In a recent article in the International Business Times (12/24/14), former six-division title-holder Oscar De La Hoya stated who he'd favor between Floyd Mayweather 47-0 (26) and Philippine sensation Manny Pacquiao 57-5-2 (38). De La Hoya isn't exactly someone who I'd consider an objective observer, but what gives him credibility over most others is, Oscar fought Mayweather in 2007 and Pacquiao in 2008. At the time when he fought both, Oscar was an empty package and a shot fighter. He lost to both but competed with Mayweather on almost even terms, but not so much so against Pacquiao. This is something that had more to do with styles than it was/is a barometer as to who would win between Floyd and Manny.
In regards to how a confrontation between Mayweather and Pacquiao would unfold, Oscar said, “Mayweather has an edge now over Manny just because of the fact that Pacquiao's skills have declined because of the numerous intense battles that he had fought.” I think he is pretty much on point with this assertion.
However, De La Hoya also said that, “Even though (I) favor Mayweather to win, (I) believe that the world will remember Pacquiao more than Mayweather…Pacquiao will earn more respect than Mayweather.”
“There is no doubt about that,” De La Hoya continued. “With Manny Pacquiao they are going to say 'wow, he fought all these guys, fought tough battles and gave us all these fights.'
“Who has the better legacy, Pacquiao or Mayweather?” Oscar said, in closing.
Which is not only a great question, it's a revealing question and it's not at all difficult to answer. Pacquiao clearly has the better legacy, and it isn't so much that he's won a world title in eight different weight divisions, it's more based on how he's never avoided a tough opponent and fought and defeated some legitimate all-time greats while they were at or near the top of their game. The fight not happening between Mayweather and Pacquiao is so far past its due date that even Mayweather's biggest media defenders and supporters have recently said if Floyd doesn't fight Pacquiao, that's what he'll be most remembered for, not going undefeated.
Since former heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano retired undefeated 49-0 in 1955, some of the greatest of the greats have come along and compiled some of boxing's most historic and iconic legacies. Fighters the likes of Emile Griffith, Luis Rodriguez, Sonny Liston, Bob Foster, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Carlos Monzon, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Alexis Arguello, Sugar Ray Leonard, Aaron Pryor, Salvador Sanchez, Michael Spinks, Thomas Hearns, Julio Cesar Chavez, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins. And it’s interesting that if you put all of their careers under a microscope, they have one thing in common….and that's aside from Marciano, not one of them retired undefeated and nobody even cares about that because it's meaningless.
Ask yourself this, how many fight aficionados do you know and respect rank Marciano as the greatest heavyweight in history? If you take it a step further, how many do you know who would pick Rocky to beat Liston, who lost four times, Ali, who lost five times, Frazier, who lost four times, Foreman, who lost five times, Holmes, who lost six times or Lewis, who lost twice? Being undefeated really isn't such a big deal and in Marciano's defense, perhaps he may have been the greatest. The problem is, the only great fighters who were around during his era were all way past their prime and because of that many dismiss him being undefeated. But what separates him from Mayweather is this– Marciano certainly didn't avoid anybody who was a threat to beat him like we all know Mayweather has.
If being undefeated means so much in sports, how come most NFL historians don't consider the 1972 Miami Dolphins (17-0) the greatest team in NFL history? They are the only NFL team in history to finish a season unbeaten and un-tied and win the championship. The 1972 Dolphins have a record no other NFL team can boast, whereas there have been more than a handful of fighters who won a world championship and retired unbeaten. The reason most NFL experts don't rank the 1972 Dolphins as the greatest NFL team ever, rightly or wrongly, is because they only played two teams during the regular season that finished with a winning record. But that wasn't their fault, they didn't make their schedule. However, unlike the NFL or college football, boxers, when they become superstars, can actually pick and choose who they want to fight. In essence, some fighters can make their own schedules.
If being undefeated is the be all end all, why are the Florida State Seminoles (13-0) ranked third in the country going into their semifinal playoff Rose Bowl game against #2 Oregon (12-1) on New Year's day? Think about it, Florida State is unbeaten in their last 29 games and hasn't lost since 11/24/12. They're the defending national champions and their quarterback has never lost as a starter. Yet they're ranked behind #1 Alabama (12-1) and # 2 Oregon (12-1) because the members of the championship committee believe the Seminoles played a soft schedule……and had too many close calls where they almost lost to Notre Dame (7-5), Miami (6-7), and Boston College (7-6). But is that Florida States’ fault? Their schedule was made three or four months in advance. They couldn't pick or chose who they wanted to play.
The point is, regardless of the sport, you are who you fought or played. Had Alabama or Oregon played FSU's schedule, the thought of the committee is they probably would've gone undefeated too like Florida State. Had the 1978 Steelers played the same schedule as the 1972 Dolphins, most NFL historians believe they also would've gone undefeated. Had Sonny Liston or Muhammad Ali fought all 49 of Marciano's opponents on the night Rocky fought them, the odds are overwhelming that Sonny and Muhammad would have also gone 49-0.
If Emile Griffith, Luis Rodriguez, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns fought every opponent Mayweather did on the night he fought them, they'd have reached 47-0 too. But on the flip side, had Mayweather fought every opponent that Griffith, Rodriguez, Leonard and Hearns did on the night they fought them, Floyd most likely would've lost more times than the before-mentioned did. And he would've come out of it a much better fighter than he is today, undefeated.
Every all-time great listed above had a career rival who they fought, and in many cases more than once. Floyd Mayweather can't say that. He's only fought two rematches in his career, and that was because his victories over Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana were seen as controversial in some circles after their first meeting. And that's what hyped the rematch. It wasn't as if the boxing world was on edge waiting for Mayweather-Castillo or Mayweather-Maidana to happen.
Floyd has been a professional boxer since 1996, he was blessed with a hall-of-fame skill set that he cultivated and nurtured into a remarkable career. Boxing fans have deemed Manny Pacquiao as his most worthy challenger and that's the only fight they care about regarding his participation. Many understand that Mayweather briefly retired to avoid fighting Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams when they were at their peak as well as possessing a fighting style that would've troubled him. Also, both Margarito and Williams lobbied to fight Floyd, but once he retired they willingly fought each other. Well, that's water under the bridge now. All that's left is for Mayweather to fight Pacquiao, and finally, after almost 19 years as a pro, give the fans what they really want.
Mayweather can run his record to 60-0 and retire, it won't matter. If he doesn't face Pacquiao before he hangs up his gloves, that is what he'll be most remembered for. And not fighting Pacquiao will be his everlasting legacy. And it is getting to the point now to where those in his inner circle have admitted that to some in the media, such as ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.
If Floyd Mayweather doesn't fight Manny Pacquiao, his name may still one day be lumped with the above icons, but it will be indisputable that his legacy will be the most hollow of the group. And for that reason, Mayweather is I think closer to clashing with the declining Pacquiao because he has to, not because he wants to.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com