Boxing fans will admire the speed, the finesse, the talent, the passion, the ego, the cockiness and the unreal moments from Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr.'s career long after it is only a distant memory.
Will they also remember him as a fighter with a zero in the loss column?
Heading into his Sept. 14 showdown with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Mayweather is once again faced with questions of his impending legacy whether win, lose or draw be the final outcome against his fellow undefeated opponent.
Mayweather is without question one of the greatest fighters of our generation.
Wins over Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto are just a few of his career highlights; the 36-year-old star has compiled a 44-0 career record, is a five-division world champion and is coming off an impressive victory over Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero in May.
His opponent is Alvarez, the 23-year-old phenom who has taken no prisoners in compiling a long, lossless resume since turning pro in 2005. A draw with Jorge Juarez is the only blemish in Canelo's 42-0-1 record; some of his biggest triumphs have featured names such as Mosley and Josesito Lopez.
Heading into the second fight of a groundbreaking six-fight agreement with Showtime Sports, all eyes are going to be on Money prior to the fight. Although Alvarez is the latest boxer getting hype for having the skills to knock Mayweather off his perch, hype means nothing in the ring.
As it was before the Guerrero fight and will be for the remainder of Money's career, how the outcome—triumph or setback—will affect his legacy will once again trump any sort of calculated feud between fighters waiting to clash.
Between those who feel Mayweather's legacy is secure and those who want to see the self-proclaimed king dominate before making any designations that will stick, opinions about where Mayweather lands among names like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Henry Armstrong run rampant on both sides.
ESPN's Nigel Collins wrote an interesting piece on Mayweather's legacy in May, just before his bout with Guerrero was scheduled to commence. Noting that several other men had finished undefeated in their boxing careers yet are unrecognizable at first glance, he debunks the idea that zeros alone are the mark of a good fighter.
Speaking on the idea that an unhealthy emphasis is now put on undefeated records and championship belts, Collins pulls no punches in declaring Mayweather a man who has put together his current resume to satisfy a personal need to quantify being "the best."
"Even so, it would be wrong to consider Mayweather a captive of the times in which he fights," Collins writes. "He is instead a prisoner of his colossal but surprisingly fragile ego, the part of him that is both his greatest strength and most glaring weakness."
Mayweather is criticized for taking fights against lesser opponents quite often. Collins mentions Victoriano Sosa, DeMarcus Corley and Carlos Baldomir as examples, and you can hear a frustrated tone in his writing as he laments Money letting those men last 12 rounds in a fight.
Of course, even at its core, you also have to give Mayweather at least 50 percent of the blame for the failure to secure a fight with Manny Pacquiao.
But that's a story for another day.
On the flip side, Mayweather does have support in various boxing avenues.
Yahoo! Sports' Paul Magno played defense attorney for Mayweather's lofty claims of greatest earlier this week, pointing out that the "great" fighters and fights that fans and critics have been seeking for Mayweather don't grow on trees.
While Magno points out that Mayweather is certainly "guilty" of handpicking some of his opponents in ways that benefited his corner, obstacles like promotion contracts and lack of star quality have prevented certain wishes from being fulfilled.
As the title of his piece aptly questions, when is enough going to be enough?
Mayweather continually makes solid opponents look like juniors in high school and has done so in virtually every bout of his career. Guerrero is the latest example of that, and it's hard to argue that Mayweather doesn't take care of business inside the ropes.
Looking forward to Alvarez, there's enough resistance on both sides of the two legacy opinions to consider this one of Mayweather's most interesting fights to date.
On one hand, Alvarez is a young opponent and doesn't have the kind of big-name opponents on his ledger that you'd like to see from someone facing an undefeated champion.
Then again, he's got a strong jab, can throw combinations with the best of them and, speaking on behalf of those who fall with Magno's camp, Alvarez has the same "zero" in his loss column that Money does.
We're at a point where crafting some sort of consensus about where Mayweather sits among the all-time greats is going to be a point of emphasis each time a new opponent is announced.
Win, lose or draw, the discussion concerning that placement is back in full force with Canelo on deck for Sept. 14. Until one fighter's hand is raised and we can draw conclusions on either side of the line, don't feel guilty for keeping Mayweather's legacy in your mind as you wait.
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