Hardcore fight fans might have several answers to the question of the best fighter of the 1970s. It was the decade where Roberto Duran was at his most destructive and in his most dominant weight class; the ten year period where only retirement could defeat Carlos Monzon.
But does it really take longer than an eye blink to settle on the figure who WAS 1970s boxing (and in many ways the decade before it as well)?
The story of boxing in the 1970s is told first as the story of Muhammad Ali. He was the face of the sport, the center of almost all its richest fights, and the dominant shadow over his time.
On Friday, the Boxing Writers Association of America announced the results of its voting for Fighter of the Decade. As a member, this scribe voted with at least the plurality and perhaps the majority.
There are times when annual awards are written up and final victors should be up for question. Maybe one thought they saw a better fight or a more deserving battler for a single year.
So be it.
This shouldn’t have been one of those times.
The 2010s belonged to Floyd Mayweather.
There have been some objections.
One of them is the amount of time Mayweather was out of the ring. Including his contest with MMA star Conor McGregor, Mayweather competed in seven of the ten years in the decade, entering the ring ten times. That’s the same number of years as Ray Leonard in the 1980s with two fewer appearances; it’s the same number of years as contemporary Andre Ward with one fewer appearance. Take away what was really a glorified exhibition in McGregor and the years and volume of fights differential is still nominal.
Another objection seems to revolve around Mayweather’s quality of competition. This is a place where the numbers don’t support the objection. Using the rankings of Ring Magazine, and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) from their inception in October 2012, as at least a reasonable gauge of the regard his opponents carried, the slate Mayweather faced plays out as:
-Shane Mosley - Ring #2 at welterweight, coming off a knockout victory over Antonio Margarito
-Victor Ortiz - Ring #2 at welterweight, coming off a victory over undefeated Andre Berto
-Miguel Cotto - Ring #1 at Jr. middleweight, coming off three straight wins after a loss to Manny Pacquiao, went on to win the lineal middleweight crown
-Robert Guerrero - Ring #3/TBRB #5 at welterweight, unbeaten coming in for over seven years from featherweight to welterweight (with the assist of a no decision following a loss to Orlando Salido in 2006)
-Saul Alvarez - Ring Champion/TBRB #2 at Jr. middleweight, hasn’t officially lost since, current lineal middleweight champion
-Marcos Maidana - Ring #8/TBRB #6 at welterweight, coming off an upset win over undefeated Adrien Broner
-Marcos Maidana - Ring/TBRB #5 at welterweight, earned an immediate rematch by giving Mayweather arguably his toughest fight since Jose Luis Castillo in 2002
-Manny Pacquiao - Ring #1/TBRB #2 at welterweight, has gone 5-1 since the defeat with a controversial loss to Jeff Horn while winning two more welterweight belts including a win over undefeated Keith Thurman.
-Andre Berto - Unrated
-Conor McGregor - Unrated/Not a boxer
Mayweather became only the second man after Pacquiao to win lineal crowns in his fourth weight class with his win over Alvarez, a veritable shutout and a 1-2 clash for the TBRB. Mayweather had a claim to the welterweight lineage dating to his win over Carlos Baldomir, broken by a retirement. Ring recognized Mayweather as champion already again before the Pacquiao clash; TBRB recognized the winner as the true king. While more competitive than the Alvarez fight, there was no arguing against Mayweather as a decisive victor. Throw in Cotto and that’s three clear wins over men rated the best, or next best to Mayweather, in their division when he beat them.
Both Pacquiao and Alvarez were on the BWAA ballot with Mayweather for Fighter of the Decade along with Ward and Wladimir Klitschko.
No other fighter on the ballot had a win against another available choice.
When one factors economic impact, Mayweather’s numbers lead the pack over the last ten years. Mayweather headlined the two richest and most purchased boxing matches of the pay-per-view era in Pacquiao and McGregor. His bouts with Mosley, Cotto, and Alvarez round it out to five of the six biggest totals of the decade.
While lingering hard feelings follow both Mayweather and Pacquiao for how long it took to make their fight, what Pacquiao has done since the Mayweather loss should dispel the idea that it wasn’t a high quality victory. As the decade ended, Pacquiao remained among the top three welterweights in the world, a position he’s been in for most of the decade.
Alvarez is often cited as being green when he faced Mayweather, but that green opponent was already a unified titlist with over forty fights coming off a major win over Austin Trout. He was young, to be sure, but far from unaccomplished or untested.
As part of an upcoming series digging deeper into the Ring and TBRB ratings to evaluate the top twenty fighters of the 2010s, using a point evaluation for rated opponents (i.e. 11 points for defeating a Ring/TBRB champion/minus 1 for losing, 10 points for #1 contender/minus 2 for losing and so on with additional caveats to be explored and explained), the only fighter who scores higher than Mayweather for the sum of the entire decade is Alvarez.
It’s a case where math doesn’t work without context.
Alvarez doesn’t surpass Mayweather’s point total until his 2019 campaign against Danny Jacobs and Sergey Kovalev after earning his first win over a Ring rated contender versus Ryan Rhodes in 2011. Alvarez fought 25 times in the 2010s versus Mayweather’s ten.
Other high quality contemporaries like Ward and Roman Gonzalez fall short of Mayweather’s total while facing the same number of Ring or TBRB rated contenders from 2010-19. Pacquiao faced almost twice as many rated fighters and fell well short as well.
It’s more than enough for Mayweather’s 2010s run to answer questions about activity and quality of competition before one even arrives at box office magnitude.
The BWAA voters got this one right.
Floyd Mayweather was the Fighter of the Decade.
To Be Continued in “The 2010s in the Rankings: The Top Twenty of the Decade”...
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]