The boxing hall of fame in Canastota, N.Y., is closing its doors, forever, all the seats are full. Bar one. There is one seat left at the table for the greatest fighter currently plying his trade in a squared circle. And the suits guarding the doors have already given guidance that the only two they will consider are the two men currently sitting atop the pound-for-pound rankings of all but the bravest or most contrary pundits.
Obviously I’m theorizing heavily, but hey, theorizing is what we do right? It’s how we form ideas, build arguments and reach conclusions while we are waiting for the biggest fight to be made. So why not? Just for a few hundred words, lets pretend.
How do we choose whether Mr. Pacquiao or Mr. Mayweather is immortalized through their induction into the great hall?
And, indeed, who should we choose to look back on over time as the No. 1 of his era, what factors should be included in that decision?
How would the men at Canastota do it?
Would they look at overall records and stats?
With two years and an inch and a half between them, the slightly older and taller Mayweather has 43 fights to his name and has not had to taste defeat once in his 16-year pro career. He has knocked out or stopped 60 percent of his opponents. Just one split decision against Oscar De La Hoya represents the only "close" contest Mayweather has been involved in, particularly in the championship phase of his career.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, has been the busier with 59 fights to his name. Manny, though, has lost three and drawn two on paper and through the eyes of many fans at least one of those draws should have been a loss and one of his wins at best a draw. Those blemishes aside, particularly in the later phases of his championship career, Pacquiao has been pretty dominant. But a shutout is a shutout and a few extra fights aside, Mayweather has the pretty-looking numbers.
Perhaps they would look at performances against common foes.
Mayweather and Pacquiao have shared five names across their résumés. And all fights have occurred in the last five years, as each has attempted to prove his place atop the pound-for-pound lists by demonstrating a more comprehensive performance over the other.
First up, Oscar De La Hoya.
Mayweather fought first at a weight of 154 pounds. While Oscar wasn’t in his prime he was certainly a year and a half nearer than when Manny fought him in December 2008. Manny also brought Oscar down to welterweight. Somewhere Oscar hadn’t been in a decade.
Floyd got a split in a hard slog. Manny peppered the Golden Boy until he retired on his stool at the start of the ninth.
Oscar was a stronger fighter in the Mayweather fight and even though a close victory was won, it represents a stronger accomplishment than beating up on a guy who had struggled to regain weight after a boil down and clearly wasn’t on his B game, his A game having left for good sometime around the body-shot KO at the hands of Bernard Hopkins.
Then Ricky Hatton.
Ricky had the lineal title at 140 after outgunning Kostya Tzyu in 2005 and was at his peak when Mayweather faced him first.
It looked competitive on paper, it even looked competitive to the untrained eye. And while referee Joe Cortez gave Mayweather every advantage by stopping Hatton from using his inside game to rough Mayweather up, he slipped punches like Neo dodged bullets in The Matrix and gradually wore down and set Hatton up for a showreel "off the turnbuckle" knockout finish.
The fight was at 147 pounds and Hatton hadn’t traveled north well previously, but given Hatton’s propensity to embalm himself in Guiness and curry between training camps it certainly wouldn’t have been as much of a strain on his body to get down to weight as it had been at his usual number.
Pacquiao blitzed and then sparked Hatton out in the second round of their contest a year and a half later and this caused quite a shock to those who were expecting the Filipino to meet his match in the bullish Brit. In the weeks, months and years since it has become evident that not only was Hatton poorly trained in the lead-up by Floyd Mayweather Sr. and was not mentally focused or bringing the right game plan but an admission of depression and drug use casts doubt on just how much his first defeat at the hands of Floyd Jr. had taken out of him.
Manny makes a better case than against Oscar because Hatton was at his favored weight, but there are too many external factors at work casting doubt on whether Hatton was the man everyone thought he was on that May evening in 2009.
Shane Mosley has been the third competitor that Mayweather fought first before Pacquiao took on the former welterweight champion in May 2010. Other than a second-round wobble, Mayweather cruised without ever really threatening to close the show early. Mosely was coming off an extended absence following his demolition of Antonio Margarito at the beginning of 2009 and should have been fresh.
Pacquiao faced Mosley a year later, with Mosley having labored to a bore-draw against Sergio Mora betwixt our two candidates.
Pacquiao also routed Mosley and wasn’t troubled once. In fact by the end, and notwithstanding the 500-odd glove touches that seemed to suggest this was more of a testimonial parade for Mosley to pick up his pension, Pacquiao seemed to be throttling back in the later rounds to avoid doing the old guy any permanent damage.
That creates a doubt for me over the credibility of Mosley by May 2011. He was barely competitive against Mayweather a year earlier, but by 2011 he seemed utterly shot. He has, in fact, pointed to a foot injury which he claims limited his movement, but I think that’s reaching a little far. His foot was fine this month against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and he got similarly dominated. Mayweather finished the best of him.
Fourth is Miguel Cotto.
Now things start to get a little more interesting. Pacquiao fought Cotto first. And stopped him before the end. So it’s a no-brainer right? Mayweather ground out a 12-round decision just this past Cinco De Mayo so this one has got to go Pacman right?
Well, hold on there just a second.
Cotto was forced to weigh in below the welterweight limit when he fought Pacquiao. And Cotto’s endurance was never his strong point. Especially when he had had it beaten out of him by the plaster-hardened fists of Antonio Margarito just over a year earlier.
And while Cotto had no doubt managed to build back some self-belief with wins over Michael Jennings and Joshua Clottey, a first loss is bad enough to take for any fighter who had gone so long without posting a first reversal. But to experience that loss to a man that you had discovered cheating must really bake ones noodle. The extent to which it affected Cotto was only really understood in the run up to and during the rematch when Cotto avenged himself.
Having laid that ghost to rest and meeting Mayweather at a weight in which he was more "comfortable," Cotto appeared reborn and pushed Grand Rapids’ favorite pugilist as far as anyone in recent history had.
And finally, Juan Manuel Marquez.
This is the big one.
Lets deal with Mayweather first.
Mayweather fought Marquez just once, coming off an almost two-year hiatus back in late 2009. It was contracted at 145, but Money couldn’t quite make it. That was a big leap for Marquez, who had risen seven pounds in eight months and was clearly in hot pursuit of his arch enemy.
It proved too much, too quickly and Marquez was sluggish as Mayweather dominated him end to end. It was also a difficult clash of styles for Marquez, who found himself not against his favored come-forward, all-action fighter, but against a similarly wily proposition with even greater defensive prowess than himself. Having to force the action put Marquez in territory he could not make work to his advantage.
Pacquiao has had three fights with Marquez. And may well get a fourth. Marquez earned a draw after a three-knockdown first round in 2004 for Pacquiao. That effectively means that Marquez took most of the rounds. The rematch didn’t happen until 2008 and resulted in a highly contentious split-decision win for Pacman which many felt should have been a draw at worst for Marquez.
The trilogy fight, though, drew the greatest criticism. Only the Filipino’s most ardent fans could claim a win for their man and even the fighter had the look of a man that was expecting to see his opponent’s hand raised while he stood in the ring waiting for the announcement. The look of guilty surprise on his face was matched only by the look of resignation on his opponent’s face at the fact that he would perhaps be destined never to get a just result against promoter Bob Arum’s marquee fighter.
So in conclusion, Mayweather dominated and questions can be asked of weight here (this time too much, rather than not enough) but counter-balancing that we must give consideration to Mayweather’s layoff before the fight. He entered the ring like a man who had barely fought 20 minutes since his last engagement rather than 20 months.
So, all in all, against common opponents it’s hard to make a case that Pacquiao has fared better. In fact, given all of the variables I’d argue that Mayweather has beaten four out of five in better condition and the other one more easily in one fight than Pacquiao has in any of the three for the opponent.
In the second part of this feature we’ll consider non-common opponents and opponents not fought and critical "outside the ring" attributes which may influence our judgement on who gets the final ticket into Canastota.
Don’t go anywhere — we haven’t entered the championship rounds yet! Part 2 to come.