When Muhammad Ali fought Jerry Quarry in his comeback bout in October of 1970, it was a scheduled 15 round bout because Ali, who was exiled from boxing 43 months earlier for refusing Military induction, left as the undisputed heavyweight champion. The fact that Ali hadn't fought once in 43 months didn't prevent him from fighting a top three contender in a scheduled bout for the championship distance at the time even though he wasn’t the champ.
In April of 1987, former welterweight and junior middleweight champ Sugar Ray Leonard, who never fought one time as a middleweight, challenged undisputed middleweight champion Marvin Hagler for the WBC middleweight title. Leonard had only fought once in five years at that time and hadn't fought in 35 months going into the Hagler bout. Yet he leapfrogged all of the top middleweight contenders in the division who were in-line to challenge Hagler.
Twenty five years after Ali's return against Quarry, Mike Tyson, who like Ali and Leonard – was the biggest star and draw in professional boxing, made a comeback after being convicted of rape in 1992. After not fighting for 50 months, Tyson fought a stiff named Peter McNeeley, who hadn't defeated one ranked fighter in his career, and who was suddenly the ninth ranked contender by one of the alphabet organizations.
When stars are involved all the rules go out the window and any fight can be made if the star really wants it. Nothing is off the table. In 1970, Ali needed a big name opponent to stir the pot for his impending first bout with heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, which to this day is still the most anticipated sporting event in history. Therefore Ali didn't have to work his way up through the ranks and was slotted to fight Quarry, who was a top contender. When Leonard came back to fight Hagler, it was the biggest fight in boxing that could be made at the time. Like Frazier-Ali I, Hagler-Leonard was five years in the making when it finally happened. When Tyson made his ring return in 1995, Lennox Lewis was nursing his bruised confidence after getting stopped by Oliver McCall and losing his title. Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and Michael Moorer were passing the title back and forth. The heavyweight division needed Tyson to inject interest into it again, and a year and a half after his return Tyson and Holyfield staged the biggest grossing fight in boxing history at the time.
The point is, stars and money control sports, especially professional boxing. Nothing ever gets in the way of making money. Today, Floyd Mayweather is the biggest star and draw in combat sports. That's a certified fact. When I read or am told that Mayweather-Golovkin can't happen because Floyd fights for Showtime and Golovkin fights for HBO, I think it's hysterical. If memory serves me correctly, Bernard Hopkins was a Showtime fighter and Sergey Kovalev is an HBO fighter, yet they're scheduled to fight this coming November. Who'd a thunk it?
Fighters have crossed networks to fight in the past when the money and demand for the fight was off the chart – I submit Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson. And don't say, “Well, it was because of that and so and so did this and someone else compromised on that.” It doesn't matter, the fight was made. Bob Arum and Don King have co-promoted many big fights and cards in the past when the money at stake was in their best interest. Right now Floyd Mayweather is the main man in boxing. He can fight whomever he wants to fight. It doesn't matter what network the other guy fights on or who he is managed and promoted by. If Floyd wants the fight and the public is willing to buy it in record numbers, like a fight with Golovkin or Pacquiao would represent, you better believe it could be made.
Can anyone imagine Mayweather holding a press conference and stating that he wants to derail the Golovkin hype and the fight not happening? Does anyone living in the real world actually think to themselves, no, that can't happen because Mayweather fights for Showtime and Golovkin fights for HBO? What a joke it would be to believe something like that would hold up the fight. Something that could be worked out in a day and it would prevent the fight from happening if that's what Floyd wanted? Yeah right.
I find it confounding that some fans and media don't grasp the concept that Floyd Mayweather can fight anyone he wants, on any channel he wants. I keep hearing, “Well, he's a Showtime fighter, and the other guy is with HBO,” or “Promoter A won't work with Promoter B,” etc. If Floyd Mayweather wanted to fight Sugar Ray Robinson for the welterweight title tomorrow, somebody would dig Ray up, and one of the sanctioning bodies would give the winner a belt.
There's nothing keeping Mayweather from challenging Golovkin other than himself. Yes, Golovkin is the bigger fighter, but that's the whole intrigue of the fight. Can Mayweather beat a surging monster slightly bigger than him at a time when the monster looks unstoppable? No, I don't believe the fight will happen because Mayweather a) doesn't feel he can beat Golovkin without a gimmick and b) the public won't demand it because they wrongly buy the platitudes that Floyd spouts.
If Mayweather wanted to really step out of the box, he'd challenge Golovkin like Duran challenged Hagler, or Sugar Ray Robinson challenged Joey Maxim or Billy Conn who spotted Joe Louis 30 pounds and challenged him. Then again Floyd has ducked and dodged fighting a guy who actually was the lineal flyweight champion at one time. There's no way in the world he’ll step out of his comfort zone.
Again, I don't believe Mayweather will ever fight Golovkin because he doesn't think he can win nor does he think he has anything to prove. However, some fans do believe he hasn't proven himself to be an all-time great. A great fighter, absolutely, but not one of the greatest of the greats or the “TBE.” Challenging and beating a beast like Golovkin would quiet his many critics. In fact challenging and competing with him would go a long way, it's not like he'd even have to win because everyone understands that like Ray Leonard was against Hagler, Floyd would be an underdog.
The point is, Floyd Mayweather can fight anyone he wants to. Nothing could derail that as long as he's the driving force behind it, certainly not a promoter or television network. Mayweather is as he says, “the Money” that drives the sport and nothing gets in the way of that when the chairman of the board wants something. Mayweather represents the biggest payday for anybody he fights, and all involved in the combat and business side of boxing would capitulate to him.
If Floyd wants to fight Manny Pacquiao or Gennady Golovkin, nothing could prevent it from happening aside from his own reluctance. If he truly wanted to shut everyone up, he'd be looking to fight Golovkin, who enters the ring weighing less than recent Mayweather opponent Canelo Alvarez does when he fights. And if he did and lost to Golovkin, he wouldn't get killed for losing. But if he won, what a case he'd have for putting on a hat after the fight that had “OOTBE” (One Of The Best Ever) scripted across the front of it.
Floyd Mayweather can make a fight with anybody he wants to. All he has to do is want to.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com