To be among the greatest boxers of all-time, one must come within distance of all the greats who have passed before him.
Sugar Ray Robinson is widely considered one of the greatest boxers ever. Some people attempt to talk their way into being called the best fighter on the planet. Robinson showed it in the ring.
Robinson was 85-0 as an amateur with 69 of those victories coming by way of KO, 40 in the first round. He turned professional in 1940 at the age of 19 and by 1951 had a professional record of 128-1-2 with 84 knockouts.His only defeat came by the hands of Jake Lamotta; which he avenged five times.
Today, records like that probably won't be seen again. But it wasn't about the records. Robinson beat everyone at his weight class. He fought everyone they put him against and never backed down.
Today, fighters like that probably won't be seen again.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is no question the most skillful boxer in the world today. He boasts a 40-0 record with 25 KOs. He has fought some great fighters, but the knock on Floyd is that he leaves a lot of fighters out there on the table.
During his march up in weight classes, Mayweather left a trail of fighters out there that would solidified his greatness. Instead bypassing prime fighters like, Acelino Freitas, Paul Spadafora, Joel Casamayor, Kostya Tszyu, Antonio Margarito, and Miguel Cotto, has placed a black mark on a great career.
One fighter that he did face that was of a seemingly high demand, was Ricky Hatton. A spirited win boosted Mayweather even higher on the ladder of the generations greatest fighters.
In the tenth round of his bout with Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather lured Hatton into the corner of the ring and delivered a "check" left hook and Hatton flew head first into the ring post.
Not long after Hatton had been stopped via TKO. Mayweather had just been the first fighter to ever beat Hatton, and he did so in great fashion.
Coming off a great win against Hatton, Mayweather was in talks for a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya, whom he had defeated by way of split-decision earlier in the year.
But Mayweather surprised the boxing world by calling it quits at the pinnacle of his career. Leaving millions on the table, and leaving fans, the sport, and also prime fighters behind.
That summer, about six weeks later; Miguel Cotto, who was undefeated and a real threat to Mayweather's throne, took on a fight with Antonio Margarito. Cotto—a betting favorite in the fight, and rightfully so—took his first defeat by the "hands" of Antonio Margarito.
Replace Margarito with Mayweather. If Mayweather had won, he would have beaten a prime welterweight. A fighter that many believe could defeat Mayweather at the time.
Throw all those fighters that he had bypassed out of the window. All of Mayweather's critics would have had to commend him on his guts and glory. Mayweather then could have looked at the crowd and the fans, instead of mocking and booing him, would have said, "job well done."
It would have been a fight of a Duran-Leonard magnitude. No more talks of Mayweather never fighting the best at their best. Instead of always referring to his destruction of Diego Corrales, which happened nearly a decade ago, this would be his greatest achievement.
Just as Duran, Leonard, Hagler and Hearns had done just a generation before, Mayweather would have had a career defining fight. It wouldn't have been too far a stretch to place Mayweather's name in the same sentence as those guys.
Mayweather-Cotto could have been talked about for years. It was clearly a matchup worth seeing. Two undefeated welterweights in their primes.
It could have went something like this...
MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas NV.
Eleventh Round. Mayweather circles around Cotto. Cotto has been coming on late in the rounds and he has Mayweather cut over his right eye. Mayweather is bleeding from his nose and referee Tony Weeks has been in and out of Mayweather's corner warning them about a potential stoppage on cuts. Mayweather leans on the ropes, rolling his shoulders to the rhythm of Cotto's crushing body blows.
Cotto should be working on Mayweather's right eye but continues to send thunderous shots to Mayweather's mid-section. Mayweather built an early lead but Cotto has fired back, and for the first time in his career, Mayweather looks hurt. He looks like he's hanging on to the final bell in each round. Mayweather slides off the ropes. Throws a left jab to Cotto's body. A straight right that wobbles Cotto. Cotto is retreating now.
Mayweather is stepping forward for the first time in a long time. Mayweather stuns Cotto with a leaping left hook that look like he pulled all of his strength into it. Cotto tries to tie up Mayweather, but Mayweather raises up and delivers a crushing left hook and right upper-cut combination that sends Cotto down on one knee.
He beats the count but Mayweather flurries with blistering combos until the bell sounds. Cotto is saved by the bell. Cotto is on shaky grounds walking to his corner and falls down repeatedly. Referee Tony Weeks checks on the fallen champion and Miguel Cotto is waved off in-between rounds. Floyd Mayweather drops to his knees in celebration.
What a fight that could have been. What a fight the fans could have witnessed. But it didn't happen that way.
Cotto loses to Margarito.
Floyd retires early.
And Manny Pacquiao beats everyone including Cotto, and becomes the boxing icon that Floyd Mayweather could have been.
Bryant Maxwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org