There was no doubt about Floyd Mayweather in the beginning. No doubt at all.
The future junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight champion of the world entered the ring with a 10-0 (7 knockouts) record at the El Paso County Coliseum, and to a chorus of boos on Sept. 6. 1997. And that was no surprise. The crowd was predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American — and it had come to watch a serious scrap between champion DanielZaragoza and challenger Erik Morales in the main event.
But it certainly wouldn’t have minded watching one of its own, San Antonio’s Luis Leija, take some luster off a future golden boy.
It took about five seconds for the crowd — and Leija — to realize that Mayweather was on a different plateau. “Pretty Boy” Floyd connected with a dazzling combination that made Leija’s eyes roll, and his head jerk as if on a swivel. It was so brilliantly fast andpowerful that the throng seemed as disoriented as Leija.
And a hush came over the coliseum.
This was a knowledgeable fight crowd, after all. And, collectively, it seemed to realize that it was watching boxing royalty.
Leija somehow lasted into the second round before Mayweather, then a junior lightweight, put him out of his misery.
This weekend, Mayweather will be fighting as a welterweight for the first time in his career, and he will likely not be any less spectacular than he was eight years ago as a prelim fighter. At 28, he is the best fighter, pound for pound, in boxing. Which willresult in a quick, easy destruction of overmatched Sharmba Mitchell.
Through the years, there has only been one Mayweather fight — the controversial decision over Jose LuisCastillo on April 20, 2002 — that can be classified as close.
The others have been nothing short of masterpieces.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., fighter won a piece of the 130-pound title in September 1998, when he made Los Angeles’ Genaro Hernandez quit for the second time in his career. As much as Hernandez tried that night, he was no match for the natural gifts that Mayweather possessed.
Mayweather unleashed all his talent on Hernandez, who had no answer. Genaro finally surrendered in the 7th round, and the WBC junior lightweight championship belonged to Floyd.
Angel Manfredy was expected to give Mayweather hell three months later. Manfredy was on a roll himself, and he entered the ring with a resume that included a victory over Arturo Gatti.
But Manfredy discovered what Hernandez discovered: Mayweather is ridiculously fast. Mayweather pounded Manfredy, and stopped him in round two. Manfredy argued the stoppage, and may have had a point. But it didn’t really matter. Mayweather’s superioritywas obvious.
A few weeks later, Mayweather was crowned 1998’s “Fighter of the Year.”
Mayweather cruised through 1999 and 2000, defending his WBC junior lightweight title against Carlos Rios (W 12), Justin Juuko (KO 9), Carlos Gerena (KO 7), and Goyo Vargas (W 12).
He made the victories over the hardnosed quartet look easy.
Hand injuries, which would be an issue throughout Mayweather’s career, forced him out of the ring for eight months, and he returned with a difficult knockout of Emanuel Augustus in October 2000. It appeared Mayweather had possibly lost a step. He struggled with Augustus, a tough fighter, but one not considered elite.
During Mayweather’s hiatus, Diego Corrales had emerged as his most serious opponent.
Corrales was undefeated, talented, and powerful. And some figured he would destroy Mayweather.
Instead, Mayweather responded with his career-best performance on Jan. 20, 2001. He dropped Corrales five times, utterly dominating the Sacramento, Calif., fighter and stopping him in the 10th round of a brutal mismatch.
Mayweather defeated the underrated Carlos Hernandez (W 12) and Jesus Chavez (KO 9) before jumping up to the lightweight division to face champion Castillo. It’s a fight that is best remembered for its bad decision.
Mayweather controlled the early rounds, but Castillo began to step up his attack in the middle rounds, and Mayweather had to fight to protect his undefeated record.
For the first time in his career, he was pushed. In the end, Pretty Boy won by scores of 116-111, and 115-111 (twice).
Eight months later, Mayweather won easier. He used his speed and quickness to avoid Castillo’s strong rushes. The scores were close again. But, this time, the winner was clear-cut.
Mayweather hasn’t been tested since. He has reeled off victories over Victoriano Sosa (W 12), Phillip N’Dou (KO 7), DeMarcusCorley (W 12), Henry Bruseles (KO 8) and, in his last fight, Gatti (KO 6).
Mayweather was simply awesome in his annexing of the WBC junior welterweight title against Gatti, who was overmatched the second he put his name on the contract. It was reminiscent of his breathtaking display against Leija.
Only Gatti was a two-time world champion. There is no doubt that Mayweather will be a hall-of-famer. But, hopefully, he will fight someone good enough to test him. Or else risk the fate of Roy Jones Jr. — a fighter who avoided elite opposition for most of his career.
When Roy finally met it, it was too late. So here’s to hoping that Mayweather, perhaps the best fighter of our generation, will get rid of Mitchell and move on to more important business. More specifically, Castillo again, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Kostya Tszyu, Ricky Hatton, or Oscar De La Hoya.
Anything less will no doubt be disappointing.