Floyd “Money” Mayweather has for years insisted he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, insisting he is the most gifted pugilist since Sugar Ray Leonard, no less.
Although Mayweather is unbeaten in 47 bouts and is clearly better than all peers and firm favorite to outpoint Manny Pacquiao when they finally meet in Las Vegas on May 2, the brash American is way short of surpassing Leonard’s achievements.
Even though Mayweather has won world titles from super-feather to light-middle and earned more than any other fighter in the sport’s history – at least $500 million – his lasting legacy will be that of a master manipulator rather than a legendary fighter.
That’s because the 38-year-old champ has always cherry-picked his opponents when it best suited him – and never fought outside his comfort zone, always taking on fighters he was assured of beating. His slippery, defensive style is not entertaining. The clash with Pacquiao will generate plenty of interest beyond boxing circles, but the bout itself is likely to be an anti-climax, with Pacquiao chasing shadows most of the time as Money picks him off on the back foot.
Leonard, a natural welterweight, went up to light-heavy just to prove he could win a world title at that level. He also took on the fearsome Marvin Hagler at middleweight and controversially won.
There were, of course, the classic fights with Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Wilfredo Benitez, et al., mostly wins. Losing was never a fear for Leonard, he just relished the challenge of taking on the best.
Mayweather is now calling himself TBE: The Best Ever. Not so by a long shot.
He might be the greatest fighter of his generation, but even if he beats Pacquiao to unify the welterweight titles, Sugar Ray Robinson’s achievements remain the apogee any boxer must surpass to claim the mantle of the sport’s most gifted.
Robinson’s record speaks for itself. He fought over 200 times, well into his 40s and his overall win and knockout record eclipses every fighter’s at any weight.
Leonard’s record is not far behind, and a host of other throwback welterweights, including Emile Griffith, Henry Armstrong and Barney Ross, would have beaten Mayweather.
Pacquiao has looked extremely focused in training sessions in the Philippines since the fight was announced a week ago.
The 36-year-old Filipino legend needs to keep that intensity and not get distracted with his numerous other interests, including managing his own basketball team – and occasionally playing – singing in a band, being a politician, judging beauty pageants and guest appearances in all manner of things.
Boxing is what made Pacquiao his fame and fortune. He needs to respect that fact in the fight’s build-up, and for once absolutely follow his trainer Freddie Roach’s advice and fully concentrate on the job at hand.