Misunderstood? Does Mayweather Deserve to Be Held in Higher Regard?

Richard EverettCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2009

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 16:  Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. appears during the final news conference for his bout against Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino September 16, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two will fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 19 in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Much like maligned yet talented sporting counterparts before him, Floyd Mayweather is constantly faced with a barrage of criticism or goading even in the immediate aftermath of a seemingly flawless performance against Juan Manuel Marquez.

His most ardent of critics seem to have at their disposal a portfolio of grievances so deep and vociferous it makes George Bush’s indiscretions seem like mere ‘administrative errors’.

Cynics have argued that "Money" came back to boxing in order to satisfy millions of dollars in debts to a host of creditors, including a $6.1 million unpaid 2007 tax bill to the IRS. Mayweather however refutes the suggestion and alludes to his hankering for respect as his prime motivation.

"I don't want to just go down in the Hall of Fame with some saying I was one of the best, I want everyone to say 'Floyd was the best.'"

His true intentions are of course only clear to those that know him best.

However his most recent interviews shed light on his financial situation. May I state that I for one am not convinced that Floyd sold his cars as part of his now assumed character rehabilitation program.

Mayweather’s constant protestations and more recent reiteration that "he cannot win" are cause to examine whether he REALLY is deserving of more acclaim or is there still much more required to be earned.

One of the most prolific criticisms lies with Mayweather’s resume.

It is devoid of the quality of fighters/fights which highlight records of universally recognised greats. Sugar Ray Robinson had La Motta, Graziano and Fullmer; Ali disposed of the Foreman’s and Frazier’s of his era; Sugar Ray has Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns at the top of his litany of impressive victories and so on and so forth.

What stands out when we scour Mayweather’s record?  A split decision victory over Oscar De la Hoya? Ten-round knockout victories over Ricky Hatton and Diego Corrales? All of the above mentioned victories have dark shadows cast over them.

De la Hoya and Corrales could be said to have had their best days behind them, and Ricky Hatton was faced with the disadvantage of fighting at a weight he was not usually accustomed to.

Although I agree these are legitimate caveats I advance one undeniable fact. All three of the above fighters at the time of these matches taking place were recognised as the best in their respective weight divisions.

Scouring pound for pound lists at this time demonstrates that all three were also regarded as being in the top ten pound for pound at the time of respective bouts with Mayweather.

So does this demonstrate Mayweather has a right to feel aggrieved at the bum rap he constantly receives?

Well, not exactly.

His team's (comprised of primarily Mayweather himself and his trusted adviser Leonard Ellerbe) constant inability to satisfy the media, boxing aficionados and fans alike when it comes to matchmaking is becoming legendary.

Following his victory over Oscar De La Hoya, there was a clamour to create match-ups with welterweight contenders Miguel Cotto, Paul Williams and Shane Mosley, yet Mayweather turned to the undersized Ricky Hatton. Following the victory over Hatton rather than pursue showdowns with the protagonists above he sought retirement.

It was during this two year sabbatical that Mayweather had a legacy defining epiphany—return and fight the lightweight "numero uno" Juan Manuel Marquez. Not any of the above or universally recognised number one Manny Pacquaio but little, old, 135-pound Marquez.

"Floyd, congratulations for beating the best lightweight in the world"

Freddie Roach’s riposte was somewhat indicative of the response Mayweather faced. Some reciting that it created more question than answers. That the sheer size disparity created a barrier that even the skills of Marquez could not overcome.

Yet at the heart of Mayweather’s victory were skills not eminent of a bigger fighter but a SUPERIOR fighter. Defensively untouchable, he portrayed such defensive proficiency that he has been likened to Pernell Whitaker. Hand speed of the highest order and reflexes that are catlike I marvelled at his pugilistic mastery. All this whilst coming direct from a self imposed 21 month lay off.

On my cards a shutout, yet what do we hanker for from Mayweather "to finish the job." Such a clear favourite in the build up to the fight that it would necessitate a knockdown for our collective pallet to feel satisfied. Here in lies both the beauty of Mayweather and the irrefutable frustration.

I found myself weeks ago tuning in with great intrigue to watch the English Illusionist Derren Brown supposedly predict the UK National Lottery balls– sure enough he did, or ...seemed to have done. His explanation belied belief and was barely plausible. Yet admittedly I tuned in the following week to watch him "stick people to seats." Again it seemed underwhelming…you get the gist.

Mayweather is frustrating but he promotes his fights with the same veracity and controversy that Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali conjured before him.

We may lustre for more toe to toe action, yet we all tune in over and over again just like we did when he fought De La Hoya and Hatton; and now as over one million of us did, to see him dispose of Marquez. Whether our reasoning is to see him put on his backside or to marvel at his pugilistic proficiency—we will all watch with intrigue when he next ‘puts on his boots and laces up his fly shorts’.

Watching the Klitschko-Arreola fight reminded me why critics of the sport say it is ‘dying’. Vitali proceeded to plod and jab his way to a convincing yet under whelming victory. A heavyweight tussle between two of the top five heavyweights that was not worthy of pay-per-view—a concept unheard of ten years ago I must add. In the pre-fight and post fight interviews Vitali had about as much charisma as a dead mackerel.

Perhaps Mayweather is the jewel in the boxing crown, the ability to draw yet leave us asking for more.

He tantalises us yet frustrates us but without him wouldn’t boxing be much more of a grey sport?

Sure Manny Pacquaio is excellent to watch and has skills to rival Mayweather but he doesn’t give much more than the Klitschko brothers in the charisma stakes.

Where would we be now had Mayweather fought Cotto instead of Hatton or Mosley instead of Marquez. No doubt we would clamour for him to face those with whom he did not share a ring.

His skills and artistry in the ring is a fine advert for this sport. It is what separates boxing from its closest adversary and the barbarism of UFC.

The future of boxing may lie with Mayweather, to keep it relevant and not just another niche sport—perhaps that more than anything on his resume would be his greatest achievement, and that more than anything else is worthy of our acclaim.

And yes I did watch Derren Brown’s third episode!