Is Floyd Mayweather Jr. a better boxer than Muhammad Ali?
I don't know. Was the velociraptor a better dinosaur than the T. rex? Could Michael Jordan beat LeBron James in one-on-one hopscotch if they were both in their prime?
The Mayweather-Ali debate is an unproductive, apples-to-oranges argument about two fighters from different weight classes and generations. Who the "better" fighter is can never be definitively parsed for numerous reasons, but that doesn't stop people from bringing it up, particularly if it helps hate-per-view sales.
Thus we have Mayweather going off on another self-aggrandizing tear with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.
SportsGrid.com's Jake O'Donnell posted video of the conversation. The First Take personality set up Mayweather with a meatball question about whether he truly believes he's a greater boxer than Ali.
Mayweather obliged, saying he's a better boxer than Ali, who lost to a young professional in Leon Spinks and relied on gimmickry for one of his biggest wins:
No one can ever brainwash me to make me believe that Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali was better than me. No one could ever brainwash me and tell me that. But one thing I will do—I'm going to take my hat off to them and respect those guys because those are the guys that paved the way for me to be where I'm at today. ...
... Leon Spinks beat him when he had seven fights. They'd never put a fighter in there with Floyd Mayweather with seven fights. So you gonna tell me that it's cool to lay on the ropes and take punishment and let a man tire himself out from beating you and then he basically fatigued? You hit him with a few punches and he go down and quit, and you want to be glorified for that?
There are a number of omissions and problems with Mayweather's remarks here, including the fact that Leon Spinks was a 24-year-old Olympic gold-medal winner 12 years Ali's junior when they first fought. Also, Ali's rope-a-dope against George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" isn't much different from Mayweather's electing to use a calculated, defensive style of boxing in his bouts.
Mayweather also doesn't note the fact that Ali fought in boxing's golden age, before the popular rise of televised football and basketball. The talent pool was huge, as was the demand for fights. Nowadays, the general public is content to chew on one big match a year, most watching out of sheer schadenfreude in lieu of fandom.
But any rebuttal to Mayweather's claim is useless, because, as stated, arguing for Ali is arguing for another class of fighter. If anything is up for debate between the two, it's the question of which is the better hype man.
Dan is on Twitter. Floyd vs. Ali in a ticket-selling competition is the ultimate battle.