If ever there was a fighter that embodied the ideal of “hit and don’t get it,” it is Floyd Mayweather Jr. Inside the ring, he is boxing’s equivalent of Michael Jordan in the NBA, Sammy Baugh in the NFL and Ken Griffey Jr. in MLB, for Mayweather produces supreme execution in all phases of his sport. On offense, Mayweather strikes with deadly precision and deceptive power while his defense is nearly impenetrable, even at close range. His seamless shifts from one element to the other and back speaks to his quest to reach fistic perfection, a pursuit that quite literally began in the crib.
The results of his “hard work and dedication” include belts in five weight classes, an unblemished professional record of 42-0, with 26 knockouts, that includes a 19-0 (10) mark in title fights, unquestioned pay-per-view popularity and a guaranteed spot in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
By dissecting Shane Mosley last May and taking on WBA junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto on Saturday, Mayweather is, in a way, attempting to address unfinished business. That’s because his critics believe Mayweather should have tackled the likes of Cotto, Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams, then-junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton (at 140 pounds) and the dangerous Kermit Cintron after destroying Arturo Gatti in June of 2005 and ascending to the top of the pound-for-pound charts. Instead, they say Mayweather squandered that irrevocable window of opportunity by polishing off a shopworn Sharmba Mitchell in six, decisioning a Zab Judah, who fresh off an upset loss to Carlos Baldomir for a 147-pound belt that was withheld from Baldomir, badly out-classing Baldomir and out-pointing a 35-year-old Oscar de la Hoya to earn his first 154-pound belt. While Mayweather perfectly executed a sound business plan, his antagonists said it wreaked havoc on his legacy.
Mayweather’s fans would counter by saying “How did he squander anything? He never lost, and he’s filthy rich.” He also proved himself P.R.-savvy, for he exploited the platform the De La Hoya fight granted him by creating a villainous – and highly lucrative – public persona that is equally rooted in show business and reality. After all, Mayweather will famously report to jail just weeks after fighting Cotto – win or lose.
While fans and historians will debate Mayweather’s ultimate place in boxing lore, one aspect is beyond dispute – the man named “Money” has produced many outstanding performances between the ropes. Ten such fights will be profiled here, and the only problem was limiting this countdown to just 10. The criterion used to assemble the order included Mayweather’s performance level, the quality of opponent conquered and other intangibles.