Fighting McGregor – Has any fighter’s road to boxing immortality been easier or come with more surefire wins than Floyd Mayweather’s? Floyd just turned 40 years old. He is officially retired but there can be no doubt that he will be seen in a boxing ring sometime this year, against a man who is an elite combat sport participant but has never once fought as a professional boxer. The money is too good for Conor McGregor and Mayweather to pass it up and the challenge for Mayweather is too easy for Mayweather to decline.
Depending on your age and when you started following boxing, your opinion varies on what you think of Floyd as a fighter. If you were born after say 1982, you most likely started following boxing around 1997, a year after Mayweather made his pro debut. And by the time you were in your mid-twenties, Mayweather was one of the most elite fighters in boxing. Since beating a shopworn and rusty Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have been the two biggest box office draws in boxing, with Mayweather eventually eclipsing Pacquiao. Today Mayweather is undefeated (49-0, 25 KOs) and arguing his place among the all-time pound for pound greats with fans that never saw the greats circa 1967-2007, is like arguing politics. In other words it’s a waste of time because the opinions are so far apart.
Instead of going there I’ll just say if Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns fought every opponent Mayweather did on the night that he fought them – all three would be 49-0 with more than 25 knockouts. Just as if Sonny Liston fought every opponent Rocky Marciano did on the night Rocky fought them – Sonny would also be 49-0 with one or two more than the 43 knockouts Marciano recorded.
Most fans who have been around and have seen the greats circa 1967-2007 see Mayweather as a fighter whose undefeated record is due more to brilliant management and matchmaking than to his ability as a fighter. More succinctly put, Mayweather picked his spots. I can name past greats between 1967-2007 who were faster and smarter and more skilled than Mayweather, and if you were around then and saw them – you already know their names. However, if you’re 35 years old or younger, there’s nothing anyone can say that’ll convince you there was one, let alone a dozen, fighters greater than Floyd who were active between 1967 and 2007.
Early in Mayweather’s career, going back to when he was a prospect, he challenged himself more as a fighter. However, the more he learned about marketing and the more established he became, the less he challenged himself and the more confident he became about promoting himself as an all-timer. Floyd grasped somewhere around 2005 or 2006 that, as long as he could remain undefeated and played the bad guy character, the more the interest there would be in seeing him fight and hopefully lose. Since barely beating De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather has fought 11 times, but only three opponents – Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, and Canelo Alvarez — went into the ring with slightly more than a snowball’s chance.
Mosley was coming off a significant layoff and the fight in 2010 was five or six years past when beating Shane was a herculean feat. Eight years earlier, Vernon Forrest beat a prime Mosley much more convincingly than Floyd did and at the same weight, yet Forrest never got the accolades for beating him the way Mayweather did. When Floyd fought Cotto, Miguel had only lost twice, but was thrashed by Antonio Margarito, who may have been aided by loaded gloves and by Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao stopped Cotto and beat him beyond recognition and there were crickets after the fight. Three years later Cotto gives Mayweather one of the tougher bouts of his career en route to losing a decision – and the Mayweather fans were screaming…”See, he beat Cotto!” And in another genius move, Mayweather fought undefeated Canelo Alvarez when Canelo was still on the way up, before he really blossomed. Not to mention that the style contrast suited Floyd perfectly. In between those bouts he picked his opponents carefully, yes, including Marcos Maidana, who made his name beating Mayweather wannabe Adrien Broner.
Finally, after a six year build-up and conning many fans into believing that he feared a fighter who weighed 106 pounds in his pro-debut, Mayweather agreed to fight Manny Pacquiao in the biggest grossing fight ever. Yes, Pacquiao was an eight division champ, but he picked his opponents and mastered catchweight bouts almost as great as the father of them, Floyd Mayweather. Floyd understood that Manny was like shooting fish in barrel for him stylistically. If you doubt that, read my pre-fight piece the day of the bout May 2nd, 2015.
Many of Floyd’s bouts were against fighters that had 0% chance to be competitive with him and McGregor is the icing on the cake. Yes, in a boxing ring, McGregor has as much chance of beating Mayweather as Floyd would have to beat Conor in a cage, and it may even be less because Mayweather, being such an accurate striker, could get lucky and stop McGregor wearing 4-ounce gloves. But that’s not the point. The point is that Mayweather is playing both boxing fans and MMA fans in this one.
Floyd knows boxing fans want to see him tune up McGregor so they can rub it in the faces of MMA fans – saying boxers are tougher and better fighters than MMA combatants. And MMA fans want the same bragging rights…proclaiming that an MMA combatant crossed sports and beat one of boxing’s best at his own game. How can fans and observers be so foolish? Floyd is using McGregor because as of this moment he’s the biggest star in MMA. It’s easy money for Floyd – and it may turn out to be the biggest or second biggest purse of his career. As for McGregor, he’s trying to become the Mayweather, as far as earning potential, in mixed martial arts…and at the same time stick it to UFC honcho Dana White. McGregor knows that after the exhibition with Mayweather he’ll never need to enter an octagon or a ring again if he doesn’t want to.
The only other real all-time great who wrapped up his career by defeating an 0-0 guy from another sport was Archie Moore who knocked out wrestler Mike DiBiase. But Archie was 50 at the time (born 1913, not 1916), had 219 previous fights, and wasn’t getting paid millions of dollars.
In the final analysis, Mayweather will eclipse Rocky Marciano’s record by fighting a man who is 0-0 in the ring while at the same time making a ton of money. When it’s over Floyd will claim he’s the king of combat sports and is the biggest star in both boxing and MMA….again strolling down one of the easier ways to immortality! No fighter or athlete mastered the game of playing the fans greater than Floyd “Money” Mayweather, nobody.
Fighting McGregor / Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Saturday, March 11, after months of being stalked by McGregor, Floyd Mayweather threw down the gauntlet. Mayweather announced that he was officially ending his retirement to fight the MMA superstar, saying that he hoped the fight would take place in June……that’s if financial terms could be arranged that were satisfactory to him. Time will tell.