Floyd Mayweather Jr. is in all likelihood in the homestretch of his remarkable career. He has the tough but raw Victor Ortiz scheduled for next month; the fight should not represent much more than a speed bump for Mayweather. There is at least some reason to hope that his long awaited showdown with Manny Pacquiao will be made for sometime in spring or summer 2012.
Win or lose against Pacquiao, it's tough to think of much beyond that to keep Mayweather in the game. He had some of his greatest moments at super featherweight, so it's hard to imagine him going all the way up to middleweight to take on somebody like Sergio Martinez.
Of late, Amir Khan has been lobbying for a fight with Mayweather. With Khan's star on the rise, the fight could be lucrative enough to interest Money. The other top man at junior welterweight, Timothy Bradley, might be a potential opponent as well.
With Mayweather's next fight on the horizon, and his retirement perhaps not much further off, I offer the following retrospective look at the man many rate the top pound-for-pound boxer of his era. These five fights are all among Mayweather's most historically significant efforts and showcased the Grand Rapids, Mich., native at his slick and punishing best.
In only his 18th professional bout, Floyd Mayweather Jr. challenged Genaro Hernandez for the WBC super featherweight title. With a record of 38-1-1 and 300 rounds fought, the two-time world champion Hernandez had more than twice as much experience as the prodigy Mayweather.
It didn't help him. The 30-year-old Hernandez was thoroughly outclassed by Mayweather and looked old in the ring.
In the early rounds, Hernandez tried to stay back and make Mayweather come after him, hoping to counter-punch his less-experienced opponent. Instead, Mayweather used his speed to easily move in and out, slipping Hernandez's jab and lighting the champion up.
In Round 4, Hernandez shifted strategies and began throwing punches at Mayweather from angles. But when he widened his hands, it was just that much easier for Mayweather to land at will with straight punches.
In Round 5, Hernandez tried to rope-a-dope Mayweather, hoping to bait the younger fighter into making a mistake, perhaps even punch himself out. Instead, Mayweather stayed back with his body turned at an angle and proceeded to batter Hernandez with lead rights and uppercuts.
By the eighth round, Hernandez's brother and trainer Rudi had seen enough. He waved the fight off, surrendering the title from the corner, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a world champion for the first time.
In a moment of rare unity, the Mayweather family tearfully celebrated in the ring, and it was obvious to the boxing world that a new super star had risen. Hernandez never fought again.
This fight marked Mayweather's first time fighting at welterweight. With a 56-4 record going in, Mitchell was a battle-tested veteran. He was also an aging fighter with a rebuilt knee that required daily pampering just to make it through a training camp.
In other words, he was something of a sacrificial lamb, a credible opponent for Mayweather to beat up in his first outing at 147 pounds. And that is pretty much exactly how it happened.
Mayweather punished Mitchell in the opening round, landing flush hooks and overhand rights.
And as the fight went on it only got tougher for Mitchell. When he stayed back, looking to counter-punch, Mayweather picked him apart. When he tried to make it a brawl, exchanging in close, Mayweather's superior hand speed brutalized him.
The end came in Round 6 when Mayweather dropped Mitchell with a body shot.
Like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Phillip N'dou had competed in the featherweight division in the 1996 Olympics (they did not meet). By 2003, the South African native was an international veteran of the sport, with a 31-1 record and 30 wins by way of knock out.
N'dou was a big lightweight. At 5'10" and one-half inch, he was nearly three inches taller than Mayweather. On the night of the fight he had rehydrated all the way up to 147, seven pounds heavier than Mayweather's 140.
Mayweather's flashy, "Money" persona was on full display in this fight as he entered the ring in a fur-trimmed robe and fought in fur-trimmed trunks. As can be seen from the above video, the look ended up being more Sherpa than pimp. By contrast, N'dou entered the ring wearing a patch signed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela.
This fight was among Mayweather's most aggressive and pressing. He spent nearly the entire fight within N'dou's range, using head movement and shoulder rolls to avoid everything N'dou could throw at him while finding opening after opening to punish N'dou to the head and body. Mayweather even spent a good chunk of the fight muscling inside against N'dou's chest, smothering the South African's attacks before slipping back and unloading with his own assaults.
This fight closed with Mayweather a slight 6-5 favorite. It was expected to be competitive. But it didn't play out that way.
N'dou demonstrated a great deal of toughness (Jim Lampley famously noted that N'dou was "not easily discouraged") but little else. In the the fifth round, Mayweather beat him badly. Against N'dou's own gallant protests, his corner threw in the towel during the seventh, following a knockdown.
This was one of those classic match-ups where somebody's "O" had to go as the undefeated Mayweather clashed with the 33-0 Corrales.
In addition to both fighters putting perfect records on the line, there was also serious bad blood between the two. The fight took place with Corrales scheduled to stand trial for domestic abuse 12 days later (he ended up serving 14 months). Mayweather had announced he was dedicating the fight to "battered women everywhere."
The 6'1" Coralles was fighting for the last time at 130 pounds. Mayweather appeared small beside him, and though he won them handily, he moved with some degree of caution in the first two rounds.
But by the third, he had established a relentless pace, one that Corrales had no hope of matching. Mayweather hit and moved again and again, always staying beyond the reach of the much taller Corrales. Entirely flummoxed by Mayweather, Corrales set a record for the most rounds of landing punches in the single digits.
He also took a brutal beating. Shut out in every round, he was knocked down three times in the seventh, before succumbing to technical knockout in 10.
Late in the broadcast, Harold Lederman declared this performance of Mayweather's to be the finest boxing exhibition he had seen since Willie Pep.
Hollywood could not have written a better dramatic foil than Arturo Gatti for highlighting the brilliance of Floyd Mayweather Jr. One of the most pure warriors to ever step in the ring, Gatti showed up on D-Day of 2005 with only one plan: to beat up Pretty Boy Floyd.
From the first minute of the fight it was obvious that just wasn't going to happen. Mayweather's foot and hand speed made the fight a complete mismatch. Gatti was knocked down in the first, and both of his eyes were moused up and swelling by the end of the second.
By the middle rounds it had become painful to watch. Gatti returned to his corner after the sixth round with both eyes swollen shut, and the fight was stopped.
Let's be clear: Nobody whose name doesn't end in a vowel thought Gatti had any chance to win this fight. But let's be clear about something else: Gatti, though flawed, was a world class fighter and a handful for pretty much anybody not named Floyd Mayweather Jr.