By Lyle Fitzsimmons
There are a lot of reasons people criticize Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Some question the quality of his opposition. Others claim he ducked Manny Pacquiao. And still more aren’t fond of the flashy, brash persona – whether in the ring or out.
At least two of the three border on idiocy. And as for the third, I couldn’t care less so long as he remains as unlikely to date my daughter as I am to reach the welterweight limit.
To these eyes, he’s the best of his generation and one capable of providing a challenging night to anyone who’s ever graced the 24-pound range in which he’s won five title belts.
So it makes me laugh when I hear contention that there are still giants who need to be slain before his legacy is considered anywhere near the level either he or I believe it warrants.
To me, if he retires tomorrow, he’s done everything that’s required of an all-time great.
Beat a legit champ to get a belt at 130 (Diego Corrales)… check.
Beat a legit champ to get a belt at 135 (Jose Luis Castillo)… check.
Beat a legit champ to get a belt at 140 (Arturo Gatti)… check.
Beat a legit champ to get a belt at 147 (Carlos Baldomir, Victor Ortiz)… check.
Beat a legit champ to get a belt at 154 (Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto)… check.
Still, the latest of the “he ain’t done nothing unless he fights…” guys is Gennady Golovkin, who made himself part of the discussion last Saturday night in Mashantucket, Conn. after obliterating a game-but-outweaponed Matthew Macklin in less than 8 minutes.
Within hours, because the fan-friendly Kazakhstan native made it known he fancies sharing a ring with Mayweather, he became the latest flavor of the month for the crowd that’s pined for years for “Money” to come up short against an opponent… any opponent.
For the record, because he’s 44-0 in parts of three decades, it’s clearly an unsatisfied crowd.
But the suggestion of Golovkin as a litmus test is about as silly as it gets, even for them.
First off, let’s look at the numbers.
While “GGG” is clearly a nice fighter and a throwback to an age where violence mattered more than viewership, let’s not forget that the guy he so convincingly beat last weekend has now come up short in three career title fights – two of which have ended inside the scheduled distance.
So with all due respect to a pretty tough Englishman, beating a guy on the level of Macklin hardly qualifies as a prerequisite for Canastota – unless, that is, everyone’s good with Felix Sturm and Jamie Moore further watering down walls already flooded by some recent inductions.
Before Macklin, Golovkin’s four title defenses since 2011 had combined for 20 losses entering their matches with him. To reach the same number of Ls with Mayweather’s foes, you’d have to go back to 2006. And while Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez provide nine of Floyd’s 20, with Golovkin you get eight from Nobuhiro Ishida alone, not to mention six more from Makoto Fuchigami.
If you were looking for a guy to make Canelo Alvarez’s resume look beefier, you’ve found him.
Then, of course, there’s the whole question of size.
Notwithstanding the claim that he’ll willingly drop pounds to make the match, the Golovkin reality through today is that he’s never weighed-in at less than 158 for any of his 27 fights, while Mayweather’s never been more than 151 in 44 tries – and fought 14 times at 130 or below.
And though I concede the welter to middle thing was done rather famously by a guy named Leonard, he hadn’t started his career three weight classes below 147. So, rather than simply skipping one division to get to 160, asking him to do the same thing Mayweather somehow “needs” to do would have necessitated a mid-80s match with Michael Spinks, not Marvin Hagler.
Last I heard, Ray doesn’t get a lot of flak for not making that happen.
To top it all off, the real truth is that – until he fights a certain Argentine who’d already KO’d the very same Macklin 15 months earlier – Golovkin’s not even the most credible of the middleweight champs.
While wins over Gabriel Rosado and Kassim Ouma are respectable enough, they don’t at all compare to a decision over reigning kingpin Kelly Pavlik and a one-punch elimination of Paul Williams, both of which have been accomplished by one Sergio Martinez.
Add to it that Martinez – who started at 147 and has an old 154-pound belt at home, too – is much closer in dimension to Mayweather and you actually have a fight that might make some sense to discuss before either man takes too many steps closer to retirement.
If he beat Golovkin, the critics would say Mayweather needs to fight Sergio.
But if he beats Martinez, there’d be nothing left to criticize.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO lightweight title – Northbridge, Australia
Daud Cino Yordan (No. 21 contender) vs. Daniel Eduardo Brizuela (No. 31 contender)
Yordan (30-3, 23 KO): Fifth title fight (2-2); Held IBO title at 126 pounds (2011-13, two defenses)
Brizuela (25-1-2, 8 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Argentina
Fitzbitz says: “It’s a significant move up in weight for a former featherweight title claimant, but his opposition here doesn’t match what he’s already been in with.” Yordan by decision
Vacant IBO super bantamweight title – East London, South Africa
Thabo Sonjica (No. 29 contender) vs. Sylvester Lopez (No. 34 contender)
Sonjica (17-2, 12 KO): First title fight; Lost two of three fights scheduled for 12 rounds
Lopez (20-5-2, 15 KO): Second title fight (0-1); One win in last four fights (1-2-1)
Fitzbitz says: “South African youngster has been starched twice by the same foe. Still, he’s got more forward momentum than Filipino who seems far above his prime weight.” Sonjica by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week’s picks: 1-1
2013 picks record: 36-24 (60.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 499-176 (73.9 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.