The guys at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., in a move reminiscent of some pugilistic Willy Wonka, have announced they are opening their doors one final time and have space for just one candidate — the all-time great of the current boxing era. And they will only consider the two leading lights of the current pound-for-pound list, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
So, in Part 1, I compared the little differences between these two great figureheads of the modern game.
It’s also been useful to wait a few days before posting the second part. Invariably one is likely to be criticized for being a fan boy if one comes down on either side. But rest assured, good people, I am neutral despite my early analysis, comparing the basic stats and performances between common opponents, coming out in favor of Floyd.
In fact, if I had to choose who to spend my time with on a regular basis, it’d be Manny. He’s the nicer guy for sure — on the surface. Peaceful, spiritual, humble. Definitely less likely to be responsible for my emptying my own wallet at the dog track or in a club on expensive drinks.
But that’s not what I’m looking for. It’s not what the Canastota boys are looking for. All-time greatness is about being a leader, a winner. In the world of sport, nice guys should be celebrated, but they don’t always finish first. In fact, they don’t OFTEN finish first. It’s a pity.
No. This is about greatness. Greatness in the widest sense. And let’s be honest: If you punch people for money, you’re never going to win any Nobel Peace Prizes or even badges for services to the pacifist movement.
So let’s get down to business and reach our conclusion. Enough self-justification already.
To kick things off, and to answer a bit of criticism that surfaced after Part 1, I’m going to take a brief look at non-common foes. Who has the sturdier, more robust resume beyond the big five both have faced in recent years? After all, greatness doesn’t happen overnight (or over a five-year span as in this case). And with almost 100 professional fights between them it would be disingenuous to consider only 10. Let’s try and look at the other 90 in a meaningful way.
Since he is currently trailing in my assessment so far, we’ll start with Mr. Pacquiao.
State your case, sir.
Firstly, credit where it’s due. Manny has risen 40 pounds over the course of his career. That might not be a big feat if you are 6-foot-plus, but when you are 5-foot-6 it’s no small feat, whether anyone wants to question how you did it or not.
Looking down the list, the two names that invariably stick out are those two Mexican greats, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. Manny has had five fights with those two and is 4-1. Again, no small feat.
Barrera and Morales have fought three times themselves and Barrera won the rubber match. Pacquiao holds two wins over Barrera, and if you thought Barrera was a pushover then have a chat with a fighter very dear to my heart, Naseem Hamed. The mercurial Brit had dynamite in his fists and a style that was nightmarish for any conventional fighter, and "The Baby-faced Assassin" took him apart over 12 painful rounds and effectively finished his career. Be under no illusion, Barrera is of the highest class.
Despite losing 2-1 to Barrera and by a similar margin to Pacquiao, the guy epitomizes the all too often quoted phrase "Mexican warrior." Were it not for the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr., Ruben Olivares and their forerunners, the phrase could even have been coined for Morales. Perhaps back in the day, Morales’ record was inferior to Barrera’s, but while both have attempted recent "comebacks," Morales has enjoyed something of an Indian summer, taking Marcos Maidana to hell and back who, in turn, extended the same gratuity to Pacquiao’s training mate Amir Khan. Barrera dropped a technical decision courtesy of a clash of heads with the very same Khan and hasn’t really been seen since.
Going 4-1 against Morales and Barrera alone elevates Pacquiao’s standing significantly. Add to that wins over the likes of a sturdy, if unadventurous, Joshua Clottey, a plaster-less, but prideful and significantly larger Antonio Margarito, as well as David Diaz, Jorge Solis and you’ve got yourself a healthy damn resume.
How about you Floyd? We reckon you’ve done better against the common quintet when all variables are leveled, but who else you got on your resume? Enough to warrant a career’s worth of greatness, or are you simply a "Johnny Come Lately" on that front?
Mayweather hasn’t quite climbed the pro scales in the same way Manny has, but five divisions isn’t bad in itself. He isn’t here by accident. While Manny is lauded as an eight-division world titlist, one could kick the tires on the high end given that he didn’t actually let an opponent weigh in at the full 154-pound limit when he claimed that belt. But nonetheless, let’s look at Floyd’s bigger fights over the years.
He was the first guy to hand an "L" to the late great Diego Corrales.
He went 2-0 over Corrales’ great adversary Jose Luis Castillo (one markedly closer than the other — giving a nod to another comment from my first article). Corrales and Castillo never managed a rubber match, having shared spoils across back to back fights in 2005.
But does 3-0 against Corrales and Castillo outdo 4-1 against Barrera and Morales. I’m shaking my head on that one.
He beat DeMarcus Corley, Arturo Gatti, Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir. All good wins. But great? Hmm … I have to say Floyd’s best work has been done lately rather than formerly. And while Manny faced the best in the lower weight classes, Floyd probably missed one or two in his prime he could have, and should have, faced. Maybe this has something to do with who was promoting him at the time. That same promoter who is now promoting Manny could also be repeating the trick and undermining a legacy.
I haven’t mentioned Victor Ortiz. Until now. Some saw the young buck giving Floyd a bit of trouble. Others saw Mayweather controlling and sharp shooting. Sadly, we were all deprived of what could have been a great match because of a moment of naïve madness followed by cold, calculated ruthlessness. An edge was seen when Ortiz paused to apologize for a head-butt. And taken. Ortiz was dealt with by his opponent to avoid any risk of an upset later in the fight.
My assessment of non-common foes. Manny takes this one with guts and glory over a couple of guys who will invariably make Canastota in their own right for real. Barrera and Morales drag Manny back to 2-1 overall.
And finally to the acid test. Or is it the litmus test. Maybe it’s both.
Personal character. This is important. When we talk about all-time greats we can’t just look at the work they’ve done in isolation. We have to look at how they’ve conducted themselves, and more importantly, the lasting impression they will leave in the minds of those who have followed. Those who have been inspired.
Manny. Humble man. Beacon for his people. Adored by a nation who sit squinting through fingers as their Pinoy idol absorbs blows and returns fire with all his might.
Hmm. That’s what "they" would have you believe.
Manny. Rumored gambler, drinker, womanizer.
But Manny has found God we hear, and his appetite to inflict brutality on his opponents is subsiding as he reaches a new spiritual plane. Yet, he isn’t quite New Testament. His definition of compassion and love doesn’t go as far as those who choose to partner with members of the same sex.
I’m not going to let my personal beliefs spill out onto this column. It wouldn’t be objective. But there is a degree of hypocrisy in Pacquiao’s stance when it comes to his position on matters biblical. After all, while he might quote Corinthians or be misquoted on Leviticus on matters of sexuality, he can be held accountable to his lack of regard for the 10 commandments. A great man, in my humblest of opinions, not only atones for his sins, but shows a reciprocal level of compassion for those who he believes are sinning against him. And that’s just assuming his interpretation of "sin" is correct.
Floyd. Gambler. Convicted of beating his ex-girlfriend. Racist. (ignore the Jeremy Lin comments for a moment. I’m talking about the "Poochiao" outburst on uStream.)
Watch any episode of "24/7" and it won’t take you long to realize the Mayweather family (at least Floyd, Floyd Sr. and Roger) have got anger issues overflowing. And for all the Thanksgiving turkeys handed out or the funerals paid for (Floyd does a lot of work for charity, but he does like to talk about it), there is no getting away from the fact that Floyd is in it for Floyd. And his kids. His grandkids. His great grandkids.
My final analysis of character comes back to a clue given earlier in this piece. Neither are saints by any stretch of the imagination. And both are in different stages of their personal development. It could be argued that Pacquiao is ahead of Mayweather in his realization that, somewhere along the line, one has to be accountable for one’s actions and make amends both with himself and the world.
But there is a shadow hanging over Pacquiao right now. That shadow even looks somewhat like a cross. But it has strings attached. One attached to his left hand. One to his right. One to each to his feet. And a single string from the center to his head. The puppet master has him dancing a well-rehearsed jig.
These are strings Mayeather cut a long time ago.
He has been dancing to his own beat for some time.
And when the measure of greatness is made, the analysis becomes quite simple.
To be great — truly great — one has to be a leader. Whether that is leading an army into a battle where the outcome is uncertain, but where that leader’s troops believe with all their hearts their leader will bring them victory through superior skill. Or whether it is a steadfast conviction in one’s beliefs that others can see and acknowledge as being right despite them not having the courage to overcome their own fears enough to follow. To lead is to be in control of one’s own destiny. And to be great is to lead.
Mayweather, for all his flaws, for the soul of that small boy who witnessed such abhorrent hardship and emotional abuse at the hands of a mother and father who were not fit to be parents, has dragged himself up by his bootstraps and defined himself through hard work and unfailing dedication to being the best, but to doing it his way. He has defined the sport in the modern era. Remember, in his own words (and no one has challenged him), if he isn’t in "24/7" then it isn’t worth watching.
His opponent’s most memorable line from the same series?