Floyd Mayweather: Just how good was the former pound-for-pound king?
Floyd Mayweather has been one of the most successful fighters of all time. The Grand Rapids, Michigan star combined incredible speed and ring IQ with one of the most impregnable defenses in boxing history. Those attributes led to him becoming a five-weight world titleholder – from junior lightweight to junior middleweight – and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Mayweather was a brilliant amateur, who lost a highly controversial decision to Serafim Todorov at the semi-final stage of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Unperturbed, he turned professional later that year under the Top Rank banner.
After just two years in the paid ranks, he won the WBC junior lightweight title by picking apart longtime titleholder Genaro Hernandez. He went on to make eight title defenses, defeating the likes of Angel Manfredy, Diego Corrales and Jesus Chavez before moving up in weight.
Mayweather struggled to get past Jose Luis Castillo for the WBC lightweight crown but won convincingly in a direct rematch. Following two defenses he was on the move again, this time up to junior welterweight where he became a three-weight titleholder by dissecting Arturo Gatti in six one-sided rounds in June 2005.
Quickly, Mayweather decided to move to welterweight, defeating Zab Judah for the IBF title and Carlos Baldomir for the WBC version.
But superstar status arrived when Mayweather outpointed then-WBC junior middleweight titleholder Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, and he dropped back to welterweight to score a 10th-round stoppage over the previously unbeaten Ricky Hatton that same year.
A 21-month hiatus followed before he whitewashed Juan Manuel Marquez and averted early disaster against Shane Mosley to post an impressive unanimous decision triumph. Wins over Victor Ortiz and Miguel Cotto led to a multi-million-dollar six-fight deal with Showtime.
In the closing stages of a decorated career, the pound-for-pound king impressively defeated rising star Canelo Alvarez and long-time rival Manny Pacquiao in two of the richest prizefights in boxing history.
Mayweather’s record stands at 50-0 (27 knockouts). He’s won Ring Magazine belts in three weight classes and was Fighter of the Year in 1998 and 2007. His financial statistics are unparalleled with 26 pay-per-view fights generating 23,959,000 buys for a monster gross of $1,667,940,000.
We caught up with coaches, matchmakers and former opponents to discuss Mayweather’s undoubted fistic qualities.
AMATEUR RIVAL, TRAINER, PROMOTERS
Former amateur rival who went 1-3 versus Mayweather
“We had a really good relationship and bond before we even fought. He was boxing at 112 pounds, I was boxing at 125 pounds, and we ended up making the U.S team in those divisions. He was actually my roommate in camps prior to going to the Olympic festival, and we were roommates at the Olympic training center, so we got to know each other really well. Later that year he skipped 119 and went to the 125-pound division, where I was. After that he kind of looked away, we were going to compete against each other and he didn’t want to have a relationship outside of the ring.
“We fought four times. The first time we met was the first year we both transferred over to the open division. No one really knows about that fight. We fought in the semifinals of the U.S nationals in 1994 and he ended up beating me. We fought again in the Olympic trails and that’s where I beat him. That year was the first year they added the box-off which gave the runner up the second chance. If they didn’t add the box-off, I’d have been going to the Olympics. We sparred a couple of times in training camps. He was never a big puncher, but he had good timing and got respect from his opponents. When I fought him, he was young, hungry, fast, he had a lot of energy, threw a lot of punches, and he was aggressive. Later on, he started making little adjustments to have a longer career. He’s such a precise counterpuncher that the guys who were trying to throw bombs, he just made them miss. That’s when he has you, when you lose focus. I knew he would go far, but I didn’t know he would go to that extent and be one of the greatest of all time. There’s only one guy who had the blueprint…and that’s me (laughs.)”
Head coach of the U.S 1996 Olympic team
“At his fight [at the Olympics] when he had to box the Cuban [Lorenzo Aragon], I told him, you’re too short to box and move, the Cuban has the height and reach and he’s going to try to keep you at the end of the punches. I said, ‘You’ve got to press him and fight him like we do in Philadelphia, press him and make him fight. Don’t give him no air, don’t let him breath, every time you’re on him throw punches in bunches.’ At first, I didn’t think he could do it, this was a different type of bout. That first round he did it, the second round was close, and I said, ‘Keep the pressure on him.’ That last round we kept telling him to keep it up and he won it. For a boxer to come out of the norm, I said, ‘Wow, this kid is better than he looks.!’ He won his next fight but got a bad decision and everybody agreed on that. I knew he was going to be good but [I didn’t think he’d accomplish] what he did. I figured he’d win a world title. He fought a lot of world champions and beat them all, he did it by boxing, he did it with aggression, he did a little of everything. The one thing I like is that he’s a smart businessman. He used his head and made money and he’s smart. I take my hat off to him. Floyd was an unbelievable fighter; he was one of the best defensive fighters I remember. I go to the gym and we laugh and talk.”
“I’m not the guy who signed him. As I recall, he was going with the Duvas and Todd duBoef got involved and made a deal with Main Events. We all knew and liked the kid, although I saw him lose a close amateur fight to Martin Castillo at the MGM two years before. I do remember saying to Todd after his pro debut at Texas Station Casino, ‘This kid’s got a chance to be really special.’
“The scoring in his second pro fight against [Reggie] Sanders belied how close and difficult that scrap was, but Floyd got past it and cruised for a long time as he got better. Remember, there were different voices in his family that trained him early on. Interesting to see how he took the best from Roger, Jeff, and his dad (Floyd Sr.) and he became a terrific fighter.”
FORMER PRO OPPONENTS
December 19, 1998, Miccosukee Indian Gaming Resort, Miami, Florida • Titles: WBC junior lightweight
“[Mayweather] is one of the greats, but when HBO offered the fight, I said, ‘Who the hell is that? I’ll fight him!’ They said, ‘130.’ I said, ‘I can’t make 130.’ They said, ‘A million dollars.’ I said, ‘Let me think about that.’ I depleted myself. It was a good fight. HBO said Mayweather won the first round, but I doubt he won the first round. The second round he caught me with a shot and surprised me. The first thing that came into my mind was defense. He kept on swinging – missing a lot – and they stopped the fight. I cussed out the referee. I told Mayweather to give me a rematch. He said he would, but he never did. He’s a boxer that had awesome, superb defense. He wasn’t using the shoulder roll when he fought me, that came after. He moved his head, he moved his body, he was just hard to hit because he was very fast. Handspeed is a gift. His speed alone stood out. His handspeed was a gift from God. I was fast, but I wasn’t that fast. He’s very intelligent, very hard to hit, good timing, very good fighter. I take my hat off to him.”
October 21, 2000, Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan • Titles: Non-title
“His jab and movement made it difficult to catch him clean. His shoulder roll made it hard to land clean head shots, so I punched his elbow, shoulder and forearms. What he lacked in power he made up for in speed. After [fighting] him everybody looked like they were in slow motion. I just wanted to put my head in his chest and punch everything. He was really agile and could fight going backwards to run you into that counter right. I wasn’t a fan of his style but he did his thing. He had fast hands, good footwork and a defense that forced combos because his reflexes made it hard to catch him with one shot. I didn’t see him as special then. I would have loved to fight him again at my weight of 140 pounds. He was good at what he did, though. Not being a big puncher forced him to excel in the things he became known for: good jab, speed, footwork, defense, counter punching and distance control.”
November 10, 2001, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California • Titles: WBC junior lightweight
“Floyd was the best defensive fighter that I have ever fought. He was flawless at not getting hit and I was relentless trying to do whatever I had to do to land my punches. On a scale of 1-10, I would say he was 9.5 or 10 defensively. And you could see his punch getting closer and closer until you get hit. You can’t avoid the speed. A lot of the time you see it coming, other times you just got hit with it. Part of defense is footwork and how you position your feet to avoid punches. He was smart, it was like a chess game. Floyd’s power was respectable, I think it was more his speed that was getting to me than his power. He had good footwork, handspeed, waist movement, bobbing and weaving, punches, good feints, a pretty slick boxer, pretty assertive, and the power was there at 130. It’s a lot different at 147 pounds. Mayweather was the best fighter overall. He retired undefeated as a professional and was pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in the world.”
JOSE LUIS CASTILLO
April 20, 2002, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada • Titles: WBC lightweight
December 7, 2002, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC lightweight
“The best skills were none other than Floyd Mayweather Jr. He kept me at distance, so I really couldn’t get to him. His jab was long and it was fast. I couldn’t hit Floyd clean, so he had the best defense also. Floyd is the best overall [fighter that I fought in my career].”
November 19, 2005, Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon • Titles: Non-title
“Floyd and I were always friends. It was weird because I was in training camp to fight Zab [Judah] and he pulled out. I stayed down in my house in Florida and my cousin called me and said, ‘You’ve got an offer to fight Floyd.’ I was like, ‘For what?’ and Floyd was kinda the same. We didn’t really want to fight because we’re friends but, at the end of the day, it was business. I was getting ready to retire. I did what I was supposed to do and thought they stopped it prematurely. Floyd is a very good punch finder; he places his punches, very, very well. He has good power, but he’s not one of the hardest punches I fought. He knocked me down with a punch that I never saw, very good speed on him. I fought ’em all and he was very good.”
April 8, 2006, Thomas & Mack, Las Vegas • Titles: IBF welterweight
“His slickness and the way he is able to overcome things [makes him special]. I had Floyd early – I had him – but he was able to get out of that. He’s not a hard puncher, but he knows how to wear guys down. He adjusts well. A lot of times he was right there, and when I went to hit him, he was gone. He was like a genie, he kept getting out of the way. You have to aim for his chest. He knows how to use that ring; he knows how to move around.”
OSCAR DE LA HOYA
May 5, 2007, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC junior middleweight
“I think (Floyd) Mayweather used the ring really well. He had good footwork, that’s what starts it all. The anticipation of knowing when you’re going to attack was a big part of his defense, which made him very clever. With Mayweather, he’s fast too, but his speed is more about timing. You throw a jab and he’ll counter it, that’s his speed. I think the fact that he knew how to anticipate my punches made him smart, made him win the fight.”
December 8, 2007, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC welterweight
“I would throw five, six, seven punches at a time [and] maybe one or two would get through but he’d always get a half-block on them. Probably 60-70 percent of the punches he threw landed. I was probably throwing three or four times as many and not having the success. It was the timing and handspeed, he knew when to let the punches go. While I was going 10 to the dozen, he just weathered the storm, waited for me to slow down, then he put his foot on the gas and found the punches at the right time. He was very, very quick. I stood off him, and like any fighter will tell you, we’ll ease into a fight. That’s what I tried to do against Mayweather. But when he hit me with that lead left hook, I thought, “Jesus, I can’t stand off and allow him to use this handspeed he’s got. I’ve got to get close.” But that first lead left hook really took me by surprise. [Despite the referee constantly breaking the action], I can’t help thinking Floyd had everything in check. It certainly seemed that way. The referee didn’t help my cause, but it was as though he was waiting for me to slow that bit then he put his foot on the gas. He’s very clever. It’s not his work rate, it’s not how many punches he puts together, it’s the time he chooses to put his foot on the gas and when he chooses to throw the punches. He wasn’t a powerhouse, but he was everything a boxer should be. They always say boxing is the art of hit and not be hit, and he was the best – his timing, his defense, his handspeed. He wasn’t the biggest power merchant but the best all-rounder by a country mile.”
May 1, 2010, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: Non-title
“Mayweather had his strengths: his technique, his movement, he was just a very good boxer. He’s smart and he knows when to go in and when not to. He won’t take any chances, he won’t listen to the crowd and get himself riled up. He stuck with his game plan because Mayweather is more a slick counter puncher, you just can’t hit him. Floyd was able to get off the gun really quick, and while I felt like I was competing with him, I would have to say that he had the fastest hands of anyone that I’ve fought. He knows how to change up the fight and the tempo in the middle of the fight. He can go from one thing and one strategy to another very well. If you get one thing working, he can change up and make you have to do something else. He was probably the smartest. It’s how he evades punches with a blend of his defense and his offense. He’s always on his toes and he’s always slipping and sliding. Floyd was the best overall fighter. He had the most speed, a good jab the best defense and a good offense. It’s also what he does with his movement and his angles. To be fair, he caught me later in my career, but he put everything together, offensively and defensively, and he has the movement.”
May 5, 2012, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBA junior middleweight
“He was so slippery in every moment of the fight. It was so difficult to get to him. You can catch him with one good shot, but it is so hard to catch him twice that it makes me believe he is the smartest one. Boxing and fundamentals; he had very good skills, he had all the shots.”
May 4, 2013, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC welterweight
“His elusiveness is second to none. It seemed like every time I tried to land a big shot, he was already 10 steps ahead of me, and he’s by far the best defensive fighter I’ve faced. His lateral movement, I’ve never seen anything like it. You don’t really know how good Floyd’s feet are until you fight him. He’s very fast on his feet which makes him hard to hit. If you watch the first few rounds of our fight, you see that I was winning on the inside. Floyd thought I wasn’t going to have much power as I was coming up from 122 pounds. He was trying to stand his ground and fight me on the inside in the first two rounds, but I caught him with a nice body blow and he made the adjustment. He certainly used his brain to win the fight. He put everything together and made the proper adjustments in all his fights. He’s not the biggest puncher, but his skills are arguably the best ever. Floyd is the total package. His superior speed, ring IQ and fast feet make him very difficult to beat, hence the reason he retired undefeated. No one was ever able to figure him out.”
May 3, 2014, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC welterweight
September 13, 2014, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC welterweight
“Although it was not damaging, Floyd’s jab keeps you at distance and gives him the proper distance to throw the following punches. You can barely land more than two consecutive punches on him. You can catch him in relatively solid fashion with the first, but he would adjust his body to soften the second and then he’s either gone or grabs you. He had a solid chin because I caught him with clean punches and he would never blink. The way his legs position him to either defend or to attack is just amazing. He used [his intelligence] to do everything just right and he’s simply the best of his time, undoubtedly, the best I’ve ever faced. I put a lot of pressure on him, especially in the first fight, and I guess it was a close bout. In fact, I thought I had won the fight when the final bell rang. He was never able to do anything in that first encounter and I was the aggressor throughout. The rematch was different since he took the bike. And when Floyd does that there’s not much you can do to catch him.”
September 12, 2015, MGM Grand, Las Vegas • Titles: WBC welterweight
“I was prepared to go to war, and I was be able to deal with the atmosphere and the circus Mayweather brings, because I know from attending his fights, you see a lot of guys break and crumble before the bell rings. I wasn’t bothered by it at all. My thing was to go to him from the first bell, continue applying pressure and showing him I was there to fight every second of every round. He has great technique that he uses. It’s very easy to get stopped in your tracks and wait on him to see what he’s going to do because we want to see the magic happen. You just don’t want to run into anything crazy. Mayweather is tremendous, he was so comfortable in the ring. When it comes to every step, every angle, he knew it like he was walking in his house. It’s like when you go into the gym as a kid and you have these coaches that teach you all the things you have to do right. He applied everything in that fight. I was pretty amazed that he was that comfortable.”