It’s hard to tell when this Fighter of the Decade thing actually became a thing.
But here it is; experts, fans and fighters squabbling over who was more successful over a certain period of time, better than their contemporaries in the same span and who were, by chance rather than design, pigeon-holed into a decade.
It’s hard to think of any young fighter growing up hoping to make it to Fighter of the Decade status. Into the Hall of Fame? Sure. Fighter of the Year for their favourite publication? Yes. Fighter of the decade? Not so much.
Well, with the horse out of that particular barn it’s likely something that will stay with us, so the careers of Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez, Wladimir Klitschko, Manny Pacquiao, Andre Ward and a handful of others have gone back under the microscope.
Mayweather held signature wins over Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Pacquiao while critics will point to victories over Conor McGregor and Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto as evidence as to why he shouldn’t get the nod.
Ward’s wins over Carl Froch, Chad Dawson and Sergey Kovalev stand out, but cynics will look at Paul Smith, the first struggle with Kovalev and Alexander Brand and wonder what the fuss is all about.
Everyone will have their critics. Some will wonder how a Pacquiao that was destroyed by Juan Manuel Marquez is even in contention, before you factor in controversial losses to Timothy Bradley and Jeff Horn. Can the Fighter of the Decade, in today’s era of the all-too precious ‘0’, really lose four times over 10 years and still win the award? Probably not, even if year to year, 2009-2019, Pacquiao’s achievements are right up there. Having held world titles in the nineties, the noughties, the 2010s he’s opened the 2020s as the welterweight champion and is in his fourth decade with a world title around his waist.
Extraordinary. But he lost the big one; against Mayweather.
Canelo has fought a who’s who of boxers through the 2010s but he lost the big one, against Mayweather.
All roads still lead back to Floyd.
Klitschko won 11 of 13 through the 2010s before losing to Tyson Fury and then Anthony Joshua in his final two fights.
You might look to Roman Gonzalez or some of the smaller weight stars who impressed so much but it’s still hard for a fighter to step out of Floyd Mayweather’s shadow.
He not only fought two of the front runners in the list, decisively beating them both, he changed the game.
If you ate a piece of popcorn at his fights, some of the money you paid wound up in his pocket. If you drank some soda at his fights, you lined his wallet. If you bought his T-shirt, he got richer. If you bought the pay-per-view or bought a ticket, he got a percentage.
He earned from every part of the promotion. He was not a businessman, he was the business, man!
And when the naysayers said he wasn’t entertaining, plenty of respected voices put his bouts with Cotto and the two with Maidana among the decade’s more exciting contests.
Not every fight must be a war. That’s not the sport. Hit and not get hit. Run to the bank so you can count your money. Avoid damage so you can spend it in to old age.
He hacked the game. More than that, he completed it.
Last night, after McGregor defeated Dan ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in the UFC in less than a minute, Mayweather took to social media to float the idea of a rematch with the Irishman or a fight with another of the UFC’s main men, Khabib.
There’s mega money in both. McGregor, for his part, said he wanted Floyd again. Beforehand, he also said he may fancy a dance with Pacquiao.
Floyd can do what he wants with who he wants when he wants. He’s still the money man. That’s why he was my fighter of the decade, even though he was active for just half of it.
How could you vote for Canelo when Mayweather schooled him?
How can you vote for Pacquiao when Floyd outboxed him?
Ward? I can see the case but all roads haven’t always led to Ward. In fact, quite often his skills and the lack of interest in his fights sadly took people away from him.
Mayweather might not have been active in half a decade and hate him all you want, he’s still the Fighter of the Decade; and more to point, the decade could have started in 2001 and finished in 2011 and you could have called him the fighter of that decade; as you could from 2002-2012 and so on, up to the present day.
He wasn’t always boring, he wasn’t always exciting but he always meant money. He still does. That’s not the reason he’s the fighter of the decade, but his signature wins over the likes of Canelo and Pacquiao that earned him that accolade. They mean he’s still relevant, several years on. Until there’s a man who can beat the man and until he’s old and grey they will always look for someone to scalp him but Floyd’s too smart. That’s why he’s happy to launch the idea of boxing MMA guys; huge reward, low risk. But these are the kind of shots you get to call when you’re the Fighter of the Decade.