1. June 25, 2005 – KO 6 Arturo Gatti, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Although Mayweather was a prohibitive favorite to lift Gatti’s WBC super lightweight belt, the beatdown he inflicted on the ultra-tough warrior was such that it merits the number-one slot on this list. This performance, combined with Bernard Hopkins’ recent defeat to Jermain Taylor, allowed Mayweather to reach the top of every pound-for-pound ranking – and rightly so.
More than any other fight in his career, Mayweather occupied a zenith few fighters had ever known. Muhammad Ali had his Cleveland Williams, Marvelous Marvin Hagler had his Tony Sibson and Roberto Duran had his Sugar Ray Leonard – at least in Montreal. Every punch Mayweather threw was delivered crisply, intelligently and with maximum impact.
The fight’s course was set in the final 26 seconds of round one. As Gatti ducked low, Mayweather rested his forearm on the back of Gatti’s neck. Referee Earl Morton could be heard saying “stop punching” as Mayweather delivered a short right uppercut to the face. Gatti heard Morton’s command and he relaxed for a split second. Mayweather, who was punching as Morton spoke, apparently didn’t hear the instruction and he nailed Gatti with a hook. As Gatti dropped his hands and turned away to complain, Mayweather blasted a short hook to Gatti’s unguarded chin that dropped “Thunder” along the ropes. Feeling as if he were cheated, Gatti lost his focus and Mayweather exploited his preoccupation in most brutal fashion.
Mayweather’s clean, whistling combinations swelled both Gatti eyes and scrambled his senses. The overwhelmingly pro-Gatti crowd could only ooh and aah at the pyrotechnics that repeatedly exploded on every point of Gatti’s anatomy. Mayweather throttled down in the fifth but in the sixth he issued a beating that was graphic even by boxing’s standards. Only Gatti’s boundless pride kept him from crumbling under Mayweather’s masterful attack, and only trainer Buddy McGirt’s compassion between rounds six and seven prevented Gatti from a tragic end.
The numbers spoke loudly of Mayweather’s dominance – he landed 57 percent of his overall punches and 63 percent of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Meanwhile, Mayweather limited Gatti to just 17 percent overall and 18 percent of his power shots. If ever boxing had a shutdown corner, Mayweather was it.
At age 35, Mayweather remains a pugilistic marvel and many believe he’ll continue to be one Saturday against Cotto. Will his performance against Cotto cause this list to be altered? Only time will tell, but based on the fights rendered here he has to clear a very high bar.
Lee Groves can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won five writing awards, and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc and the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author to arrange for autographed copies.