing,” he said. “Ain’t no doubt who the best fighter in the world is. I’m sure even they know that.”
It’s safe to say that the Mayweather contingent isn’t too concerned with Sharmba Mitchell. But when have they ever been concerned with any fighter? In response to how this fight will play out, Roger Mayweather had an easy and definitive answer.
“Can’t call it the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, because it won’t be on Valentine’s Day.”
Barring an upset of epic proportions, Pretty Boy Floyd will be poised to electrify the boxing world by facing-off against the best out there. That includes the likes of Zab Judah, Rickey Hatton, Miguel Cotto and even a middle-of-the-road matchup against middleweight champion Winky Wright. And let’s not forget the “old-timers,” Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya, if of course the “Golden Boy” decides to step back into the glory. Floyd, Jr. has no doubts about his ability to move up and fight at welterweight.
“My daddy was a welterweight. I’ve got his genes so I know I can carry welterweight. There are guys in the welterweight division that are shorter than me. I’ve got the frame to carry the weight.”
The ultimate greatness of Mayweather, Jr. will be measured by how many great champions he beats. A fighter is only as good as the opposition he faces, meaning that Mayweather, Jr. needs great competition to catapult him into that coveted legendary status. After his superhuman performance against Gatti, you could argue that he maybe the next coming of Sugar Ray Robinson. What’s holding him back though is the fact that he hasn’t been consistently tested with all-star caliber opponents as Robinson was in his era. There’s no telling how bright a star “Pretty Boy” can become because his talent seems limitless. Yet, he holds the key to that glorious future, and only he can throw that key away. With that all said the best boxer in the world still needs help from his fellow pugilists to push him to an even greater heights if he ever hopes to gain such mythical status as that of the original Sugar Ray.