Sam Janes – Leicester
Last weekend we saw OnTheBeak’s top two Pound for Pound fighters enter the ring for the first time in 2013, with Floyd Mayweather Jr outclassing Robert Guerrero over 12 after Wladimir Klitschko overpowered and eventually knocked Francesco Pianeta out in the sixth. Both men retained their Ring Magazine titles and further more cemented their status as untouchable in their own weight class.
There are plenty of similarities between Mayweather and Klitschko, despite the huge gulf in weight. Firstly, they are both masters of defence. Mayweather’s head movement, speed and shoulder roll have resulted in him only being knocked down once (versus Carlos Hernandez at super featherweight) in 2001. Since then no man has knocked Floyd to the canvas or defeated him. Shane Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya and Miguel Cotto have had limited success, but as Max Kellerman noted on ESPN.com after Mayweather’s controversial first fight with Jose Luis Castillo in 2004: “Mayweather is so seldom hit cleanly in his face”, which shows how hard it is to score against ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’.
Wladimir has tightened up his defence since his surprise defeat to Lamon Brewster by TKO in 2004; Emmanuel Steward turned him into a clinical, safe fighter who has won 18 on the bounce since that loss. ‘Dr Steelhammer’ keeps his distance as a fighter, sticking to his rock hard jab which no fighter has been able to get around, as David Haye found out in 2011.
Both fighters are now unquestionably the number one fighter in their division, despite both facing accusations of being boring fighters. Mayweather was booed frequently on Saturday night for failing to knock Guerrero out or share exchanges, and Klitschko has been accused of widely outpointing opponents or picking them off late, but failing to provide any genuine excitement.
Getting involved in wars is not a part of Mayweather or Klitschko’s DNA and this is one of the main reasons the two of them have amassed so many victories and belts. Both have also been accused of picking safe fights over recent years, preferring to protect their records rather than truly challenge themselves. Critics point to Pianeta’s lack of contender credentials and Guerrero’s win over ex welterweight belt-holder Andre Berto being the sole reason for getting a chance at Mayweather as being poor mismatches for fights, and these critics are right.
But this is not the fault of either fighter.
Floyd and Wladimir have beaten the majority of quality fighters available to them. Klitschko has beaten (and is planning to beat Povetkin in September) every genuine heavyweight challenge who doesn’t share his surname. David Haye, the last genuinely deserving challenger, was outmatched by the dominant Ukrainian in comfortab fashion. Floyd has beaten legend after legend in De La Hoya, Gatti and Mosely but people argue his inability to fight Manny Pacquiao or move up to face Alverez or Martinez signals Mayweather’s reluctance to risk his record.
If Klitschko beats Povetkin in September, there is very little out there for him to fight in an even contest. Deontey Wilder and Tyson Fury are developing well but by the time the two of them have truly peaked in ability, Wladimir should be well retired. Until retirement, Klitschko has very little option but to keep beating undeserving challengers.
Fortunately for Wladimir, his fights are so popular on German TV he is paid exceptionally well whoever he fights, so he has very little incentive to go looking for riskier fights with Fury and Wilder.
Mayweather, however, has a host of potential opponents from Pacquiao, Martinez and Alverez to up-and-comers like Danny Garcia and Amir Khan. All these fighters are desperate for a chance to take on “Money” and the PPV revenue he brings.
Again, Floyd offers such a dedicated fan-base that means whoever he fights he can expect well over $10,000,000 in PPV revenue*, so Floyd can decide to take the lower risk fights as it is equally as lucrative.
Despite both essentially clearing out their divisions based on solid fundamentals and defence, the pair will continue to be criticised for taking an easy road. This is unlikely to change unless one gets beaten, but this looks very unlikely over the next couple of years. Mayweather and Klitschko are so big in the sport that they can fight anyone they like and make millions in revenue. They have achieved everything that has been asked of them and so, if they do take a few more comfortable fights and ride off into retirement with their money, I’d argue they’ve earned every right.
*The six-fight Showtime deal Mayweather signed earlier in the year was reported to fetch the athlete a guaranteed $200m over 30 months, with potentially an extra $10m per fight in PPV revenue.