by Cliff Rold
Floyd Mayweather is fond of pointing out 42 have tried and failed to erase his undefeated mark. It’s ever amusing in the days before a Mayweather fight to point out the flaw in the math.
41 have tried.
One tried twice.
Jose Luis Castillo, to this day, remains the one man to truly stand out as a genuine rival for Mayweather. Castillo left many believing he won their first contest and he took Floyd deep into the second before Mayweather could firmly pull away.
There have been others who worked as strong promotional foils. Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, and Victor Ortiz among others all proved to be less than genuine rivals in the ring.
It is a credit to Mayweather. One of the more blessed and complete fighters most will ever see, rivals have not been easy to come by. Mayweather’s fundamental foundation and talent separate him from most of the field.
Then he seems to outwork the field on top of it.
Love or hate the character of “Money,” criticize the appearance of selectivity in his matchmaking at times in his career, but one thing no one can take from the reigning lineal Welterweight king is his work ethic.
There are a handful of fighters in the last ten years one can count on to show up in shape and not fall out of shape between fights. Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, and the Klitschko’s stand out as a gold standard for professionalism. They have all experienced some level of comparable dominance at their respective peaks. It is not a coincidence.
Mayweather being largely unrivaled doesn’t mean he couldn’t have had more rivals. Floyd’s 42-fight career began in October 1996. He closed 1998 at 19-0 and reigning as the 130 lb. champ.
In the years since, he has added titles all the way to 154 lbs. and will attempt to win his second belt in the class this weekend against Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KO). It will mark his 24th fight since stopping Angel Manfredy in two rounds in December 1998.
The span comes in at approximately 149 months and includes a 2004 campaign where he fought only once, a nineteen-month layoff and short retirement between 2007 and 2009, and a sixteen-month absence between 2010 and 2011. All together, it equals an average of six months and change between appearances.
There were years where he fought at a better pace and years where he did not. There is no denying plenty of lost time.
As Floyd himself pointed out in the most recent episode of 24-7 while riding around Las Vegas with his trainer and uncle Roger Mayweather, he understands the benefits of activity just as a fighter. From a viewer’s perspective, greater activity means more chances to see a fighter practice their trade and against a wider variety of foes.
One of those foes might have been, at a different date, Cotto.
When Floyd announced his short retirement in 2008, Cotto was undefeated and coming into his own at Welterweight. Wins over Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah, and Shane Mosley made him a mouth watering potential rival. Long before Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were all the talk, Mayweather-Cotto looked like the ‘Superfight in waiting.’
Maybe it’s coming a hair late but at least it’s happening while both can still fight. Cotto may be physically diminished after a 2008 loss to Antonio Margarito and a 2009 loss to Manny Pacquiao, but he’s far from shot. This era would be incomplete without this clash.
It doesn’t erase the thought of what might have been. Could Cotto, before he knew the taste of defeat, have been the rival Mayweather has lacked since Castillo? Could he have threatened the ‘0’ and, win or lose, left fans and pundits demanding a rematch? There’s no way to know.
And there is always a sense of the incomplete in not knowing.
It’s not a problem unique to Mayweather. Hopkins and Roy Jones never found a way to follow up on their first 1993 fight until it was too late to matter. Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez managed only one contest. Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad could never get to “II.”
We still get great rivalries and plenty of them. They get less common the higher up the economic scale one climbs. Those who study the history of boxing know many of the best fighters who ever lived found men who tested them harder the more they fought.
Today, Sugar Ray Robinson might have sailed on one early win over Jake LaMotta for years. Baby Arizmendi might never have seen Henry Armstrong enough times after defeating him twice to allow Armstrong to prove the better man. Instead, fans got years-long rivalries to bring out the best in all those men.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow…whenever. It’s not hard to know a great fighter when one appears. What can be difficult today is answering the question of ‘how great?’ or, more to the point, ‘how much greater?’
This Saturday, we’ll get an answer to the question of who is the better man in 2012, Floyd Mayweather or Miguel Cotto. Wouldn’t the question be more fun to ask if the world was gearing up for a sequel? Or even a rubber match?
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Grachev Stun Sillakh: http://www.boxingscene.com/grachev-shakes-up-light-heavy-ranks-with-sillakh-ko--52276
Maldonado’s “0” Goes: http://www.boxingscene.com/carcamo-shocks-undefeated-maldonado-two-rounds--52314
Dawson-Ward? Not So Much: http://www.boxingscene.com/please-god-not-dawson-ward-review-ratings-update--52355
Updated Division Ratings: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--52398
Cliff’s Notes… ESPN Classic replayed Razor Ruddock-Michael Dokes this week and let’s hope it stays in the rotation. Two decades later, Ruddock’s KO combination is awesome to see. Maybe one day it can be double feature with the savage, and all too forgotten, brawl between Ruddock and Tommy Morrison…Speaking of Heavyweights, last week’s Seth Mitchell-Chazz Witherspoon fight was another little gem in a so-far solid year at Heavyweight. There will be some who look at the bout for Mitchell’s flaws. Given his stage of development, what matters is what he showed in adversity. Mitchell held when hurt, recuperated well, and goes to the body like a beast. Oh, and he shows up in shape. He’s got a long way to go, but at least he showed a package worth following…But why is he not going again until September? He just did his man in three and is learning on the job. It’s absurd he won’t be fighting again by June…Fingers crossed that the on and off again talks about a Dmitry Pirog-Daniel Geale unification come to fruition now that Pirog is done with Nobuhiro Ishida…One more day until “The Avengers” and two until Mayweather-Cotto. Good week.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]