Floyd Mayweather: Pound-for-Pound Greatness, But is He Really Ducking Cotto?

Jacob MackbergContributor IApril 26, 2008

Everybody in boxing, from the writers, commentators, "experts", and fans, has an opinion, usually a very strong one, on Floyd Mayweather. If you want to get an intense debate going in boxing circles, just mention his name, and you are sure to find sentiments ranging from him being the best boxer alive, to him being an over-rated loud mouth who hand picks opponents and refuses to fight anyone worthy.

I'm always astonished by the intense reactions Floyd Mayweather brings out in people, but I think it's time to get away from biased opinion and time to focus on the facts, and look at what has actually happened in an objective light. Objectivity is the foundation of intelligence, and it would appear that objectivity has been lacking in the endless Floyd Mayweather debate.

Let's start off by looking at what has actually happened in Mayweather's career. He started out at 130 pounds at age 19. Two years later, he became champion by dominating and knocking out Genaro Hernandez in eight rounds. He successfully defended his title eight times. Three of those eight victims would later go on to win world titles.

Floyd then moved up to challenge Jose Luis Castillo for the 135-pound title. What we know, mostly because we have heard it over and over, is that it was his toughest fight, and he might even have been given a gift. What is not trumpeted so often or as loudly, is that he fought with a bad shoulder. Or the fact that he gave Castillio an immediate rematch, which he won convincingly.

The lack of objectivity concerning Floyd Mayweather first reared its head following the first Castillo fight, with many believing that the way to beat Floyd was to apply relentless pressure, and conveniently forget that he was injured and had no such problems in the return match when he was healthy.

It was that very instance that lead to Ricky Hatton getting knocked out silly, including getting his head bounced off the turnbuckle five years later. In light of Mayweather being in a WWE Wrestlemania match, the irony does not fail to escape or humor me.

Continuing to move up in weight, he moved to the 140-pound limit, with a solid win over DeMarcus Corley. Two fights later and it was on to his first pay-per-view fight and division title against Arturo Gatti. We all know what happened. It was a masterclass clinic. It was the worst beating I have even seen taken by a man who entered the ring as a world champion.

I've seen guys knocked out in the first, but this fight was six rounds, six rounds in which the champion did absolutely nothing that conveyed a sense of being the world champion. However, for Mayweather, it was his first fight on the big stage and he delivered.

At that time, Ricky Hatton had just beaten Kosta Tszyu, and was rightly seen as the true 140-pound champ. He beat the man who beat the man. There was talk of a Mayweather-Hatton fight, and with Cotto in the mix, the junior-welterweight division had three young, dominating, marquee fighters. Fans were salivating at the possibilities.

Those dream matchups were not to be, or so it seemed, when Mayweather moved up again in weight to 147, his second weight-division climb in two years. There were people saying he was ducking both Hatton and Cotto, and was not interested in a real challenge.

His first fight at the weight was against Sharmba Mitchell, and in some circles, he was heavily criticized for "taking an easy fight". Those who leveled those claims didn't seem to have a problem with Kosta Tszyu fighting Mitchell twice, or take into account it was Mayweather's first fight at 147, and third weight class in two years. 

He then began negotiations to fight "Super" Zab Judah for all the 147 pound marbles. Judah was fresh off a knock-out win over Cory Spinks, and was the linear champ. No one had ever questioned Zab's skill, it was his mental game that has always been suspect. After the Spinks win, it seemed as if he had finally put it all together, and had become the fighter most had long felt he had the potential to be.

So Floyd and Zab agreed to fight. Zab would have a routine tune-up and they would get it on. But even the best laid plans can go awry, and an unfocused Zab lost his belt and linear-champion status to Carlos Baldomir. Bet you didn't see that coming.

Funny thing, this sport of boxing though. Seems like Carlos couldn't pay a sanctioning fee, so he never got the belt he fought for and seemingly won. Where does that leave Floyd Mayweather?

Since the Judah fight was already planned, he went through with it and that decision lead to all kinds of criticism of him and the organizations that refused to give Baldomir the title. Let's stay focused on what actually happened.

Floyd fought a focused Zab Judah, who gave an excellent account of himself for about four or five rounds. Then Floyd picked him apart and was on his way to what I believe was a stoppage victory, and then Judah fouled him with a low blow, and all hell broke loose. Everyone in both corners lost it, except for one man, Floyd Mayweather.

When the smoke cleared, Floyd's trainer, uncle Roger Mayweather, was ejected, and eventually Roger, Zab, and Zab's father and trainer Yoel, would end up with suspended licenses. After that fight, Floyd fought and virtually shutout Carlos Baldomir to become the linear 147-pound champ. His trainer happened to be in jail at the time, and oh yeah, Baldomir weighed 163 on fight night.  

Meanwhile, Miguel Cotto continued to impress at his new weight, knocking out good fighter after good fighter, showing some vulnerablity a la the Ricardo Torres fight, but improving, and most importantly, winning.

In my opinion it is impossible to be a boxing fan and not be a Miguel Cotto fan. He is that good, and embodies everything we love about fighters. Not to mention he now has great skills to match his toughness and grit.

Ricky Hatton had a different experience. He fought Luis Callazo, and squeaked out a decision many felt he did not deserve. It seems like the guy who relies on strength and pressure was not strong enough to handle the pressure at 147, at a time when Mayweather and Cotto were shining. He quickly went down to a weight were he would be able to bully smaller men, but not before making the most revealing statement ever made about the world of talent that divided him from Floyd Mayweather. 

Right after the Collazo fight Hatton said, quote, "I am not ready for the likes of a Mayweather". Unfortunately for his pride (and noggin), but fortunately for his wallet, he lost that objectivity, objectivity that came in the form of a 147-pound reality check. Little did he know then, objectivity would be partialy restored 19 months later.

As Cotto kept moving forward and Hatton moved back down, Mayweather got himself the biggest fight in history, a fight no boxer would turn down. Oscar De La Hoya, the "Golden Boy", and most lucrative opponent and future hall of famer. In all of the drama building up to the fight, what often gets left out, perhaps deliberately or just over shadowed by the other headlines, is that that fight might never had happened.

De La Hoya, who had built a reputation as a fighter who would fight anybody, didn't display that same attitude in the negotiations. He demanded that the fight take place at 154 pounds, seven pounds over Mayweather's weight, and 19 pounds heavier then Mayweather was just three years ago. He demanded that they use gloves that would accentuate Floyd's brittle hands, logically in the hopes Mayweather would injure them. Another demand was that the fight take place in a smaller ring. All of these worked against Floyd, and De La Hoya refused to fight him if any of these demands were not met. Naturally, Floyd agreed to every one of them.

I've seen this fight several times, and what I see is a clinic. Let's not forget that Mayweather weighed 150 at the weigh-in and 148 on fight night. We don't know what Oscar weighed on fight night. I don't think many people would think it a stretch to say he probably weighed close to 160, but that's just speculation. He weighed-in at 154 pounds.

The scoring was close, but the CompuBox numbers seemed to back up a decisive Mayweather victory. He landed the cleaner shots, staggered De La Hoya, and showed superior defense, among other things. Again, this fight became a beacon for a lack of objectivity concerning Floyd Mayweather.

While not many people felt that Oscar had won, those who sought to detract from the win took it as some kind of "moral victory", even going so far as to say De La Hoya gave the fight away by not jabbing, and that the fight was really close.

What actually happened?

We saw a fighter step up to a weight he couldn't even make against a man who will go to the hall of fame, that had fought Bernard Hopkins at 160, and who had just beat a 154-pound champion. Other than Joe Calzaghe, most boxing people have not articulated the merits of that accomplishment. I’ve always felt that the greats do things that would seem unreasonable to ask the rest of the pack.

I will illustrate my point with this.

Kelly Pavlik has the middleweight title and we all seem to like him; he is a good, consistent, young fighter. But would you ask him to eventually step up to heavyweight and challenge for a title, let alone win one? That would seem ridiculous to even ask him to do that, yet that is exactly what Roy Jones did. And like Floyd, people do not want to acknowledge their accomplishments. 

How many fighters could realistically do what Mayweather did to De La Hoya? Factor in the weight increases and the time period of those weight gains. Name to yourself how many guys, right now, could start at 130, jump to 135, and in three years win the 154-pound title. Keep in mind beating linear champs and Ring Magazine titles.

Going back to the good old days when Mayweather, Cotto, and Hatton were all at 140 pounds, and Mayweather supposedly ducked them by moving up, he now has fought Hatton and knocked him out. Hatton lost beacuse he became a victim of lost objectivity, and started to believe the hype.

He bought into arguments of Mayweather "losing" to Castillio, without looking at what really happened. He bought into the argument that Floyd "ducked" him by moving up to a weight class Hatton couldn't hang in. He bought into the argument that the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight was close. Now, he blames it all on the ref.

Let's look at the Cotto angle. Cotto has proven himself, no questions asked. But what are his biggest wins? Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. The same Zab Judah who Mayweather had already beat. Some will say that De La Hoya is old, so he shouldn't be considered a viable opponent. With that logic, neither is Mosley, as he is even older than Oscar.

We all know their history together. Do you really think that Cotto would turn down a De La Hoya or a Hatton fight? Maybe when he starts fighting for free, but as long as he is collecting purses, I feel it's safe to assume he would jump at those lucrative pay-days.  

So based on what has actually happened, Floyd Mayweather has proven his pound-for-pound status, from his 130-pound strap right up to junior middleweight.  You can't knock a man for getting the most out of what his profession has to offer.  He certainly didn't duck Hatton, and using that logic in light of what has actually happened, a tenable case of Mayweather ducking Cotto cannot be made.

If so, when? When he made eight figures fighting Oscar? Or Ricky? Or becoming the linear 147-pound champ? I won't even mention the other fighters he was accused of avoiding. They won't be going to the hall of fame, and have in the last year both lost to fighters who also won't be going to the hall of fame.

As long as Cotto keeps winning and Mayweather keeps fighting, it's safe to say that they will fight just as Floyd fought Ricky. Until then, he's going to collect another big pay day from Oscar and Ricky, and wisely make the money while it's there to be made. If you bet on Hatton before, you already know the pain lack of objectivity brings.