By Frank Warren
Already the richest boxer in history, some say Floyd Mayweather edges closer to consideration as the greatest with each passing fight.
Unbeaten in 45 spats and a world champion in five different weight categories, the welterweight formerly known as ‘Pretty Boy’ is incontestably the finest fighter of his era, pound for pound.
And as he hones in on Rocky Marciano’s hallowed 49-0 stats, the time has arrived to assess him alongside the likes of Henry Armstrong and the two Sugar Rays – Robinson and Leonard – as the most gifted ever to climb between the ropes.
Mayweather may lack truly concussive power and he’s never needed to prove he is either the bravest or most exciting simply because his sublime skills and trickery have completely neutralised the very best contemporary competition.
You can’t beat what you can’t hit and the Las Vegas resident is a fistic phantom.
This was never more evident than in his most recent start last September when he toyed with the naturally bigger, significantly younger and frighteningly explosive ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – unbeaten in 43 going in.
For the past two years, ‘Money’ has topped Forbes magazine’s listing as the highest earning athlete across all of sports. Quite remarkable, given he fights a maximum of twice a year and has no endorsements, other than his own Money Team brand.
Tonight, at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, he trousers a cool $32million guarantee BEFORE the enormous pay per view bounty is added! He also gets a chance to add a ninth world title belt to his cabinet but is unlikely to advance his legacy greatly by seeing off WBA counterpart Marcos Maidana.
The Argentine might own one of the heaviest sets of fists in the sport and has the punch to end the legacy. But styles make fights and like all those before him, he could be consigned to flapping at fresh air. But we do know one thing for sure is Maidana does come to fight.
Marvel at Mayweather’s genius by tuning into BoxNation for live coverage from midnight tonight.
In the chief support, Bolton’s Amir Khan effectively auditions for the privilege of becoming Mayweather’s next opponent, when he squares up to New York based Puerto Rican Luis Collazo over 12 rounds.
This is a potential banana skin for our former Olympic wonder kid but Khan has always been prepared to gamble – both with his choice of opponents and ring tactics that throw caution to the wind – and that is why his fights are ‘can’t miss’ affairs.
Tonight, after a full year on the sidelines, he moves up to the welterweight division against a bull strong and ferociously competitive southpaw who pushed a prime Ricky Hatton to the wire back in 2006.
The 33 year old from Queens has won four straight and, though listed as a 5-2 outsider, I make this a far tighter affair.
Much is dependent upon Khan’s state of mind. In December he forfeited a challenge to the imminently beatable – and since beaten – IBF boss Devon Alexander because he believed a deal had been struck for him to face Mayweather this evening.
Khan has since inked a deal with adviser Al Haymon – who he feels is the man needed to vault him to the front of the queue – but the Brit knows that if he’s to nail the Mayweather date he can’t just win this evening, he has to sparkle.
That will involve taking risks that could expose his questionable defence which his new trainer, Virgil Hunter has been working on.
Amir is not only one of the most gifted British fighters, he is among the most gallant. As a result, he consistently delivers fabulous entertainment.
But while he clearly has the tools to flourish at the highest level, one has to question whether he has the temperament.
Though Bernard Hopkins continues to break records at 49, and Mayweather dominates the sport at 37, it is conceivable that Khan’s warmongering may have seen him past his prime at just 27.
Tonight he enters with substantial edges in both speed and skill but mental fitness is just as crucial as physical in boxing and Amir struggles to retain discipline and composure for the full 36 minutes.
Too often he has opted to stand and trade against men armed with heavier fists and sturdier chins. I genuinely wish him well but won’t be overly surprised if he is again exposed this evening but let’s hope he does what he is capable of and wins in style to setup a mouth-watering clash with Mayweather.
Our star spangled cousins were all set to ordain Cincinnati’s Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner as heir apparent to the ‘Money’ man.
However, last December the mouthpiece who’d bagged four world titles across three weight divisions by the age of 24 was tumbled and humbled by Maidana, dropping a comprehensive 12 round decision.
As regular readers of this column will be aware, I was never overly convinced by the insufferably brash and arrogant Ohioan, since he was touted as a potential challenger to then WBO lightweight boss Ricky Burns 18 months back.
For me, the Mayweather wannabe spent far too long developing his flamboyant image when he should have been slaving at the gym, developing his incontestable talent.
Broner didn’t just get beaten by the Argentinean he copped a savage beating and cut a forlorn figure as he left the Alamodome in Texas – his huge entourage suddenly nowhere to be found. Broner’s disregard for the sport’s noble traditions meant that sympathy was in short supply.
This evening he attempts to kick start his redemption down at light-welter – which maybe a division far more fitting to his short, stocky frame and lack of fire power at that weight.
His opponent, the modestly gifted, feather-fisted Carlos Molina – a former Khan victim – shouldn’t provide too much resistance.
Broner remains well connected but that will count for little if he can’t win in style and win over the fans.
Wladimir Klitschko is unbeaten for over a decade and has reigned as world heavyweight champion for more than eight years now.
However, the giant Ukrainian has lately caused more harm than good to the sport’s blue riband division.
Last weekend, ‘Dr Steelhammer’ made predictably short shrift of pitifully inept Samoan truck driver Alex Leapai, flooring him in the opening seconds, then flattening him for the full count in round five.
The 38 year old presently owns three of the four major world belts but the most competitive heavyweight match-ups are taking place outside his championship realm and that is not good for the sport’s profile.
Expect this summer’s all British collision between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora to attract significantly greater interest. Whoever triumphs there should finally and at last provide big Wlad with a fight worthy of the term, World Champion.
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