In one of my earlier blogs, I noted how Floyd Mayweather, Jr. needed a challenge, and I listed a group of fighters who could present a serious threat to his unbeaten record and aura of invincibility. He will likely avoid most of those fights and continue to trumpet himself as the undisputed best in the sport, a claim he has yet (in this writer's opinion) to prove decisively.
But I also wrote that if Mayweather were to fight several of the guys on the list (which included Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, etc.) and somehow lose one, or even two, of those fights, he would likely be judged even more favorably by history because he didn't run from the best fighters, a la Roy Jones, Jermain Taylor or Joe Calzaghe. I understand that promoters have more say-so over whether a fight happens and if they don't want it, forget the fans, it's not happening. But a boxer of Mayweather's stature should have enough pull to tell a promoter, "Hey, I want this fight. The fans want this fight. Make this fight happen." And Floyd is charismatic enough that a media blitz would eventually force most any bullheaded promoter to cave.
But I digress. To prove my point about valor in defeat, I point to the Miguel Cotto-Zab Judah fight from June 9. Cotto was an undefeated champion at 147 pounds coming in while Judah, a former champion, was coming off a first-round no-contest against Ruben Galvan, which followed a one-year suspension preceded by losses to Mayweather and Carlos Baldomir. In other words, another loss and Judah likely becomes a gatekeeper for young rising talent. And another loss is exactly what happened. Roughly 49 seconds into the 11th Round, referee Arthur Mercante stopped the fight after Cotto wobbled Judah into the ropes following a knockdown. But what happened between rounds 1 and 11 likely gave Judah a new lease on his ring life despite the outcome. While it will be debated that he didn't throw his left uppercut enough and that he seemed tentative as Cotto moved forward, Judah looked better in the ring than he had in years. Two low blows from Cotto early in the fight will no doubt leave people guessing how much that might have affected Judah, who was controlling the fight up until that point. When the final outcome came, some analysts were even calling it the fight of the year so far. While I wouldn't go quite that far, Judah certainly has nothing to be ashamed of, and should easily be able to get another big-money fight.
This is just a small, modern-day example of how a loss can build a fighter's credibility. Keep in mind that during boxing's better days Roberto Duran lost to Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard (twice, though he beat Leonard the first time they met.) and is counted as one of the all-time greats. Hagler lost to Leonard, and Hearns lost to both Hagler and Leonard (though he arguably beat Leonard the second time they fought). The point is, none of these great fighters was ever judged any less for losing to any of the others, because they were all great. The best in the sport today need to realize that only the best fighting the best will truly save boxing against the onslaught that is the UFC and MMA.
In the meantime Cotto, in all likelihood, will go on to fight the winner of the Margarito/Paul Williams fight later this year in a welterweight unification bout. I have to give Cotto a lot of credit for that. Criticize his style if you like, but he is one of those fighters that always keeps the pressure turned up and will stand toe to toe and fight.
But Judah could also be in the running for another big fight, not least of which could be a rematch with Cotto. Another possibility is Shane Mosley or current IBF champ Kermit Cintron. His resilient showing has earned him at least that much.