Does Mayweather's legacy depend on Pacquaio fight?

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“I’m the best ever to do it!”

“I think I’m the best fighter ever.”

These are two quotes proclaimed by seven-time world champion, Floyd “Money” Mayweather at some point during his undefeated career. However, boxing fans haven’t been as generous in their praises, as they continuously ask Mayweather to “put his money where his mouth is” and fight the other pound-for-pound best, Manny Pacquaio.

The majority have gone on record to say that the legacy of Mayweather would be tainted if a deal to fight Pacquaio never comes to terms. Unfortunately for Floyd, the general perception is that he is the one ducking, and solely responsible for why this super fight hasn’t yet materialized. Mayweather says the reasons, which the public would translate as the “excuses,” as to why the fight hasn’t been made range from disputed Olympic style drug testing to Floyd’s demanding of the lion’s share of the purse to Pac-Man’s promoter, Bob Arum, standing in the way.

As a boxing enthusiast, I, like everyone else, would love more than anything to see the sport’s two most prolific fighters go head-to-head. I think that dedicated boxing fans will be cheated if this monumental megafight never takes place. Boxing needs a fight of this significance if its presence as a professional sport is ever to be resurrected. I admit that Mayweather’s long list of “do’s and don’ts” could easily be interpreted as excuses.

But, if we aren’t blessed to ever experience a Mayweather vs. Pacquaio fight, I do not think that Floyd’s legacy should be tainted in any way. Mayweather’s 43-0 record and five divisional titles are certainly impressive and undeniable. I do believe that if a match against Pac-man never comes to fruition, a question mark will be placed at the end of his career that Floyd won’t easily shake-off, like the right hand that Shane Mosley nailed him with in the 2nd round of their bout.

When assessing the entire body of work of Mayweather’s boxing career, historians will always fire right back that Pacquaio question mark with the precision of a Mayweather counter punch. Question marks are not new to the overall career of an all-time great. I list Sugar Ray Leonard alongside Floyd, Jr. and Pernell Whitaker as the three best pound-for-pound pugilists that my newly-turned 42 year-old pupils have ever seen. I, like many, question the reasons why Sugar Ray and then undefeated fighter, “The Hawk” Aaron Pryor never rumbled, despite Pryor’s insistence and relentless pursuit. But even without Pryor on Leonard’s resume, Sugar Ray by no means left the game with a tarnished legacy.

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The reason we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on Mayweather vs. Pacquaio to gauge Floyd’s legacy is because it’s always only one loss away from losing its significance. If Mayweather had lost to Cotto on Saturday night, would a fight versus Pacquaio still matter?

If Pacquaio, who is set to fight undefeated light welterweight Timothy Bradley on June 9th, were to lose that bout, would that mean Mayweather would then have to fight Bradley instead to fortify his legacy?

If either of the present pound-for-pound bests suffers a loss, the value of a Floyd vs. Manny showdown depreciates significantly. In fact, the potential megafight slipped a little in equity last November, when Pacquaio gave a less than stellar performance against an arch-rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, and won by a narrow, majority decision. I don’t think Pacquaio, or any one man, should be the benchmark for, or define, another fighter’s legacy.

The bigger question mark is will the detractors be able to get past their disdain for Mayweather if he were to defeat Pacquaio? If Mayweather were to go on to beat Pac-Man, I believe critics will find other solid opponents like Sergio Martinez or Canelo Alvarez to dangle as a test for Mayweather to once again prove his greatness. Floyd, Jr. will then fight himself, chasing every promising young prospect to gain the respect from those who will probably never give it to him any way.

Perhaps critics, and even Floyd himself, should measure his greatness and legacy, not only by the undefeated record that he is quick to point out, but for his efforts to clean the sport up from performance enhancement drugs and for redesigning the professional prizefighter’s business paradigm. I give Mayweather credit for using his power to demand random blood and urine tests leading up to all of his most recent fights; a stricter policy than even all state boxing commission standards, it’s a practice that should be universally adopted not only in professional boxing, but in all of organized sports. I’m sure Major League Baseball of this era would have wished for a Mayweather to make the same demands to sustain its image and preserve the sport as “America’s Favorite Pastime.”

I’m certain that Mayweather will sleep easier at night with that possible question mark than the asterisk that will become a mainstay alongside the names of many big league greats like Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.

Secondly, Mayweather’s acute business sense should leave a mark toward which all future prizefighters should strive. Mayweather has successfully negated the historically greedy and corrupt fight promoter by executing a strategic plan, where he subcontracts Golden Boy Promotions by paying them a flat fee and he assumes all associated expenses, while collecting all of the profits on the back end; a crafted business model that has justifiably allowed him to change his nickname from “Pretty Boy Floyd” to “Money!”

Mayweather’s guaranteed purse of $32 million for Saturday night’s work was the largest guaranteed payday in the history of the sport and he still has to add his percentage from the pay-per-view revenue.