IT is fair to say Floyd Mayweather, son of former pro Floyd Snr and nephew of former world champion Roger, divides opinion.
Undefeated, brash, enigmatic and extraordinarily talented, “Money” has dominated the boxing landscape for one reason or another for the last 10 years.
From 2009-2014 it was, for the most part, because he and Filipino hero Manny Pacquiao, the two best fighters in the sport, failed to sign to fight one another. That controversy has been confined to the dustbin of history. The pair finally met last May at the MGM Grand and, true to his word, Floyd ran out a clear winner over 12 rounds.
Mayweather has been all but untouchable aside from being pushed close by Mexican star Jose Luis Castillo (2002) in their first fight and Oscar De La Hoya (2007), in the ageing icon’s last solid performance.
At times, Mayweather has been simply breathtaking. He won his first title with an eight-round victory over WBC champion Genaro Hernandez and then dismantled Angel Manfredy in just two sessions. He was at his accurate, sharp-shooting best when flooring Diego Corrales five times on his way to one of the finest wins of his multi-title career before going up to lightweight for two clashes with tough Castillo. A year later he defeated DeMarcus Corley and Henry Bruseles in 10st title eliminators before he took apart veteran warrior Arturo Gatti in six rounds, putting on an exhibition in sharp, hurtful counterpunching.
At welterweight, Zab Judah was widely outscored, as was Carlos Baldomir and – up at light-middleweight – De La Hoya surrendered an early lead and was handed a split decision points loss in what was then the highest grossing fight in boxing history. After the pay-per-view revenue came in, De La Hoya took home more than $50m while Floyd cleared $25m.
Huge paydays followed for Mayweather against Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz as he hovered in and out of retirement, appearing in three of the biggest non-heavyweight pay-per-view blockbusters in boxing (De La Hoya, Mosley and Ortiz) as his celebrity status continued to rise.
The talent that took him to the bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics has remained through, as he calls it, years of “hard work and dedication.”
Mayweather is a fantastic athlete, and always in shape, but he is all about the money. He’s a highly-paid mercenary who dictated who he fought, when he fought and how much his opponent got paid.
“I don’t fight for legacy,” he once opined, “I don’t fight for none of that. I fight for that cheque. I’m in the cheque-cashing business.”
The fight with Manny Pacquiao boosted both his historical standing and his bank balance but, as he faced a prison sentence on domestic battery charges in the middle of 2012, a month after another major fight, with Miguel Cotto, not many felt the fight would happen.
Nevertheless his 2013 clash with hugely popular Mexican star Saul Alvarez topped Mayweather-De La Hoya to become the highest grossing fight in history at that point. Mayweather also put in an imperious display as he outclassed “Canelo”. His two bouts with rough Argentine Marcos Maidana in 2014 weren’t as inspiring but created plenty of interest for the showdown with Pacquiao, which eclipsed all the previous records even Mayweather has set.
The blockbuster fight produced well over $400million in TV revenue alone and drew in a reported 4.4million pay-per-view buys in the US. By all accounts it was a commercial smash hit – though many who paid to watched felt shortchanged when Mayweather dominated his Filipino rival, only for Pacquiao to reveal he aggravated a shoulder injury during the fight.
Regardless, Mayweather had handily beaten the only man who had come close to usurping his pound-for-pound throne, thus further cementing the legacy he apparently never fought for.
Floyd would then aim his gaze at more vulnerable prey. In September last year he fought former world champion Andre Berto – who had lost three of his last six. Claims that it would be Mayweather’s last fight weren’t enough to draw the sort of attention he had grown accustomed to. As expected, he befuddled the game Berto to earn a wide decision on the cards.
He had equalled Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 ledger, and announced he was hanging up the gloves for good. Don’t bet against him going for 50-0, though.