The closest Floyd Mayweather Jr. came to losing a fight was against Jose Luis Castillo on April 20 of 2002.
Castillo was at the peak of his game and gave him more trouble than any other fighter "Lil’ Floyd" has faced so far. The native of Sonora, Mexico timed Mayweather Jr. beautifully, providing him with a taste of leather on more than one occasion.
Mayweather Jr. won on the judge’s cards with scores of 116-111 and 115-111 (twice). More than a few fans argued that the Grand Rapids, Michigan native got some favorable scoring. The promoters of the event, Top Rank Promotions, quickly responded by making Mayweather-Castillo II. The re-match took place almost eight months later on December 7th of the same year. Castillo gave Mayweather Jr. a good fight but was less effective this time. Interestingly, the judges scored the second fight closer with cards of 116-113 and 115-113 (twice).
"I haven’t had a hard fight yet," 36 year old Mayweather Jr. boasted during a recent pre-fight Showtime special. He may not be known for his humility but apart from the Castillo fight, he’s made most of his title defenses look easy. He's been nothing short of masterful against top rate opponents like the late Diego Corrales, Miguel Cotto and Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero.
Some fans see it differently. There are those who see Mayweather Jr.’s latest opponents as having been brilliantly selected by a team of handlers. More specifically, Al Haymon and Leonard Ellerbee.
Whether you agree or disagree with this notion, you have to admit, they‘ve done a magnificent job of running Mayweather’s career. They found a way to match him up against aged champions Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, an emotionally immature Victor Ortiz and most importantly, they helped him dodge a Filipino bullet by the name of Manny Pacquaio. Long enough for the Filipino legend to get starched by Juan Manuel Marquez during their fourth encounter. But let‘s not forget, this is a business and finding their fighters minimal risks for maximum dollars is their job.
Mayweather has indicated on more than one occasion that retirement is lurking around the corner. Will he retire undefeated? Who’ll get the chance to topple the number one "pound for pound" fighter in the world? Beating him means the possibility of world wide stardom and riches. For more established fighters like Pacquiao and Marquez, it means enriching their legacy even further by defeating the only fighter left with an aura of invincibility.
Mayweather Jr. has a target on his back and here’s a list of those aiming at him. They all have a realistic chance of getting a fight with Mayweather Jr. But what are their chances of beating him?
1. Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KO's)
Marquez lost to Mayweather Jr. in 2009 by a wide margin on the scorecards. Marquez has changed quite a bit since then. Not only as a fighter, but physically as well. The Mexico City native has been transformed into a bigger and stronger specimen due to newly acquired training regiment. Although there are whispers regarding his increase in size and strength, Marquez and camp deny anything fishy is going on. He will in fact, be submitting to testing for performance enhancing drugs prior to his fight against up-coming opponent Tim Bradley.
How would a rematch between Marquez and Mayweather Jr. play out at this point? Marquez would do a little better but the outcome would likely be similar. On the other hand, there’s always the chance Marquez lands the same monster punch he did against Pacquaio.
2. Danny "Swift" Garcia (26-0, 16 KO's)
Zab Judah proved to the world that Garcia, the current WBC and WBA 140 pound champion, gets hit way too much in order to deal with someone like Mayweather Jr. Garcia, 25, is still young and may evolve into a more formidable force. Right now, his focus is set on Lucas Matthysse, his opponent on the undercard of the highly awaited clash between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Mayweather Jr. on September 14th.
3. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (42-0, 30 KO's)
Alvarez is scheduled to fight Mayweather Jr. September 14 in Las Vegas in what's expected be the biggest boxing event of the year. Boxing pundits are saying that Alvarez is young, too young. That he’s fast, but not fast enough. That he’s talented but lacks experience against high level opponents. How will the red headed, freckled faced Mexican fare against Mayweather Jr.?
Alvarez should do well due to his youth, level of skill and superiority in size. The difference will be Mayweather's athletic superiority. While Alvarez tends to fade at the end of his fights, Mayweather usually finishes strong and will likely take the championship rounds.
But keep in mind that September 14 could be the night that "Canelo" Alvarez reaches his peak just as Mayweather Jr. starts to decline. It could very well happen. It‘s happened before. With just one punch, Alvarez can score the upset of the decade.
4. Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KO’s)
This Argentinean has power and incredible timing. His third round stoppage of Lamont Peterson was an impressive performance which led to a date against WBC and WBA 140 pound champion Danny "Swift" Garcia. It should be a war which could produce a viable candidate for Mayweather Jr.
As far as Matthysse's chances against Mayweather Jr. are concerned, we’ll take a "wait and see" attitude. He’s got Danny Garcia as his next opponent and beating him should be no easy feat. A couple more fights under his belt should tell us everything we need to know about his chances against Floyd.
5. Timothy Bradley (30-0, 12 KO's)
Despite beating Manny Pacquiao via controversial decision, Bradley has yet to cash in on his victory. Perhaps it's due to the perception that Bradley was gifted the decision. Since then, he was involved in a brutal fight of the year candidate vs. Ruslan Provodnikov. The Palm Springs native will next take on Juan Manuel Marquez in what should be an intriguing fight.
Bradley is a great warrior and one of the toughest men in the world but that’s not enough to beat Mayweather Jr. If you can’t match Floyd’s speed, power and athleticism then your chances are limited. While Bradley fits the athletic requirements, the speed factor and Mayweather Jr.'s overall experience would be too much to overcome. Bradley has other pending problems since defeating Marquez will be an incredibly difficult task. If he beats Marquez and looks good doing it, then a fight against Mayweather Jr. is a real possibility...if he weren't with Top Rank.
6. Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO's)
The Filipino boxing icon was knocked out and had his invincibility shield yanked from him by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 with the left hand heard around the world. But let’s put the knockout it in its proper context. Pacquiao was having a hell of a fight until that fateful punch which was timed perfectly. It was boxing's version of divine justice for Marquez who had been robbed of a win at least once in three previous encounters with Pac-Man.
Pacquaio will be making his return to the ring against Brandon Rios which will be a very difficult fight. Not only is this a great fight for the public but it will give us the proper insight as to Pacquiao’s state of mind.
If the old Manny resurfaces and defeats a formidable opponent like Rios, a fight vs. Mayweather will eventually have to be a subject for discussion.
Pacquaio is the one.
That's right. Out of all the people on the list, Manny Pacquaio is the one with the best chance at defeating Mayweather Jr. Many at this point are thinking "excuse me? This is the same man that got knocked out by Marquez who lost to Floyd easy." But this kind of boxing math doesn’t always work out in real life.
If we stick to the premise that in order to beat Mayweather Jr. you must match his speed, athleticism and power, then Pacquiao would be his most dangerous foe. Not only is he just as fast and athletic as Mayweather, I would argue that he’s a harder puncher.
Yes, he was stopped by Marquez with the punch that shook up the Philippines and its people, but what happened before the stoppage? Pacquaio dropped Marquez and did plenty of damage. He went for the knockout, left himself vulnerable, Marquez capitalized, end of story. Pacquiao was knocked out but it’s not necessarily the end.
Pacquiao will be fighting Brandon Rios next in what has to be the hardest comeback fight they could’ve scheduled for him. Rios is a beast and will give Pac-Man problems. He gives everyone problems. This fight will tell the world if Manny is truly back.
If Pacquiao defeats Rios in spectacular fashion, then there’s no doubt a fight with Mayweather Jr. will absolutely be entertained again.
Comments or questions for the author?