Let me start this article by saying that I think Floyd Mayweather Jr is the best fighter of his era, he also has my vote for being the best pure boxer ever. I have been a Floyd fan since very early in his career, I can recall seeing him as a promising fighter on undercards with the arena less than half full, I sat and marveled at his skill set when he fought on TNT and many other times years before he made it to HBO and way before he was the record-setting, sport transcending megastar that he is now. Many of you have seen some of his fights and know a bit about his resume but let me break down his greatest boxing accomplishments before I get into this article:
-Most accurate boxer according to CompuBox
-Beat the most world champions and former world champions (21 in total)
-Multiple Ring Magazine fighter of the year honors
-Multiple Boxing Writers Association of America fighter of the year awards
-Champion in 5 different weight classes
-Universally recognized as one of the best defensive fighters ever
-Never Knocked down* (*his glove did touch the canvas on two separate instances in his career once as a result of a hand injury and once after a clean shot)
Part of the fun about talking (or arguing) about boxing is discussing mythical matchups, these matchups are usually discussed in the context of pound for pound fights (for the laymen if two fighters fought in their prime at the same weight who would win) however the matchups I’m going to discuss here are between Floyd and three titans that competed at Welterweight during their career. You can make an argument that other people could have beaten Mayweather maybe even more decisively than the fighters listed below, but then again you could also write your own damn article. Here are the rules for the mythical matchups:
-Each bout takes place at 147
-Each bout takes place indoors in the modern era
-Each fighter uses 8 oz gloves
-Each Fight is 12 rounds
-Each fight features the three knockdown rule
-Each fight takes place in Vegas
Here we go…
Hearns would have been a nightmare for Floyd. In Hearns, you have a busy, aggressive Welterweight that stands 6’1” who seldom gave away his height advantage during fights, here are how they match up and a few key factors that determine the outcome of the fight.
ACCURACY: Floyd is one of the most accurate punchers the sport has ever seen, his accuracy and timing often keep opponents at bay and decrease their punch output. Hearns was an accurate puncher with power in both hands his jab was devastating enough to dominate opponents but it was even more impactful when setting up his straight right hand, I give the edge in accuracy to Hearns here largely because of the difference in height and the way Hearns uses it to his advantage Floyd's accuracy would be rendered less effective as he would have trouble closing the distance. ADVANTAGE: Hearns.
Let's take a look at the fighters chins. CHIN: Floyd has an underrated chin, we’ve seen eat solid shots from Corley, Judah, Mosley, and Maidana that had him buzzed but never seriously hurt, none of these single shots were enough to floor Mayweather, in fact, he never hit the canvas or was really hurt in 50 fights. Hearns had a sturdy chin though he has been dropped and even stopped in his career on more than one occasion, don’t just look at those stats though, look deeper, he was stopped in wars of attrition by legendary fighters and in later years while he was on the decline and fighting well past his prime. I give Floyd a slight edge here, Hearns’ knockdowns and KO’s were circumstantial (he was fighting in a style he shouldn’t have or fighting past his prime) but they still count. ADVANTAGE: MAYWEATHER
KILLER INSTINCT: In the latter part of his career Floyd became a safety first fighter. Floyd's defense has always been solid, but as he matured you saw less of that killer instinct exhibited when he fought guys like Gatti, Manfreddy, Hatton or Corrales, part of his greatness is that he was able to outclass his opponents and dominate them late in his career even if he didn’t knock them out. Hearns was never afraid to brawl or do whatever it took to stop an opponent that he hurt, hearts would up his work rate, cut off the ring and punish his opponents when he smelled blood.That Killer instinct leads to Hearns earning the nickname “The Hitman” and lead to him winning 48 of the 61 bouts he won by KO. ADVANTAGE: HEARNS
HERE’S HOW THE FIGHT PLAYS OUT: I see Floyd coming out trying to figure Hearns out but having difficulty with finding the range to mount an effective offense (much like he struggled in the early rounds of the Mcgreggor fight). Tommy would be himself technically sound, and able to control Floyd behind the jab and controlling the distance the fight is fought at throughout the night. Tommy would control the pace of the fight by putting pressure on Floyd forcing Floyd to fight when he didn’t want to and controlling the real estate to the point that the usually elusive Mayweather would have nowhere to hide. I see the fight going to the late rounds where Floyd realizes that he is behind on the cards and decides to step on the gas and press the action, he’s forced to exchange with Hearns, a choice that he makes to his detriment, Hearns becomes equally aggressive and hurts Floyd in an exchange with a right hand, Hearns’ killer instinct kicks in and he ups his punch output, and swarms Floyd with activity and several well placed hard hight hands, Floyd is hurt and resorts to his defensive tactics but he cant tie hearts up, he’s too big and because of his reach he’s too far away. the ref has to step in to stop the fight. HEARNS BY TKO
Sugar Ray Leonard:
Ray Leonard is another bad matchup for Floyd. Leonard like Hearns was a hell of a finisher, he possessed one of the BEST killer instincts the sport has ever seen but there's more to the story here are a few of the key attributes and the outcome of the fight RESUME: As I mentioned in the beginning of the piece Floyd has one of the best resumes in boxing, but Leonard beat a who’s who of fighters in his day, keep in mind that his era is regarded as one of the best in boxing. Leonards resume shows that he’s battle-tested and has a diverse skill set, Leonard beat not only champions and legends but several fighters that are considered the all-time top 10 pound for pound greats. Leonard has wins over Haggler, Hearns, Duran, and Benitez to name a few. The resume will show up in the fight as Leonard will have to dig down deep to pull out a win against the crafty Mayweather Leonard will have to pull from his diverse experience to switch up the look on Floyd throughout the fight, change angles and to deal with Floyd's style. ADVANTAGE: LEONARD.
PUNCH OUTPUT: As great as Floyd is, one of the knocks on him has always been that he doesn’t through enough punches in a fight and seldom punches in combinations, Floyd's style works well in his era, however again the guys I’m mentioning in this piece Floyd's’ economic approach to punches will be his undoing. Leonards’ punch output and overall aggression would put Floyd at a disadvantage. Leonard would often put together shoe shine punches to dazzle judges and steal rounds. I've seen Leonard put together punch combinations in the teens and twenties often. Leonards aggression was always calculated in fights even when he was tired he could still put together a few quick punches. Floyd is a defensive savant and as great as the shoulder roll is, flurries from different angles in rapid succession from a naturally bigger man with a height advantage and a high boxing IQ make for a long night for Mayweather. ADVANTAGE: LEONARD
RING GENERALSHIP: Floyd is great when he controls the tempo and distance of the fight and is allowed to gain his opponents respect by countering accurately. Fighting Ray Lenard would be quite a task for Floyd as Ray is also a master of controlling distance using his athleticism, ring IQ, and solid fundamentals. Ray was a smart fighter that could fight well going forward and off of the back foot, his quick footwork and ability to handle floods best punches would make him a bit older than the average Mayweather opponent. ADVANTAGE LEONARD
HAND SPEED: Floyd has always had fast hands though at 147 they were fast in a different way than they were in the smaller weight classes the speed Floyd displayed at 147 was the beat you to the punch and frustrate you all night kinda speed. Ray Leonards hands were as fast as Floyd's, but they were also more active, another factor that comes into play with Rays hand speed is that he would use it in flurries and to steal rounds, but he would do so against highly skilled opponents by fighting in spots and when it made sense to, Leonard was not one to punch himself out at 147 and most importantly while letting his hands go Leonard would sit down on his punches too making his combinations even more effective. ADVANTAGE: LEONARD
HERE’S HOW THE FIGHT PLAYS OUT: The fight is billed as a battle for Supremacy and both fighters come into the ring as a better than best version of themselves. In this fight, we see a Leonard and a Mayweather that we’ve never seen. The fight between Leonard and Mayweather is the best and most even of the three mythical matchups in this piece, each round ebbs, and flows and could easily be scored for either fighter. In the fight, both guys come out looking to gain eachothers respect Leonard sets the pace and tries outbox flow in rounds one and two but the rounds are pretty evenly matched. Round three starts out like the first two but Mayweather begins to become more accurate with his right-hand leads and counters late in the round Leonard goes into the boxer-puncher mode and the fight kicks into high gear. Leonard begins to find success in the later parts of the rounds using Miguel Cotto's blueprint, pushing Floyd back into the corner and using his jab to keep him there while mounting an offense that is more effective than Cottos’ Floyd stays defensively sound and mounts just enough offense to keep Leonard honest. As the fight progresses the story unfolds that the fight is close in the center of the ring with a slight advantage for Leonard because of his work rate and when his back is on the ropes Ray simply outworks Floyd and opens up his defense more than we’re accustomed to seeing. Ray comes out and forces exchanges as often as possible during the championship rounds he throws in a few Ali shuffles and bolo punches to win the crowd and catch the judges attention. LEONARD BY A CLOSE CONTROVERSIAL SD (THIS LEADS TO A TRILOGY OF WHICH RAY WINS FIGHTS 1 AND 3)
Sugar Ray Robinson
Widely regarded as the best fighter to ever put on a pair of gloves Ray Robinson would be another bad matchup for Floyd, though I don’t believe this fight is as one-sided as most would have you believe, here's a look at the key factors and how the fight plays out. POWER: This part of the matchup is one-sided though again, not as one-sided as you may thing Floyd's’ power is deceptive its best shown in the fact that none of his opponents even the hardest punchers he fought ever walked through his shots Floyd's’ power was what it was, but the thing that made his power more effective was that it was paired with pinpoint accuracy. Robinson, by contrast, wasn’t as accurate of a puncher as Floyd but he didn't need to be he had power in both hands that he would deliver in flurries and at angles that were interesting because he was on balance and in position for the most part even when throwing some of his wildest and hardest shots. During Robinson's’ career he hurt iron chinned fighters like Graziano, Fulmer, and Lamotta. Robinson had power in both hands and wasn’t shy about delivering it. Like Hearns and Leonard, Robinson was an aggressive fighter (with underrated elusiveness and footwork) that possessed a killer instinct. ADVANTAGE:ROBINSON
DURABILITY: Floyd is always in great shape when he steps into the ring and conditioned to fit all 36 minutes which is great for a fighter in this era. Ray Robinson's conditioning and toughness are otherworldly, in Robinson you’re talking about a guy that had a high work rate and fought not only in 15 round fights but outdoors in the elements and in smoked filled venues without climate control you the reader should also keep in mind that Floyd's’ career spanned 50 fights which is impressive, but Robinson fought 199 professional bouts at one point he had a 91 fight unbeaten record everyone he fought wasn’t a world beater, but you have to give the nod to Robinson for durability. ADVANTAGE:ROBINSON
HERES HOW THE FIGHT PLAYS OUT: I think footwork is the only thing that stops Robinson from beating Floyd by stoppage, Robinson's’ feet weren’t as fast as Floyd’s and I think Floyd’s defense and upper body movement and slightly faster feet are keys to him winning the fight. Robinson would press the action and come out as the more aggressive fighter from round 1. Robinson tries to box with Floyd for the first three rounds but realizes this a fight he cant win as Floyd's shots are a bit quicker, more precise and effective not only is Floyd proving himself to be the better boxer in the early rounds he is also proving elusive as Robinson tries to land power shots or an authoritative jab as often as possible, but many would of his punches are be blocked, rolled, smothered or just glancing shots though Robinson is clearly the aggressor he’s not very effective round five starts and Robinson springs into action after a minute or so still trying to box Floyd he becomes a boxer-puncher, the guy who we saw fight Marciano, his pressure becomes more effective he lands cleaner shots and has Floyd in trouble in spots, but he can never seem to get Floyd in serious danger to really hurt the slippery Mayweather who is always just out of harms way. The rest of the fight has Robinson pressing Floyd and slowly wearing him down even hurting him in the later rounds but Floyd the master boxer and the master of the time clock lives to fight another day through veteran tactics like holding and staying on his bicycle while keeping his defense sound throughout the fight and hitting Robinson with shots that are well timed to disrupt his offense just as he gets it going. The fight goes to the scorecards and a bloodied Mayweather loses by decision ROBINSON BY UD
There you have it, my list of three fighters I think could beat Floyd Mayweather. Thanks for reading and a HUGE Thank you to BoxRaw for the opportunity!
Follow me on Instagram @thewhitecollarwarrior