Floyd Mayweather and the weight issue: How much is too much to ask?

Al Bello

There is plenty of debate about whether or not Floyd Mayweather should take the risk and fight Canelo Alvarez at 154 pounds. Do we ask too much, or does Mayweather ask too little to be considered an all-time elite great?

Floyd Mayweather is a lightning rod. No matter what he does, there is an audience that will slam him, and an audience that will defend his every decision, no matter how logically questionable it may be. To some, he can do nothing good enough. To others, he can do no wrong.

Mayweather, now 36 and coming down the home stretch of what has been a brilliant career, establishing him as probably the best of his generation, reportedly won't fight Canelo Alvarez at 154 pounds, instead demanding that the 22-year-old rising star move back down to 147 pounds.

There are several ways to look at this, and in my view, both sides have a decent argument. Personally, and I'll get this out of the way early so we don't have to dwell on my singular opinion, I think that the demand, if true, is a sign that Mayweather is avoiding the fight that the people want to see. That's just how I see it, "at the end of the day." But that doesn't mean I can't see the other side, and other viewpoints. There's a lot to ask here, so let's talk about the various ways to look at this idea.

Floyd is not a true 154-pound fighter

No, he's not. That's a perfectly acceptable statement. Question: If Floyd has fought Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto, a pair of aging veterans, at 154, shouldn't he be willing to fight Canelo at that weight, or else be rightly accused of ducking the fight? Canelo's not some nobody. He just put 40,000 into the Alamodome to fight Austin Trout. He does great TV ratings. He's worth money. The PPV with Mayweather and Alvarez would sell big-time -- I really think it would approach or even surpass two million buys, which is a lot of money.

So why not fight at this weight? Mayweather said last year he fought Cotto at 154 because that's where Cotto is comfortable. So why demand Alvarez drop down?

Hey, maybe he changed his mind

OK, but he's open to the criticism then, and the accusation that he's avoiding the fight.

Alvarez hasn't earned the right to make demands

In one way, fine, I can see this. You can go to "Cotto is a Hall of Fame guy who had drawn on PPV before." Sure, but the only time he drew a million on PPV pre-Mayweather was against Manny Pacquiao (more on him in a moment). Cotto's fights with Margarito did well on PPV, but they weren't blockbuster fights. Alvarez, true, is not yet proven on pay-per-view, but I think we can make the educated guess that without Mayweather, he is a Cotto-level PPV star at worst right now. He's got massive support and has made a name for himself. He's not Mayweather or Manny yet, but he's the next level down in terms of stardom, and he might be the sole inhabitant of that level at the moment.

Well, when MANNY did it...

Stop. Stop bringing Pacquiao into every single discussion about Mayweather. This has nothing to do with Manny Pacquiao. Stop trying to avoid topics by going to "you must love Manny Pacquiao is what it is!" Has it ever occurred to anyone that you can actually like both Mayweather and Pacquiao?

B-but catchweights!

I don't care about catchweights. At all. I don't care who does them, what the weight is, if there's a stupid title I already don't give a damn about involved, or anything else. I don't care. I don't really understand why anyone gets all crazy about catchweights. A contract weight is a contract weight. The fighters agreed to do it. The promoters agreed to it. If it happens due to a demand from one side, then the other side could have always said no and risked losing the fight.

I don't see "147" as some magic number. It's a set standard and has been around forever, but so what? What makes it so special? Its consistency and history is the reason we go, "Yes, 147 is the proper weight," but other than that, who cares? I don't give a hot damn about catchweights. I used to, until I thought about it more and wondered why it was bothering me. I didn't have a very good answer for that.

Why do we ask Floyd to go up?

See, this is where I start finding the discussion really interesting.

How much is too much to ask? Or is it on Floyd to continually prove the greatness he so desperately wants everyone to believe of him?

Floyd Mayweather is a great fighter. Again, I think he's the best of his generation, better than Pacquiao (argh!) or anyone else.

The quick statement here is that we ask Mayweather to go to 154 for this fight because he's done it for two other fights. But at 36 and with his natural excellence slipping to time the way it will with anyone, maybe he just doesn't want to fight at 154 again. We know he's not the same fighter at that weight. He damn sure knows it, but he won't say that, because it does nothing for him to go, "Eh, I'm not as good as I can be at 154. I'm not myself at that weight." It would be admitting a "flaw" or a limit to what he can do, and Mayweather does not -- and understandably so -- do that sort of thing. For Floyd, and many other great athletes or entertainers or whatever else, admitting a limitation is pointless. He has to believe that he can do anything. I totally get that (not personally, of course, but as an observer).

How high is too high?

We've been having this discussion on various posts since the Guerrero fight. So what's the deal here: How much can we reasonably ask of Floyd Mayweather?

I think most of us will agree, taking no expectations or hopes or desires to see him back up his big-talk, that Floyd Mayweather's absolute limit as a pro fighter, especially now, is 154 pounds. Everyone has a point at which they are just not themselves anymore, and thought Floyd is 2-0 against good fighters at 154, I believe we can all state that venturing further than that is beyond just a risky proposition; it's basically asking for the earth-shaking first loss.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, really. It's natural for fans to want to see the top guys take the risks, and either prove their eternal greatness or fall short while going for the gusto. There's no issue there. I get it.

But Mayweather's the one who has to, like, get in the ring, and take the punches, and avoid the punches, and be confident that he's in a fair situation. (Please, no drug test discussion. Not right now.) I can totally understand if Floyd's thought process right now is, "You know what? I'm 36 years old and 154 isn't a good weight for me. If the kid wants to fight me, he has to make 147, or it's just not happening. That's it, that's all."

I wouldn't like it -- I'd still want to see the Floyd-Canelo fight, because I love the fight on paper -- but I could accept that and understand it. I don't feel like Floyd owes me anything. And talk is talk. He says he's the best ever because he has to believe that. It's what he says. It doesn't register as any big deal to me.

That's not to say I can't understand that being a big thing to someone. "Hey, if he wants to be called the best ever, he has to do what the real best ever did. He has to take the risks."

Let's look at two of the best ever, Sugar Rays Robinson and Leonard. I'm not going to go into a whole history lesson here, because for one thing I find history lessons dull, and for another thing, most of you already know all this stuff.

Robinson, indisputably the best ever to most who don't base their boxing knowledge on what they grew up with and/or movies, started his career at 135 and made it up to 160 as a world champion. We're talking about hands-down the greatest fighter to ever live here, pound-for-pound. Robinson was another level, and he lost plenty of fights. The game, of course, was different back then. Losses didn't hurt Sugar Ray Robinson's ability to draw at the gate or on pay-per-view or get fat TV contracts. He didn't need to be undefeated. No one really cared if he was or wasn't. Also, a lot more people gave a crap about boxing back then. Different world.

135 to 160. That's a long way. Pacquiao (double argh!) has gone from 112 to "154" (150), and Leonard started at 140, quickly moved to 147, and won titles at 147 and 160, with more dubious titles at 168 and 175, both with significantly low catchweights. We're not talking Pacuqiao (triple argh!) against Cotto or even Margarito type catchweights here. These were fights more or less in another weight class called super middleweight and light heavyweight title fights. Which is fine. I don't care.

Mayweather started at 130. He's won titles at 130, 135, 140, 147, and 154. All legit titles. I mean, 130-154, that's about what Robinson did. It's more than what Leonard did.

Do we need to ask him to go higher? Should Robinson have gone to 175? Should Leonard have fought Mike Tyson? Robinson topped out at 160. Leonard, really, was the same. (Leonard's stop-and-start later career is another story unto itself, anyway.) So Floyd's topped out at 154 and is aware of it. OK. Fine. Why do we need him to do more, more, more?

Because it comes with the territory

That's what being the big dog is about. When you've proven unbeatable at one weight, many will want you to prove it again at another weight. And again at another. And on and on it goes.

It's arguably unfair. It arguably asks too much of Mayweather. But that's just the way it is. He's the No. 1 man in the sport today, and that means he's going to take that heat. We've talked about this before. Floyd knows who he is, what he wants, and what he's willing and not willing to do. He's proven himself to himself, and I doubt he feels the need to convince any remaining doubters, skeptics, demanding patrons, or "haters" that he's what he says he is.

Should he fight Canelo at 154? I think we all wish he would. But if he doesn't want to, he won't, and doesn't have to do so, either. That, too, is the way it is.

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