By Sean Crose
You don’t have to spend long on the internet to get the idea that no one believes Floyd Mayweather’s last bout will go down on September 12th when he steps into the ring with Andre Berto. What’s more, it’s hard to fault people for not taking the pound for pound kingpin at his word when he claims he’ll hang up the gloves for good after that particular event.
For, whether he’s running a poll for fans to pick his next opponent, only to ignore their wishes, or claiming he’s “The Best Ever” without displaying much knowledge of boxing history, Floyd has proven that his words aren’t nearly as effective as his fists are. What if he’s not lying this time, though? What if Andre Berto truly will be the last opponent of the man called “Money?”
First of all, it might be a good long time before anyone knows whether or not Floyd is serious when he claims he’s retiring. George Foreman, after all, came back after a good long period to begin a quest to recapture lost glory in the late eighties (he succeeded). So did Aaron Pryor (he failed miserably). Only the aging process will truly provide the answer as to whether or not Floyd is done for good.
Still, it’s hard not to get the feeling that the hostility Floyd is receiving now will fade away after he calls it quits, whenever that might be. It’s sound to keep in mind that during an interview with “Ring” magazine back in the 1950s, retired heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano complained of those who criticized his career. Like Mayweather, it was said Marciano wasn’t challenged enough during his time in the ring.
Most don’t take that charge against Marciano seriously anymore. In fact, Marciano is held as something of a gold standard for fighters these days. While Mayweather may never end up being as revered as Marciano is now, there is some truth to the argument that time heals all wounds. Should Mayweather cease to fight after the 12th, few will remember, or care, that Floyd’s last opponent wasn’t particularly menacing or that it took years for the man to finally meet Manny Pacquiao in the ring.
On the other hand, it will be hard to convince everyone that Mayweather was truly “The Best Ever.” Even Marciano never received that title in serious circles – and with good reason. While it’s true Floyd will go down as one of the greats if he leaves the sport next month, there will not be overwhelming evidence to suggest he was the best who ever lived. It’s uncertain, after all, if more recent fighters like Tommy Hearns and Pernell Whitaker couldn’t have beaten Mayweather, much less anyone who slipped on a pair of gloves since the 1890s.
Truth be told, Floyd would most likely be remembered for his great skill and marketing acumen. Overall, he would perhaps be seen as hovering somewhere between Ray Leonard and Ray Robinson on the invisible greatness scale. That may seem like blasphemy to some, but I get the feeling his 49-0 record would still count for something, especially since it contains names like Pacquiao, Cotta, De La Hoya and Marquez.
And there’s also little doubt Floyd would be considered the absolute best fighter of the first portion of the 21st century. How could he not be? He may have never engaged with the likes of Antontio Margarito or Kostya Tszyu, but I know of few people who truly feel he wouldn’t have beaten such men. And that counts for something, too. Now that he’s met and bested Pacquiao, charges of ducking no longer shadow Mayweather with as much weight as they used to (whether they should or shouldn’t is an argument for another time).
If Andre Berto truly is Floyd’s last opponent, the only mistake the man will have truly made late in his career is not letting his final fight air on free television. That would at least have allowed the man to exit without a cloud of ill will. No one’s perfect however. Indeed, everyone makes mistakes.
Even those who think they’re the best ever.