Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr called time on his illustrious career back in 2015, signing off with a one-sided schooling of former world champion, Andre Berto, over twelve rounds. A brief return in 2017 for a glorified sparring match with MMA superstar, Conor McGregor, extended his unbeaten record to fifty wins. However, that fight certainly won’t feature on this list.
In his early years down at 130 and 135-pounds, his offence was the pillar of his success. But as he transitioned up the weight classes, his style became more conservative, largely due to the hand problems that prohibited him from throwing power punches. This saw him develop into a defensive genius and the pound-for-pound kingpin.
After winning multiple world titles in five different divisions, no one was able to solve the Mayweather puzzle in fifty professional fights. Now we reflect on his top five pugilistic performances across a Hall of Fame worthy, nineteen-year, professional campaign.
Honourable Mentions: Angel Manfredy, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton.
#5 – RTD 6 ARTURO GATTI
The only fight on this list where Mayweather entered the fight the clear and resounding favourite. Arturo “Thunder” Gatti defined the term ‘ring warrior’. He was tough, brave and prepared to battle through any kind of adversity – no matter how severe – to be victorious.
Usually, a cool, calm and respectful customer, Mayweather managed to rattle him with his pre-fight antics and there was bad blood heading into the fight.
After arriving at the ring on a King’s throne, Floyd set the tone nice and early, dropping Gatti with a quick jab, followed by his famous check left hook, in the opening round.
Things got much worse from there, as Floyd landed with nearly every punch he threw and Gatti was simply helpless in the centre of the ring. Rather than trying to maul Mayweather, he inexplicably attempted to box his way out of trouble.
He paid the price for the bizarre tactics, prompting trainer Buddy McGirt to halt proceedings in the sixth round, concluding the most one-sided defeat of Gatti’s career and Floyd’s final fight at 140.
#4 – UD 12 MANNY PACQUIAO
Mayweather and ‘Pacman’ are the sport’s two greatest fighters of the twenty-first century. Despite being deferred for over six years, anticipation for the “fight of the century” was sky-high.
With over 4.6 million pay-per-view buys in America alone, the television broadcast generated $410 million and broke the record to become the highest grossing PPV in history (breaking the record previously held by Mayweather versus Alvarez).
With neither fighter no longer in his prime, the fight failed to meet expectations of the casual audience – but the purist community were able to appreciate Mayweather’s faultless display. His superior ring intelligence, dazzling speed and undiminished reflexes enabled him to dictate the action and navigate Pacquiao around the ring from start to finish.
He had little trouble nullifying Pacquiao’s offence and punished him with straight, single shots. Floyd cruised to a unanimous decision and settled the decade-long Mayweather-Pacquiao debate.
The Filipino later declared a shoulder injury hindered his performance and has since won two further world titles and defeated the likes of Timothy Bradley, Jessie Vargas, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman.
It was certainly not the most entertaining contest of Floyd’s career, but all things considered, the performance was one of his finest.
#3 – RTD 8 GENARO HERNANDEZ
At twenty-one years-old, “Pretty Boy” Floyd challenged for his first world championship against the long-standing super featherweight ruler, Genaro Hernandez. Mayweather entered as the underdog, but a late splurge of money saw him become the 8-5 favourite on fight night.
The classy champion maintained a high-guard and attempted to impose his jab in the early parts; however, Mayweather was able to consistently penetrate his opponent’s tight defence with blistering, spiteful combinations to the body and head.
In the seventh round, Mayweather landed a staggering 46 out of 73 power punches, prompting Hernandez’ corner to issue their man with a final battle cry. But Floyd proved too young and too fresh, peppering the thirty-two-year-old with vicious blows from every angle, resulting in the fight being waved off at the end of the eighth.
This would be Mayweather’s first world title of his spectacularly successful career. He maintained an amicable relationship with Hernandez, who would sadly pass away in 2011. As a sign of gratitude and respect to his former foe, Floyd would cover the funeral costs.
#2 – MD 12 SAUL ‘CANELO’ ALVAREZ
Younger, stronger and unbeaten, Saul Alvarez was dubbed by many as Mayweather’s sternest test to-date. Nowadays, Canelo is globally recognised as the face of boxing but when these two met, Mayweather was the main man, with Canelo the likeliest heir to his throne.
The fight was fought at a 152lb catchweight, which favoured the naturally smaller Floyd, for the light middleweight RING Magazine, WBC and WBA belts.
Mayweather was thirteen years older than the hungry young champion, but looked sharper than ever, delivering a punch perfect performance to dominate the twenty-three-year-old Mexican prodigy. Floyd was never remotely in trouble throughout the fight and the flame-haired Alvarez was handed his first professional defeat, in what proved to be an invaluable lesson.
Most impressively, Mayweather wasn’t overly negative, a tendency often cited by critics. Instead, he stood in the pocket with Canelo, using his feet and masterful shoulder-roll to avoid the champion’s power shots, responding with swift counter punches. He even forced Canelo to retreat on multiple occasions and handed the youngster a harsh lesson in elite championship boxing.
Mayweather was awarded the decision, which was unfortunately tainted by the ludicrous 114-114 scorecard from CJ Ross. Nonetheless, it was a remarkable display from the flashy American.
#1 – TKO 10 DIEGO CORRALES
With a lanky 5ft 11inch frame and a perfect record of thirty-three wins with zero losses, Diego “Chico” Corrales was an absolute wrecking ball at super featherweight. The man simply loved to brawl and was considered one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport at that time. After winning the IBF strap against Robert Garcia, now an esteemed trainer, he went onto unify against Dereck Gainer, before successfully defending against former champion, Angel Manfredy.
He and Floyd would meet for Mayweather’s WBC 130lb title, with a combined fifty-three victories and zero losses between them. The fight was billed as Floyd’s toughest test yet, with many predicting that Chico would wear down the younger champion and wipe him out in the latter stages.
Despite expectations, Pretty Boy dominated from the offset. He was simply too quick, too skilled and too sharp for the challenger. Mayweather’s superior feet and jab played a pivotal role during the early stages. He varied the jab from the body to head, which, combined with occasional feints, bamboozled the experienced challenger and lured him into a false sense of security.
When Corrales attempted to defend the jab to the body, Floyd would unleash vicious lead left hooks and straight right hands to the head. If Corrales maintained a high guard to defend himself against the powerful head shots, Mayweather would turn his attention to the mid-section, which would force Chico to drop his hands and provide the champion with further openings.
Round by round, Corrales grew increasingly frustrated at his inability to land a glove on Mayweather and simply ran out of ideas. Floyd rained down rapid blows from all angles and the champion tasted the canvas a total of five times before his corner surrendered the towel in the tenth.
The word masterclass gets thrown about too often nowadays, but this was the ultimate example from a boxer who had a career full of them.
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