By Joseph Santoliquito
Las Vegas, NV (CBS) — He’d like you to believe it. He may even induce a few out there into thinking that he’s right, those that have no sense of boxing history. He likes to say it so often it’s as if he’s trying to convince himself, despite the thin, diluted version of boxing today.
You’ll hear Floyd Mayweather often spout how he’s the greatest fighter of all-time after he beats Canelo Alvarez on “The One,” from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He’s 36 and without a doubt the greatest fighter of this generation, and certainly one of the best fighters of all-time.
But the “greatest of all-time?”
Is Mayweather GOAT worthy?
He has to be in the discussion. But Mayweather is more a victim of poor timing than anything else. He’s 44-0 (26) and keeps himself in supreme condition whether or not he’s preparing for a fight. He’s one of the best defensive fighters of all-time.
The indictment against Mayweather as the GOAT has nothing to do with Mayweather, than it does an era. Would Mayweather still be undefeated if he had to walk through the 1980’s gauntlet of greats Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, the formidable Donald Curry and Wilfred Benitez, not to mention dropping down a class and considering Hall of Fame all-time great junior welter Aaron Pryor?
Marvin Hagler was a full-fledged middleweight and Hearns, Duran and Leonard all came up to fight Marvelous. If Mayweather beats Alvarez Saturday night, would he agree to fight undersized middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez, who doesn’t possess the punching power nor tenacity of a Hagler?
Mayweather would have done well in any era. But to remain undefeated against a far deeper talent pool remains to be seen. Mayweather got Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto at the tail end of their careers. He’s caught Victor Ortiz before his prime and now will face 23-year-old Alvarez Saturday night, and it can be argued Mayweather is getting him before his prime.
As a pro, the only time Mayweather was in any kind of real trouble was when he absorbed the stunning shot he took against Mosley in 2010. The Mosley moment came in the second round when he buckled Mayweather’s knees with a right to the chin.
Mayweather proved tougher and more durable than believed, roaring back to win every minute or every round afterwards.
So when Mayweather proclaims himself “The Greatest of All-time,” he’ll need to be reminded of the number of fighters that came before, guys who faced killers during far more competitive eras.
Muhammad Ali excelled during the greatest, deepest period in heavyweight history, beating Joe Frazier, Kenny Norton, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and thudding punchers like Earnie Shavers. Ray Robinson beat the likes of Hall of Famers Jake LaMotta, Kid Gavilan, Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio.
“I don’t care about that,” Mayweather fired back a few years ago. “I can only fight the guys that are here now, the ones that they put in front of me, and the last time I looked, I beat them all. That history stuff means nothing. I’m the one that runs boxing. I’m the face of the sport. I’m the greatest of all-time.”
It’s something Mayweather would like you to believe, whether or not he beats Canelo Alvarez. The reality is something far different. And it’s something Mayweather can’t be blamed for—excelling at a thin time.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.