Fifty years from now if we are not paying to see robots fight instead of humans, boxing fans will discuss the accomplishments of Floyd Mayweather Jr. At some point after the welterweight has thrown his last punch, future fight fans will compare his defensive abilities and quickness to other men who are best of their time.
Retrospective looks are at the core of this sport. We measure who would win a fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De la Hoya as a healthier debate than contrasting the home run prowess of Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. But in sports as well as in life, we fail at times to look at the current day from a historical sense.
Today, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is 41-0, a six-time champion in five different weight classes. At his peak Mayweather is the best fighter in boxing. But over the last four years, he has fought more battles in a courthouse, than a boxing ring. Numerous run ins with the IRS, misdemeanor, and felony charges including a domestic violence dispute with a former girlfriend and physically assaulting a security guard outside of a nightclub have the 1996 Olympian putting up his dukes with the law.
Some think of Floyd’s legal issues as signs of a life spiraling down. Others say Mayweather’s personal problems will not affect his boxing performance. Then again, there is an argument that Floyd Mayweather’s undefeated record has flaws because he has only fought two times in nearly four years, did not accept an eight million dollar payday to fight Antonio Margarito in 2006 and ducked many fighters including Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao while they were in their prime among other things.
What gets lost in the mess that Mayweather has created for himself is his place in boxing history. Because fifty years from now, when we have flying cars and our minds have the power to look at a wall to project a television screen, Floyd Mayweather’s boxing archives will be there. Then fans will study Floyd’s dominate victories over Diego Corrales, and Arturo Gatti, appreciate his speed to counter a charging Ricky Hatton and buffoon Juan Manuel Marquez and Zab Judah, and respect the defensive skills he used to defeat Oscar De la Hoya and chin he provided to withstand two knee buckling shots from Shane Mosley.
Unfortunately some boxing legends have had trouble with pleasing the masses and issues with the law in the past. The names of Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali are just a few.
Dempsey, in today’s terms, was a duck artist. The heavyweight champion in the 1920’s, only defended his title seven times in six years, held the title for three years without fighting from 1923-1926, and refused to defend his crown against Henry Wills, a worthy African-American opponent. Dempsey lost his first bout after a three-year layoff, in 1926.
Joe Louis defended his heavyweight title 26 times in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s against mostly no name talent that the media called the Bum of the Month club. Then the Brown Bomber fought well past his prime to pay off gambling debts and money to the IRS.
In 1967, Ali refused enlistment in the U.S. Army. He was charged with a felony, lost three prime years of his boxing career; boxing commissions throughout the country suspended his boxing license, and stripped his heavyweight title. He then returned to have storied fights against Frazier, Norton, and Foreman, but held on to the sport for too long, and fought well after his skills had eroded him.
Despite their shortcomings history remembers Dempsey, Louis, and Ali fondly for the excitement that they provided in the ring. Now, no one talks about Jack Dempsey taking time off to be a celebrity. They talk about his ferociousness. No one talks about Joe Louis fighting to make a buck. They talk about his long heavyweight reign. No one talks about Ali dodging the draft. They talk about his unique boxing ability.
At 34 years old, Mayweather returns from a 16 month boxing hiatus to fight Victor Ortiz on September 17th. Maybe Floyd will go the road of Dempsey and lose his skills overnight. Maybe he will take the path of Joe Louis and continue fighting to pay his bills. Or maybe he will go the route of Ali and just fight for too long.
Win or lose, Floyd has already etched a place in boxing history. Ortiz is a southpaw he is taller, 10 years younger, and apparently stronger than his foe. Although the odds are against Ortiz, most are giving the rising star that recently defeated the undefeated Andre Berto to win the welterweight title, a puncher chance. Critics view Mayweather’s gap in competitive fighting, his personal battles outside of the ring, and his long age as signs of slowing down.
The future is not written. One thing is for sure, Floyd Mayweather’s fight tapes will be easier to find than his court papers.
In the interests of time enjoy this moment with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Enjoy his performance. Enjoy his charisma. Soon Mayweather will join the likes of Robinson, Leonard, and Roy Jones Jr. before him. He will be another face in the history books.
There are those that love or hate Floyd Mayweather. I am not going to convince you either way. Fifty years from now when our grandkids talk about the talents of this lighting quick welterweight, who started off at 41-0 with 25 knockouts, they are going to ask your opinion. And there is no denying that you will have something to say.
You can follow Ray on Twitter @RayMarkarian.