How will Floyd Mayweather be remembered, when his days inside the boxing ring are over? As one of the greatest boxers of all-time, undefeated, winning pretty much every possible title he could get his hands on? Or as a man who chased money, and not glory, taking the easy road when he could have done stuff that would have gone down in the legend books?
Mayweather could have fought Miguel Cotto during the latter’s prime, but decided to wait until Cotto took career altering beatings from Antonio Margarito (illegal, probably) and Manny Pacquiao – two brutal fights that changed Cotto forever. He has still won fights since, but he wasn’t the same when he stepped in the ring with Mayweather on May 2012. Cotto still got Mayweather’s nose bloodied up, something no one has done before. Mayweather dominated, but not as easily as before.
Mayweather didn’t want to fight Cotto in New York (although Austin Trout did, and beat Cotto in a place where he has 100% support of the fans), and got his wish. He didn’t look as brilliant and untouchable, but another win, and a few more tens of millions of dollars to pad his time in prison.
Mayweather stopped fighting fighters in their prime or those that would pose the most danger to him the moment he beat Oscar De La Hoya. That was turning point, and passing of the torch – De La Hoya was at the end of his career, but still the most popular boxer alive. Mayweather beat him, and became the focal point of PPV boxing. A “villain” persona. Getting people to hate you is the best PR possible.
Mayweather fought less, much less. He took on Ricky Hatton, which wasn’t really a fair fight. He took on a closed to washed up Sane Mosley. He avoided Cotto, and kept avoiding Manny Pacquiao. The one fight that could have put Mayweather’s legacy well beyond any doubt and questions of what could have been, and Mayweather chose to ignore it.
The undefeated record was much more important to him. He forgot that Ali, and Sugar Ray Robinson lost fights, and that never hurt their legacy. They fought everyone they could have, multiple times. Mayweather chose to fight those he was comfortable getting in the ring with, worrying about how much money he’ll earn, not how the history books will treat him or is he doing the sport justice.
It’s 2013, and not much has changed. Mayweather is still not declaring who it is he’s fighting in May – Robert Guerrero? Devon Alexander? It doesn’t really matter. There doesn’t seem to be a real challenge for him out there now. Maybe Saul Alvarez, maybe Austin Trout. But he is waiting. For what? Who knows. He lucked out, and had Juan Manuel Marquez do his dirty work for him, knocking out Manny Pacquiao and ending some sort of era in boxing for some. At least Pacquiao had his great rivalry, or rivalries.
Mayweather? A lot of wins and PPV records. Beyond that? A lot of what ifs and should have beens. Instead of being one of the more important figures in the history of boxing, he’ll just be another championship-name in the record books, but not as significant or legendary as he could have been.