I watched your interview on ESPN about who is the greatest fighter of all time. You compiled a case to claim you were the greatest. Smashing pay per view records, earning record sums of money and accruing a flawless 49-0 record whilst making it all look easy by taking minimal punishment. Yep, as you repeatedly stated in interviews, you have all your “faculties intact” due to your in ring style (although some of your actions and statements occasionally make me question that). That style may not be to everyone’s taste but I was mesmerised by your talent and skills.
Then during the interview you were asked “what was your greatest moment in the ring?” Following that question you did what you seldom did in the ring, looking hesitant, you paused then eventually state your victory over Manny Pacquiao was your most important. Baring in mind that this fight was hyped to the heavens and promoted as the “Fight of the Century,” replays of it are now only viewed by sufferers of severe sleep deprivation. Sure you beat your closest rival convincingly but this fight like many others left me feeling apprehensive when reviewing your achievements in the ring. Did you really fight Pacquiao at the right time? Juan Manuel Marquez stole a march on you when he flattened Pacquiao in their fourth bout. The fighter that was a perpetual buzzsaw of savagery no longer existed and a more methodical, cautious and economical version of Pacquiao was left in its place. This was a lost opportunity for you because Marquez’s signature moment could have been yours. An occasionally wreckless, risk taking version of Pacquiao would have been made to measure for one of your famous counter straight rights. A punch that you executed with perfection over and over again throughout your career. It could have been you that knocked the Pac-Monster out. That would have been an undisputed great moment for you.
There are challenges you perhaps deemed too high risk, low reward such as Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams and Kostya Tszyu. You would have been the favourite to win those fights but being the calculated businessman that you are, felt they were unnecessary tests worth avoiding. You fought and defeated many great names but with a couple of exceptions, a footnote can be provided in bringing both doubt and perspective to those notable victories. Oscar De La Hoya – too old, past his best. Shane Mosley – too old, past his best. Arturo Gatti – past his best (was never good enough some might say). Zab Judah – already embarassed by Tszyu and Baldomir. Juan Manuel Marquez – jumped up two weights, was too small. Saul Alvarez – not ready. All great names but no longer or not yet great fighters when you fought them.
Not everyone has a problem with those fights but the suspicion is that you waited for the right time. As the truly shrewd businessman that you are you waited until the risk was minimal but the financial reward still lucrative. I suppose with a nickname like ‘Money’ I should expect no less.
Greatness however, requires more than just the records you’ve broken and the money you’ve made, it’s achieved by displaying the intangible quality of a desire to exceed expectations in the ring. Greatness isn’t found in your record numbers it’s found within your unwavering human spirit when the odds are stacked against you. Show your heart, soul and burning ambition by fearlessly taking on grave challenges and despite victory or defeat, daring to do the impossible, in the process stirring the emotions of the people and inspiring them to also dare to do the impossible in whichever walk of life they choose. Had you taken on some of the great names whilst they were still great fighters, your career would be judged far more acclaim than you have today and you know what the most frustrating thing is? You had more than enough talent to defeat them and in those rare moments when you were face to face with adversity such as your wobble against Mosley, you showed the gritty resolve to overcome it which is what I craved to see more of from your career. Instead you fought twice a year against mediocre opposition such as Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto who did nothing to add to your legacy. What a waste of sublime talent. Annoyingly, it was your obsession with your treasured undefeated record that spurred you to spurn potentially perilous confrontations. You felt concerned that your legacy would have been diminished in defeat; it wouldn’t have been, it would have been enhanced by exhibiting your courage to try.
Muhammad Ali did that against Sonny Liston and George Foreman when people feared that he would have his blood and guts splattered all across the ring by those two merciless monsters with murderous power. Instead he shook up the world. Leaving us breathless and speechless with inspirational and seminal moments that demonstrated what can be achieved with iron clad belief, will and skill. Yes like you said, he had been defeated, but he dared to achieve and his greatest victories still serve as an example to people today that nothing is impossible or as he put it “impossible is nothing”
I can’t argue with your numbers Floyd, a combination of breaking pay per view records, becoming the richest sportsman alive and building an undefeated record make you the best boxing businessman by financially making the most out of your career. However, it is your calculated method of matchmaking that often leaves more questions than answers when trying to sum up your legacy and has me scrutinising the merits of your claim to be the ‘greatest’. People say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ but in boxing a similar phrase, ‘a thousand stats can’t tell a single story’ is very apt when discussing your in ring achievements and legacy. Where Muhammad Ali would call himself ‘The Greatest’, you adopted the name ‘Money’ and your respective legacies will forever reflect those self chosen monikers.
The (sceptical) Boxing Fan Man