By now, just about everyone on the planet knows about Floyd Mayweather's spectacular split-decision win over Oscar De La Hoya on May 5. It set up a lot of interesting possibilities for both fighters, including a lucrative rematch, which would no doubt earn each fighter tens of millions of dollars. Who wouldn't want a deal like that?
Pound for pound, Floyd Mayweather may be the best in boxing, not only today but in several years. He dominates his opponents like Roy Jones Jr. did in his glory days. But, unfortunately, like Roy he also can be accused of ducking a challenge. After Mayweather defeated Arturo Gatti at 140 pounds, the champions at that class besides him were Kostya Tszyu (soon beaten by Ricky Hatton), Vivian Harris and Miguel Cotto. Of that group, Gatti was by far the most vulnerable and gave Mayweather the perfect platform to showcase his speed and defense, which he did to devastating effect.
At 147, Mayweather stopped an overmatched Sharmba Mitchell in 6, then took perhaps his most challenging fight against Zab Judah, who was knocked out in 2 by Tsyzu and was once floored by light-hitting Cory Spinks. After that, he took another safe bout with Carlos Baldomir, who hadn't been beaten in years and who had just beaten Judah, but aside from that was relatively unremarkable. Another easy win led to the De La Hoya bout. During that time, both Hatton and Cotto have moved up to 147 pounds, yet there is no talk of Mayweather meeting either of them despite the fact that the combined record between the three of them is an astounding 110-0 with 79 knockouts. This brings me to the only possible conclusion for a fight like this not happening; Mayweather (and dozens of other boxers) are more concerned with a stellar record than in fighting the best fighters, and this is indicative of the sorry state of boxing these days. Yes, athletes need to be paid. I would never begrudge someone a lot of money to take punishment for 12 rounds. But when something as simple as an economic decision or my other reason (which I will get to in a moment) precludes the best fighters facing off against one another I've got an axe to grind. And part of that reason lies with the fighters themselves.
After the De La Hoya fight, Mayweather was asked about an array of possible opponents. His basic responses were: Shane Mosley- "He's a sparring partner", Antonio Margarito (another 147 champion)- "There ain't no money in it." He was then non-committal about the other possibilities, which included Cotto and Winky Wright. The same scenario replayed itself the following week when middleweight Jermain Taylor eked out a win over Cory Spinks and was asked if he would fight Kelly Pavlik, who had just dispatched Edison Miranda in the greatest slugfest since Hagler/Hearns. Taylor's response: "If he's the best fighter, for the most money, I'll fight him." Is it merely coincidence that both of these cases concern opponents who could actually give Mayweather or Taylor a serious challenge? Remember, Roy Jones Jr. ducked Dariusz Michaelcewski and Antonio Tarver for years, along with Gerald McClellan, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank in lower divisions. He didn't fight the best, and neither are Mayweather and Taylor.
Boxing is about the best of the best going head to head, not just the money from a name opponent. If you're worried only about the money, go be a promoter and leave the real men to do the fighting. As far as I'm concerned, Floyd Mayweather will not go down as one of the greatest yet. Most talented, absolutely. But greatest? You've got to beat great to be great, and he hasn't done it enough. Now, if he goes on to fight (and beat) Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Kermit Cintron (yet another 147 champion) and maybe Kassim Ouma (can Floyd take a 1,000 punch barrage?), then maybe we'll start talking. Even if Floyd were to lose to one (or even two) of the above, his stock would rise dramatically because he would have fought the best, not run from them.