Undefeated records, especially when it comes to boxing, are very overvalued. If a boxer is a star, he can pretty much pick and choose whom he fights. With four sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) it’s easy to find a limited opponent to fight with a title on the line and pass it off as a legitimate championship bout and enough fans will buy it, literally and figuratively.
Until Floyd Mayweather 50-0 (27) retired, Rocky Marciano was the most famous boxer to retire undefeated at 49-0 (43). When a Marciano fan tried to make the case Rocky was greater than Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali, he would use his undefeated record as being the clincher to settle the debate in his favor. My retort to that has always been that if Louis or Ali fought every opponent Marciano did on the night he fought them, they also would’ve gone 49-0 with the only difference being Louis probably wins more by KO than Rocky’s 43 and Ali most likely doesn’t score 43 knockouts….but that’s it.
Then Floyd Mayweather goes 50-0 and his defenders use his unblemished record as the de facto tie-breaker over history’s past great pound for pound fighters. However, the difference between Marciano and Mayweather is that Rocky fought everybody during a pedestrian era and Floyd picked his spots and retired and came back a few times during a stout era while conveniently avoiding some of the bigger threats to him when both were at their prime. Instead of picking apart Mayweather’s record, which isn’t hard to do, it’s more authentic to compare him to another pound for pound great from his era or slightly before it….Roy Jones.
Jones recently said: “Floyd Mayweather was TBE at making money, but look at his highlights and look at mine. You can’t pretend it’s the same. You can’t pretend there’s ever been anyone come close to doing what I did. Nobody you could name could touch me – and I’m talking about nobody who’s around now, nobody who was around in my prime, and nobody who was around any time you can mention outta your mouth.”
I agree with Roy. Floyd picked his opponents better, but as a fighter Roy was superior to Mayweather in every category with the exception that Floyd had a better chin. Between 1989 and 2003, Roy was easily one of the most physically skilled and gifted fighters ever. He was the perfect blend of athleticism, speed and power. Roy had blinding hand speed, could fight in retreat, counter punching, or take the initiative and explode offensively. And what a terrific body puncher he was! From a physical skill-set, Jones was faster than Mayweather, had a better offensive repertoire, punched harder with both hands, was a better body puncher and finisher and, yes, because of his foot speed he was harder to hit. Remember, much of Mayweather’s stellar defense started with his unwillingness to all-out engage. Fighters who seek to win by knockout accept they’re going to get hit and take chances fighting in the danger zone and end up getting nicked more. Jones did that much more than Mayweather and when his reflexes dulled he started to get hit more.
The only category where Mayweather gets the check in his column is in punch resistance, but even that may not be completely fair or accurate as Roy’s chin was never an issue until he went up to heavyweight and then back down to light heavyweight. (There aren’t many examples of guys going down from heavyweight to light heavyweight other than Chris Byrd who beat many notables during his heavyweight title reign and then had a revelation after losing to Alexander Povetkin and figured if he went down to light heavyweight he’d be better off. Seven months after fighting Povetkin at 211.75 he fought fringe contender Shaun George 16-2-2, weighing 174, and it was a disaster. Byrd looked drained and was stopped in the ninth round.) Fighters who go up a lot in weight are usually unsuccessful when they try to go back down. I believe dropping 25 pounds after beating Ruiz took something out of Roy Jones that he never got back. A case can be made that Jones never looked better than when he beat Ruiz and never looked special again, not even one time, after that.
Roy won world titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and in 2003 in his 49th fight made history as the first middleweight in 100 years to capture the heavyweight title. In his first 50 bouts, Jones compiled a record of 49-1 (38). The loss was by disqualification against Montell Griffin for hitting him while he was down per referee Tony Perez. When they met in a rematch, Jones stopped Griffin in the first round. In Floyd’s 50 bouts there’s a stronger argument he was bettered by Jose Luis Castillo the first time they fought than there is that that Jones was beaten by Griffin, based on what took place in the ring opposed to some shady judging. Like Jones versus Griffin, Mayweather won his rematch with Castillo, but just not as convincingly.
Some people, myself included, have suggested that Mayweather’s opposition when he fought the biggest names on his record is a little spotty. This is something that applies to Jones as well. The difference is that Jones dominated Bernard Hopkins, a certifiable all-time great, when Hopkins was near his peak physically. (Hopkins entered the fight 22-1, with the loss coming in his pro debut. Jones outpointed him by a pronounced margin, and Hopkins then went undefeated over the next 12 years.)
Roy fought James Toney a year and a half after he beat Hopkins. Toney entered their fight undefeated at 44-0-2. Jones dropped Toney in the third round and dominated him even more thoroughly than he did Hopkins. Toney happens to be one of the most complete fighters circa 1990-2003. He beat outstanding fighters in between middleweight and heavyweight. Like Hopkins, Toney is a certifiable Hall of Famer. Collectively Hopkins and Toney entered their fights with Jones 66-1-2, and it’s doubtful that combined they won six of the 24 rounds. And defeating a guy like Ruiz who was 50 pounds bigger than any of his previous opponents far exceeds any pound for pound accomplishment of Mayweather.
In my opinion, Jones knocking out Virgil Hill with a single body shot and dominating Hopkins, Toney and Ruiz the way he did gives him a stronger claim than Mayweather to being “TBE.” Floyd has nothing on his record to compare to that, no way, no how. In order to make the case for Mayweather all you can say is he never lost, but there’s no Hopkins, Toney or Ruiz-like feat on Floyd’s resume. Had Jones retired after beating Ruiz, he would’ve had a legitimate case to be considered among the five greatest pound-for-pound boxers/fighters in history. This is a claim which Mayweather couldn’t even make jokingly.
And to those who say Jones ducked light heavyweight Dariusz Michalczewski because he feared him, wake up and smell the coffee. Michalczewski wouldn’t fight outside Germany or Poland. After getting hosed out of a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Roy feared leaving the United States because he didn’t trust the foreign judges. Mayweather won’t even leave the MGM Grand in his hometown of Las Vegas.
At their respective bests, Roy Jones took more risks and beat greater fighters. He was a once in a lifetime talent like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard and I just can’t say that about Floyd Mayweather.
“The great thing today is it don’t matter what anyone says or what anyone writes, you can type ‘sickest boxing highlights’ into YouTube or Google and you see Roy Jones Junior doing his thing. Nobody can change your mind after you see that. That is pound-for-pound! I did what I did – it happened – it is a fact….You can watch me side-by-side with anyone and it’s not close.”
I don’t know about all of that, but side-by-side the debate between Jones and Mayweather goes to Jones. The case for Mayweather rests on him being undefeated, but many other pound for pound greats would’ve blazed through his opposition and gone undefeated too. That cannot be said about Roy Jones, because we know there are some all-timers who wouldn’t beat Hopkins and Toney. Not to mention the select few light heavyweight champs who might beat the John Ruiz that Jones fought.
Sadly Roy fought on too long past his prime and, as he once proclaimed, many forgot. But Roy’s conclusion that he was a greater fighter than Mayweather is correct.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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