By Hans Olson
When all is said and done, how will Floyd Mayweather be remembered?
Where will he rank next to history’s all-time greats like Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep, Henry Armstrong, Wilfred Benitez, and Sugar Ray Leonard?
More favorably than you might think.
In ESPN The Magazine’s upcoming “Analytics Issue” which hits shelves on March 5, writer Igor Guryashkin breaks down Floyd’s numbers, and what he finds is staggering.
Using CompuBox punch statistics, Guryashkin found that Floyd bests all current fighters with a connect percentage of 46%. In fact, only boxing greats Joe Louis and Lennox Lewis hold an advantage over him with a small 2% edge. Regarding his opposition’s connect percentages, Floyd is utterly dominant. In his story, Guryashkin writes “…perhaps even more impressive is Mayweather’s opponents connect percentage: 16%, the lowest ever recorded in CompuBox’s 4,000-fight database. The astronomical 30% difference between the two stats stands atop history’s pugilistic pantheon.”
CompuBox is based on a computer program, originally named FightStat, which was developed by Jon Gibbs in 1984. The system calculates every punch a fighter throws and lands. Stats are compiled by two operators who each have access to four keys corresponding to jab connect, jab miss, power punch connect, and power punch miss. Certainly the human element involved renders the system less than 100% accurate, but its overall ability to gauge punch statistics is noteworthy nonetheless.
If the numbers don’t convince you, let’s consider a few other things.
Currently, Sugar Ray Robinson is almost universally regarded as the greatest fighter, pound for pound, to have ever lived. I would agree with this.
Few other than Floyd himself would have the gall to go as far as saying Floyd Mayweather deserves that coronation. If we’re talking numbers, Robinson’s record of 173-19-6 trumps Floyd’s perfect 42-0 based on the sheer volume of fights. It’s also worth noting that Robinson was 40-0 going into the 3rd year of his pro career before dropping a decision to Jake LaMotta (a loss he would avenge 5 times over). It took Floyd close to 13 years before winning his 40th pro bout, a virtual shutout of pound-for-pound mainstay Juan Manuel Marquez in September 2009.
From the time he first lost to LaMotta in February of 1943, until his next loss over 8 years later, Robinson would fight 91 bouts, going 88-0-2 (with 1 NC) before losing another fight, a points loss to the UK’s Randy Turpin in July of 1951.
Since Floyd defeated Marquez, he’s fought only twice more, giving a sensational boxing clinic to Shane Mosley in May of 2010, and a lesson in boxing’s cardinal rule of “protect yourself at all times” to Victor Ortiz last September.
Comparing the activity levels alone, obviously Sugar Ray looks more impressive.
The question is, though, if you swapped Floyd and Sugar Ray into each of their respective eras, how would they fare?
I’m of the opinion that each would be equally impressive, regardless of era.
But when you look at some of the names ands records of Robinson’s opposition during the aforementioned 88-0-2 stretch, a few things jump out.
I mean, what can we take from a W10 that a 124-1-2 Robinson earned against a 12-26-9 Jean Wales in May of 1951? Or in 1950 a W10 against the 56-31-7 Billy Brown in Brooklyn? Sheer activity is impressive, but one wonders if Floyd wouldn’t have dominated in the same way that Robinson did, had he not been born in an era where the norm is fighting once or twice a year on pay-per-view. If Floyd fought anyone with less-than-stellar credentials, the media would destroy him. That’s not to say that Robinson didn’t fight some hardcore dudes, but Floyd hasn’t had a “gimme” fight in years.
We also must acknowledge that Floyd Mayweather is fighting in an era of advanced sports science.
Much like the perception of the Klitschko brothers–at least in certain quarters of the United States–as not being “all time greats,” Floyd falls victim to the perception that he is plying his trade during a weaker era of the sport–a notion which may not necessarily be true.
In an October 2010 column by RingTV’s Michael Rosenthal, boxing historian Bert Sugar is quoted saying, “It’s impossible to compare fighters from different eras. Did Klitschko fight Georges Carpentier? If he did, then I could compare him to Jack Dempsey. Did Klitschko fight Jess Willard? Then I could get a comparison. Otherwise I can’t. You can only rate someone in the context of their time. Anything else is illogical.”
Sugar makes a fine point, and one that contradicts what many believe when automatically assuming Floyd Mayweather could never be viewed as the greatest fighter of all time.
In this era, there has been no fighter that has been as dominant.
Too often, modern fight fans get caught up in hyperbole over who Floyd has or hasn’t faced.
How he’s acted outside of the ring.
How he projects his image.
How he wins fights.
How he allegedly avoids fights.
When it comes down to it, none of those things matter. Neither do purse-splits, tweets, or who he is or isn’t promoted by.
What he does in the ring is all that matters.
And when all is said and done, Floyd Mayweather may be the one fighter who has mattered most.
(Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hansolson)