Floyd Mayweather’s 30-month contract with CBS/Showtime marks not only the probable retirement of the greatest fighter of the current generation of boxing but the definitive end to the entire era in the sport. With this point drawing closer it is clear that the legacy of the current period will be largely determined by how Floyd Mayweather, its best fighter, is remembered.
For so long we have refrained from lavishing Floyd Mayweather with the superlatives his perfect record might suggest he deserves citing either relative lack of exciting fights, doubts over how he would react to being thoroughly tested, his choice of opponents, his often abrasive persona or, of course, the lack of a fight with Manny Pacquiao. Yet as the years have gone by and he maintains his perfect professional record it becomes harder and harder to make any such excuses stick.
Sure, his fights aren't exactly the epic battles that litter Pacquiao’s back catalogue but it's clear that Floyd makes a conscious choice to avoid such fights and if anything, his ability to make such an approach work indicates just how superior to his peers he really is. Yes, we could debate his selection of opponents and the timing of certain fights but whichever way you look at it he has fought many of the world’s best and most notable of all, he has made it look pretty easy.
As may once again be the case for this weekend's fight with Guerrero, his opponents enter the fight as legitimate and dangerous challengers but leave outclassed, prompting observers to highlight all the reasons said rival was just another easy choice for Mayweather. After 43 fights and 17 years in the sport this is no longer a valid criticism.
Mayweather’s opponents are not bums, he just makes them seem that way.
Arguably it is Mayweather’s divisive personality that has made the boxing world less inclined to give him the credit it is becoming increasingly clear he deserves. His fixation on money, pay-per-view sales and his public persona has made it difficult for fans to relate and unlike more fan-friendly fighters such as Manny Pacquiao, Floyd does not embody the romantic notions of boxing to the same extent.
Yet as this generation in boxing nears its end, we find ourselves more eager to extend Mayweather the accolades we have hitherto denied him. This may simply be a result of the gradual invalidation of the claims against him but it I would argue that with the era coming to a close, we realize he is the generation's best candidate for a truly great fighter. Without which, the stature of the entire era comes under question.
We desperately hoped it was to be Manny Pacquiao. Turns out he may fall just short.
Clearly the last ten years has showcased some wonderful fighters; make your own list. Yet, when we talk about truly exceptional fighters, truly great fighters, there are but a select couple. If Mayweather manages to see out the coming two and half years without spoiling his record there can be no argument as to who sits atop the current crop.
I may be alone in feeling that given how close Mayweather is to the end of his career and the fact that his perfect record and shot at true greatness remain intact, there is, for almost the first time, a part of me that hopes he continues to blow his opponents out of the water.
In many ways, an entire generation depends upon it.