Boxing: Undefeated Floyd Mayweather can't knock out public perceptions

Floyd Mayweather (centre) keeps his unbeaten record intact after beating Andre Berto but many pundits do not see him in the class of true greats like Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Robinson.
Floyd Mayweather (centre) keeps his unbeaten record intact after beating Andre Berto but many pundits do not see him in the class of true greats like Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Robinson.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAS VEGAS • Should Floyd Mayweather's boxing career now be over, as the undefeated American insisted after beating Andre Berto in their welterweight showdown on Saturday, his place among the sport's very best is assured.

He will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest defensive practitioners of all time because of his remarkable ability to stay away from danger in the ring, right up there with fighters such as Pernell Whitaker and Willie Pep.

As for his brash claim to be TBE (The Best Ever), that will fall to historians to judge.

However, many pundits would be reluctant to put him on a pedestal alongside true greats like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Roberto Duran.

Part of the problem for Mayweather, 38, is public perception directly caused by the way he promoted himself as a boxer, both inside and outside the ring, with an extravagant lifestyle.

His career-long pursuit of perfection, with his focus on iron-clad defence to stay out of trouble, and his frequently arrogant showmanship helped him compile a stellar 49-0 record to match former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano.

All too often, though, he has been criticised for hand-picking his opponents. There is also the question of his relatively low knockout rate, just 26 for a boxer who prides himself on his brilliant defensive skills and agile movement.

Former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield felt that Mayweather's legacy was all about the "numbers" game with the American bowing out as boxing's richest prize fighter. He has set records in the sport when it comes to annual earnings, pay-per-view buys and gate receipts.

"He's brought the game up in a way that no other fighter ever has," said Holyfield. "He took boxing and turned it to a whole other level, whether people believe it or not.

"I don't think we ever thought a welterweight or a middleweight would make more money than a heavyweight but that is what this man has done."

Holyfield expressed mixed feelings, though, over Mayweather's legacy as a fighter.

"He is undefeated, which speaks for itself," said the 52-year-old American. "He can fight. He's everything that a lot of people may not give him credit for.

"But he has done things his own way, which has been good but has been bad too."

Outside the arena, "Money" Mayweather's pursuit of an equally accomplished life has often hit rocky ground.

Over the last decade, he has been accused of assaulting five women on at least seven occasions, including a 2010 incident that resulted in a 90-day prison sentence.

"I'm a little different from everyone else," he said.

"I am only human, I make mistakes. I try to be a perfectionist but no one is perfect."

Overall, though, Mayweather believes that he has been misjudged by the media and the public.

"I've had a great career," he said.

"I'm very comfortable and I've made great investments.

"I'm A-okay.

"I've heard a lot of things about me... And you all believe it. It's okay.

"If you all believe it, you're dumb for believing it.

"I think everyone needs to go the Floyd Mayweather way." REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Floyd can't knock out public perceptions'. Print Edition | Subscribe