Boxing Banter: Is Floyd Mayweather the Greatest Fighter Ever?

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Ben Cohen
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Given I'm friends with quite a few Martial Artists, boxers, and fight fans I posted the following comment on my facebook page to kick off a debate on the world's highest paid athlete, Floyd Mayweather:

Floyd Mayweather is a great fighter, but people need to calm down with the whole 'he's the best ever.' 5 fighters off the top of my head who would have beaten him: 1. Roberto Duran (hit too hard, applied consistent pressure and punched in combination). 2. Tommy Hearns (jab was too fast for Floyd to time, and his right hand would have put Mayweather to sleep quick time). 3. Sugar Ray Leonard (equal in speed/slickness, but Leonard threw more punches and hit WAY harder). 4. Aaron Pryor (an absolute monster - hit too hard and was too relentless) 5. Last but not least, Sugar Ray Robinson (best of all time - would have KO'd Floyd and all of the above).

Some friends have weighed in with some interesting comments, like the ones below:

Duran would have been given a boxing lesson "No Mas". Hearns never would have landed a jab thrown from his hips on Floyd. Leonard? Interesting, pick em fight. The Hawk? Don't see him in quite same class. Ray Robinson - sure.

And:

Anyone who consistently ducks the greatest fight of his career, his legacy if you will, automatically removes themselves from contention for "greatest."

And:

I'm not sure we should look to the power punchers to beat Floyd but rather the guys who are even better pure boxers. I think Floyd vs "Sweat Pea" Whitaker would have looked like Toney v RJJ. The two Sugar Ray's would also have beat him. Can't see the rest dealing with the style of a prime Mayweather though (Corrales/Gatti fight)

And:

As great as a fighter Tommy Hearns was, and he was, he was far too chinny and so you can never definitively say that he could beat 'x' fighter. You could be watching a Hearns fight where he is beating the guy all over the ring for 9 rounds and then in round 12 "BAM" Hearns is knocked out....Also, the romantic in me wants to say that Sugar Ray Robinson would beat Mayweather, and certainly the romantic in me will always state that he was the greatest (second to Ali). However, we have to face the fact that due to advancements in training and technology, Mayweather is likely to be faster, stronger and technically the better boxer.

I think there's no way Floyd can be considered as great a fighter as some of the names above given he never faced the best of his era. My friend Doug Fischer over at Ring Magazine made a great point when he said that fighters like Duran, Leonard and Hearns all moved up significantly in weight and fought the best guy out there. Duran was a light weight (135 lbs) yet moved up to welterweight (147lbs) to fight Sugar Ray Leonard, then up to middleweight (160lbs) to fight the monstrous Marvin Hagler. Leonard did much the same, coming off a three year lay off and moving from welterweight to middle weight to fight Hagler. The last time Mayweather fought the best fighter in his weight division in his prime was back in 2001 against Diego Corrales. Other than that, everyone he fought was either a)out of their best weight division (Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez) or past their prime (Oscar DeLaHoya, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley). Guys like Leonard, Duran, Ray Robinson etc all fought the very best in their era in their primes.

Mayweather is great, but not that great.

(Image via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com)