Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Joe Calzaghe.
Ebony and Ivory.
"Pretty Boy" and "The Prince of Wales."
Riggs and Murtaugh.
Two fighters forever linked by their lack of respect in a sport they dominated.
Calzaghe retired a year and a half ago with a perfect 46-0 record.
Floyd is currently 41-0.
Calzaghe beat Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., Mikel Kessler, Jeff Lacy, and Sakio Bika.
Mayweather Jr. has beaten Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales.
Yet there are always question marks regarding both fighter's legacies. Calzaghe has floated into oblivion since retiring. No one mentions him as an all-time great, even within British circles.
He'll be lucky to crack any top 100 all time fighters list.
Floyd will undoubtedly suffer a similar fate. Mayweather will most likely go out with a whimper, not a bang.
The boxing public will turn the page with nary a tear shed when "Pretty Boy" calls it a career.
Critics persist that Calzaghe never fought a Vernon Forrest, a Winky Wright or even a Shane Mosley. They also maintain he got to Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. when they were past their primes.
The critics echo the same sentiments about Mayweather Jr.
Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, and Juan Manuel Marquez were all 34 years or older when Floyd fought them.
Mayweather Jr. never stepped up and fought Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley in his prime, Paul Williams, or any of the Mexican candidates that Pacquiao fought (Eric Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Juan Manuel Marquez at a decent weight class).
Calzaghe and Mayweather both suffer from power outages. Critics maintain they fight 'safe' and don't go in for the kill against lesser opponents.
In his last 7 fights, Calzaghe only knocked out a vastly over-matched Peter Manfredo Jr.
In his last 6 fights, Mayweather has only knocked out Ricky Hatton.
The difference is Calzaghe has never been accused of being a 'boring' fighter, while the critics scream that Floyd's fights are all snoozefests.
Calzaghe, they maintain, simply gets off pitty-pat amateur shots that never cause any real damage. The punches might look good on camera, but they don't do any harm.
Floyd is a fighter only a boxing purist can love. Yes, they marvel at his defensive prowess and technique, but those purists are few and far between.
Even now, rumors persist that Calzaghe is coming out of retirement, albeit for a rematch with Bernard Hopkins.
The critics will wonder, "Why Hopkins?"
Why not fight Lucian Bute? Beat him and we'll give you your legacy.
The same critics shout at Floyd Mayweather Jr. to finally get in the ring with Manny Pacquiao.
The real damage, it would seem, is being done outside the ropes.
Joe Calzaghe will never be on the same level as the beloved Ricky Hatton. Ricky was a blue-collar bloke who never showed airs. Tens of thousands of fans would fly to America just to watch Hatton fight.
The critics maintain Calzaghe is conceited and full of himself. He drives flashy cars and dates fast women.
He calls himself 'The Greatest'.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. nicknamed himself 'Money'. He flaunts his status and possessions in the face of anyone who will watch. He talks trash.
Mayweather Jr. will never be as beloved as Manny Pacquiao, who gives out money and food to the poor and is running for Congress in his native Phillipines.
Most of the black public contends that white America wants Floyd to be seen and not heard.
The UK public seems to think the same of Joe Calzaghe.
Both fighters complain that they deserve more respect.
Why are some fighters beloved while others are seen as pariahs?
Rocky Marciano is a legend who retired with a perfect 49-0 record. He's considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time.
Yet, his greatest victories, against Ezzerd Charles, Jersey Walcott and Joe Louis, all came when those fighters were well past their prime. Charles and Louis were both in their forties when Marciano fought them.
Marciano is a legend because of his record, but more so because the people absolutely adored him. Critics looked beyond the level of his opponents because he was so well liked.
The true knock on both Calzaghe and Mayweather is that they are cocky and brash.
The only fighter, ever, who could get away with that level of braggadocio and bravado was Muhammad Ali.
Ali turned trash talking into an art form. A kind of poetry.
He became an icon for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, and for his epic bouts with Frazier and Foreman.
His forceful personality became a form of civil rebellion.
Yet, to this day, Frazier, Foreman and almost anyone who fought Ali refuse to give him credit.
Verbal wounds last far, far longer than flesh wounds.
If Mayweather and Calzaghe took a more humble and respectful approach, would they be mentioned among the all-time greats?
Being subject to the court of public opinion is never any easy task. Just ask Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, perhaps two of the greatest hitters who ever lived.
Rodriguez is booed wherever he plays (including Yankee Stadium) and there isn't so much as a plaque to commemorate Bonds at Giants stadium.
The lesson, I suppose, is that substance still counts in this age of cynicism and materialism. People still want heroes. It isn't all about performance and money, it's about winning in a way that inspires the common man (and woman). It's about handling yourself outside the ring with grace and humility rather than with arrogance and cockiness.
I'm firmly in support of that.
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