What is it about Floyd Mayweather 42-0 (26) that is so frustrating for those who would be described as being his biggest critics? It's not like you have to watch him in the ring long to glean that's he's really a special fighter/boxer. And anyone who is so blinded by their bias that can't admit that he really is spectacular, can't be taken seriously.
The thing that draws fire from his staunches critics is we just don't know how truly great he really is. At his best is he as great as Thomas Hearns or Roberto Duran were pound-for-pound? No. Is he a greater pound-for-pound fighter than say Pernell Whitaker or Juan Manuel Marquez? Probably. However, the problem that ends up being the elephant in the room when trying to find a place to slot Mayweather historically is, he hasn't competed in a truly great era, which makes it that more difficult to judge him.
The other major factor is, he hasn't fought another outstanding fighter when they were at or near their prime. And there were fighters around named Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley who would've presented Mayweather with some real problems circa 2003-2007, but mostly because of Floyd, the fights never came to fruition.
Instead, Mayweather fought Mosley in 2010 when it could've been a true super-fight years earlier. Then there's Cotto and Margarito. He never fought Margarito, leaving him for Paul Williams, who Mayweather also managed to miss when Paul was the perceived top welterweight (Mayweather's division) in the world. Now in 2012, he's fighting Cotto when it's at least five years too late to really tell us anything we don't already know. We know at this time Mayweather is fresh and preserved, and Cotto is damaged and has endured a few career altering beatings since 2007.
So it's easy to see why Mayweather has some pretty fierce critics.
Another thing that drives Mayweather skeptics crazy is he not only has avoided the fighters who were best suited to test him when they were at or near their best, he also has a boxing style that matches up with any other fighter around within 10 pounds north or south of the welterweight division. This is a tremendous asset that he always maximizes. Think about his upcoming bout with Miguel Cotto. Years ago Cotto used to be a pretty effective attacker and body puncher. However, due to the tough fights he's had with Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito twice, Joshua Clottey and Manny Pacquiao, Cotto is now more of a wait and react counter-puncher. That would no doubt be a losing strategy against Mayweather. Actually, he would get picked apart and pot-shotted to death if he chose that style. If by chance it went the distance, he wouldn't win a single minute of a 36 minute fight.
Cotto's other option, and it's really his only chance, he must crowd Mayweather and try to bang him to the body with the hope of slowing and taking something out of him. The only problem with that is, it's a fight, and nobody stands still and lets you hit them. While Cotto is trying to close the distance on Mayweather, Floyd will be ripping him with straight one-twos on the way in. That will bust up and cut Miguel's face and slowly but surely impede his aggression. Once that happens, Floyd will raise the rent and pick up the pace and the fight will be all but lost for Cotto.
And that's what makes Mayweather so tough to beat, he outright matches up with almost everybody today stylistically. His underrated physical strength enables him to hold off the stronger type attackers like Victor Ortiz who think they can impose themselves on him physically. His quick hands and straight punching disrupts their aggression and they eventually end up being a sitting duck for him on the way in. Floyd, regardless of who the opponent has been, has always been able to make them fight his fight and at the same time force them to fight from their weakness.
Some fans and writers think Mayweather is looking to avoid exchanges when he steps back or off to the side, which is an incorrect perception. Actually, Mayweather loves bringing his opponent to him. And he does it in such a way that what they're doing is just moving their feet forward, but they're not pressing him or making him uncomfortable on the way in. In reality, Floyd is directing them where he needs them to be as he's scoring. The bottom line is Mayweather is so versatile that he can match up with any fighter around today between 145-155 with the exception of Paul Williams.
In order to beat Mayweather it requires a fighter who brings something that he must first address before he can plot his own strategy and render them ineffective. A fighter like Sugar Ray Leonard, who was even faster than Mayweather and punched twice as hard along with having a great inside/outside game. Or Roberto Duran who at 147 was more than strong enough to make Floyd back up because he had no other choice, as opposed to him moving back of his own volition. And Duran had the strength and power to more than make Mayweather uncomfortable. Then there's a fighter like Thomas Hearns who at 145-47 was too long, strong and hit too hard for Mayweather to solve.
The only problem with what is stated above is there's no fighter/boxer around close to a Leonard, Duran or Hearns. Actually, Mayweather would be in trouble if there were an Emile Griffith or Luis Rodriguez around, but there's not. It's a testament as to how good Mayweather is that one has to recall names like Leonard, Duran, Hearns, Griffith and Rodriguez when trying to think of fighters who'd present him with some nearly unresolvable stylistic match-ups. Then on the other hand it's an indictment that due to Floyd's paranoia and insecurity we never saw him against the likes of Mosley, Cotto, Margarito and Williams when they were near their best. Because if we know nothing else, nobody declines a fight with Floyd Mayweather if they can get it, nobody.
Say what you want negatively or positively about Floyd Mayweather if you wish. But beware of one thing that's irrefutable in 2012 -- and that is he matches up favorably with any boxer in the world qualified to fight him weighing between 145 and 155 pounds.
And it is a credit to Mayweather that, aside from the obvious Duran/Leonard/Hearns triumvirate, that I have to go back to Griffith and Rodriguez to find guys who'd unquestionably beat him at the weight.
Reach Frank Lotierzo at GlovedFist@Gmail.com