By Cliff Rold
In this series, designed to culminate the week of the May 2nd showdown between Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KO) and World Junior Welterweight champion Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KO), Pacquiao’s previous title claims in five weight divisions were examined. Identified were three lineal titles at Flyweight, Featherweight, and Jr. Lightweight. Against Hatton, Pacquiao goes for overall title for lineal title number four. How historically significant would it be?
In order to answer that question, the page now turns to the other men who have made claims to titles in four, five and six weight divisions, closing looking at how their championship accolades weather the weight of history. Those men are:
Four Division Claimants
Roberto Duran - https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=19025
Pernell Whitaker - https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=19117
Roy Jones Jr. & Leo Gamez - https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=19243
Five Division Claimants
Sugar Ray Leonard - https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=19317
Thomas Hearns - https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=19427
Floyd Mayweather Jr. -
And the lone Six Division Claimant
Oscar De La Hoya
The most recent member to join the five divisional titles club is probably not done yet. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KO) may not add a sixth division to his run; Middleweight would be a lot to ask. However, most expect the Pretty Boy back before the end of 2009 and it would be less than shocking to see him add to his trophy case. Of the titles he’s amassed to date, which truly stand the test of time?
The Title Reigns of Money
World Jr. Lightweight – RTD8 Genaro Hernandez: After being heisted in the 1996 Olympic semi-finals in Atlanta, forced to settle for bronze rather than go for the gold, Mayweather turned professional in October of that year and began a rapid ascent. Just shy of two years later, in only his eighteenth professional bout, Mayweather stopped and ended the career of the more experienced then-WBC titlist Hernandez whose only previous loss had come to Oscar De La Hoya. While Hernandez was past his best, it was notable that he was never in the fight. There can be some argument as to whether this bout earned a lineal distinction. The concept wasn’t heavily tracked in 1998, but the Cyber Boxing Zone (CBZ) recognizes the lineage as dating to the latter championship days of Azumah Nelson, which is probably correct. If not, Mayweather made clear who the champion at 130 lbs. was over his first six defenses, the last of which was originally to be a unification showdown with undefeated IBF titlist Diego Corrales (Corrales was forced to give up his belt). When those two men squared off in January 2001, they were far and away considered the two best in the world. Mayweather may have lost two seconds of the bout before stopping the late Corrales in the tenth. It would have been nice to see further unification with Acelino Freitas and Joel Casamayor, but neither of those two had the resumes then which they would amass after Floyd was done in class. Forecast: Slightly hazy, but strong enough to merit recognition as a lineal claim
World Lightweight – UD12 Jose Luis Castillo: After finishing what was one of the great runs ever at 130, Mayweather moved up in April 2002 and found more adversity than he’d faced before (or since) in his career in the form of Mexico’s rugged Castillo. Entering the bout as the WBC titlist, a belt he’d won from the perceived best fighter in the division, Stevie Johnston, in 2000, Castillo would end the night with plenty to argue about. After a slow start, Castillo began to work his way inside on Mayweather and engaged on his terms. At the end, scores varied amongst sets of eyes as to who the victor was and the lopsided four and five point margins in Mayweather’s favor sat well with few. Mayweather would erase doubt in the rematch, another close fight though nine rounds blown wide open in the final third as Mayweather seemed finally to solve the puzzles Castillo presented. As was the case at 130, there can be a case made against recognizing Mayweather as the outright World champion. Ring Magazine decided to recognize the fight as their vacant belt even though Mayweather hasn’t really competed at Lightweight up to then (minus a win against Emanuel Augustus) and Castillo was widely, and deservedly, seen as the best Lightweight in the world. In contrast, Mayweather didn’t fight unification battles with either Leonard Dorin (WBA) or Paul Spadafora (IBF and winner of an infamous sparring session between he and Mayweather); Dorin and Spadafora instead fought each other to a memorable draw while Floyd competed with second tier Lightweights after Castillo. It’s not a clear call, but the long-term historical standing of Castillo makes this a stronger title in retrospect and edges in favor of Mayweather. Forecast: Again slightly hazy, but clear enough to cite as a lineal claim
WBC Jr. Welterweight – TKO6 Arturo Gatti: In a series examining Pacquiao’s chances of winning a lineal title in a fourth weight class, it is ironic that Mayweather’s weakest title claim was made in division where might have been at his physical best and have been favored to beat either of the men who held the lineal crown in class while he was there (Kostya Tszyu and eventual knockout victim at Welterweight Ricky Hatton). Mayweather moved to 140 in May 2004 and ran over the capable DeMarcus Corley before having his Ricky Frazier HBO moment to start 2005 (Henry Bruseles…still an uugh). He followed it with a wise business decision and an almost June 2006 unloseable fight against Arturo Gatti which did much to further his star but little to further his credentials. The Gatti win meant a WBC belt, and belts are always nice, but when the Gatti fight was signed the only man who could truly claim the world title at 140, Tszyu, still claimed it. Forecast: Hazy, and disappointing as this could have been a signature weight class
World Welterweight – UD12 Carlos Baldomir: Astute fans will recall Mayweather won his first Welterweight belt (IBF) in 2007 against a Zab Judah who had lost the undisputed title at 147 lbs. in his previous fight. He got the best of Judah and it was a good win so no need to dwell on sanctioning body silliness. His very next fight in November of the same year, he’d take on Judah’s conqueror, Carlos Baldomir, and win going away in an effective if not thrilling performance. At the time, and in the years since, this has been a win which receives its criticisms. Baldomir was a Jimmy Braddock or Buster Douglas, a lesser fighter who got the right champion on the right night. There were certainly other Welterweights who would have been a tougher physical challenge. So what? Baldomir had beaten the man who beat the man (going back either to Shane Mosley-De La Hoya I (CBZ), Vernon Forrest-Mosley I (Ring), or Cory Spinks-Ricardo Mayorga for three major belts). So, sure, argue the merits of Baldomir as a quality win or as what sort of merit he means for Mayweather’s historical standing. The facts are simple: He was the Welterweight champion of the World. Period. So was Floyd after 47 minutes with Baldomir. Forecast: Clear, Lineal Claim to the World Title
WBC Jr. Middleweight – SD12 Oscar De La Hoya: The final title won for Mayweather came in his second to last fight. There isn’t a great deal to review; this was a major event, grossing record amounts of dollars and Floyd won clean (if by odd split decision) over De La Hoya for the WBC belt at 154 lbs. in May 2007. Since the exit of Winky Wright, no one has, or had at the time of Mayweather-De La Hoya, emerged as the clear Jr. Middleweight champion but De La Hoya was still regarded as at least a top five player in class. It was a quality win, followed by Mayweather’s lone Welterweight title defense against the World Jr. Welterweight Champion Hatton in a memorable December 2007 clash of unbeatens. Boxing waits to see when and where Mayweather will make his return. Forecast: Hazy; no clear lineage to claim at the time
Mayweather stands out amongst the fighters reviewed in this series because, should Pacquiao defeat Hatton, he and Floyd appear headed towards each other. Again an example of the timing key to accomplishments, winning four lineal titles in four division could well have been sewn up already by Floyd had the Hatton fight taken place just seven pounds south. They did not and this piece of history remains there to be made.
To be continued…
For Part I of this “Real History” Series and a look at Pacquiao’s previous title claims, log on to https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=18886
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]