- Category: Sports
13 May 2013
- Written by Rick Gosselin / Dallas Morning News
FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. is the face of boxing. Mayweather has won eight world titles in five weight classes and been called the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Mayweather is 44-0 with 269 knockouts. He’s never fought a boxer he couldn’t beat.
“I’d have knocked him out,” said Sugar Ray Leonard the other day.
I caught up with Leonard at the Home of Champions Gym in south Dallas. He was in town to promote the 25th annual FightNight, a community revitalization project sponsored by the Real Estate Council.
The Home of Champions Gym, run by former world welterweight champion Curtis Cokes, is going to get a face-lift from the council, so Leonard stopped by the gym for that announcement. He brought along Roberto Duran, who also brought along an opinion about Mayweather.
“He wouldn’t last against me,” said Duran through an interpreter. “He’s not a bad guy, but he has a big mouth. I know how he fights and everything he does. He’d have nothing to teach me.”
That’s what I’ve always liked about boxers. They speak their mind. Political correctness is never part of the agenda. What they think, they say.
Leonard and Duran both professed respect for Mayweather as a boxer. He maintained his perfect record last weekend with a 12-round, unanimous decision over Robert Guerrero.
“He impressed me with his performance,” Leonard said. “Not because of who he fought—Guerrero’s a good fighter, but not really in his [Mayweather’s] league. You saw that throughout the rounds as Mayweather became more and more dominant.
“What impressed me about Mayweather was that he’s 36 and [had] been inactive for more than a year. Very few fighters, even myself, could come back and have the mental and psychological capacity to stay focused like he did. He was brilliant. He was a sheer boxing technician. His performance made me look up and say, ‘Yes, he can compete with any era.’ “
But competing in any era and winning in any era are two different challenges. Especially in the era of Duran and Leonard, who fought three times, Leonard winning twice. They pushed each other to greatness. And when they weren’t pushing each other, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns were doing some pushing.
“Mayweather wouldn’t reach [those heights] fighting against us,” Duran said. “Hearns would have knocked him out. Hagler, Leonard and myself all would have knocked him out. Those guys were monsters. Even [Iran] Barkley.”
Leonard won world titles in five weight classes. So did Hearns. Duran won titles in four weight classes. Leonard was 27-0 before he lost to Duran. Hearns was 32-0 when he lost to Leonard. Leonard, Duran, Hearns and Hagler are all enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
In 2002 The Ring magazine produced its list of the 20 greatest boxers of all time. It ranked Duran fifth, Leonard ninth and Hagler 17th. And all those boxers fought each other. That era produced some of the greatest bouts in history.
The lack of Hall of Fame competition may be what’s holding Mayweather back.
“There is no one else like him,” Duran said. “He’s one of the best. But right now there are no big names like before. There is nobody.”
Actually, there is one. At least there was one. The boxing world hungered for a Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout around the turn of the decade. They were the two best fighters of their generation—Mayweather with a 40-0 record at the time and Pacquiao at 51-3-2.
There were some intense negotiations during 2010-2011, but drug testing and then purse size scuttled the talks and the fight never came to pass. Pacquiao is 34 now and has fought 61 times. That’s a lot of rounds, a lot of punches. He lost his two fights in 2012 and was knocked out in his last bout.
“That fight should already have happened,” Leonard said. “That fight would still draw, no question. But it wouldn’t have the same magic as my fight with Tommy Hearns or Marvin Hagler or Roberto Duran.” Duran, standing a few feet away, also shook his head.
“You shouldn’t be afraid in boxing,” Duran said. “In our day, it was how much, when, where, what time and at what weight?”
We may never see Mayweather-Pacquiao. The passage of time will prevent us from ever seeing Mayweather-Leonard or Mayweather-Duran, either. That’s too bad—I’d have paid to see any and all of those bouts.
In Photo: Floyd Mayweather Jr. has become the face of boxing. (AP)