Much has been made about the worth of Floyd Mayweather’s upcoming title fight, billed as his last, against Andre Berto. “Undeserving” and “underwhelming” are words that have been tossed around to both describe Andre Berto as a credible opponent and the perceived value of the fight itself. Having come off of one of the most, if not the most, anticipated fight in history, Floyd Mayweather’s follow up was going to be a difficult pill for anybody to swallow. In an on-demand age where we get results instantly with smartphones, broadband, and often short UFC fights, a twelve round clinic in the sweet science against Manny Pacquiao couldn’t resonate with the average viewer and has diluted what could be the swan song for one of the best boxers of all time.
The argument has shifted from Floyd Mayweather Jr. not fighting enough in his career, where he fought only four times in the span of five years between 2008-2012 in what may have been the prime of not only his career but also some or his opponents such as Manny Pacquiao, to the quality of his opponents during his six fight contract with Showtime. It should be noted of not only the skepticism from boxing pundits and fans of whether Mayweather would honor his contract by fighting six opponents in the allotted time of three years but also the absolute prediction from some of those individuals that he would in-fact not fulfill the obligations in total at all. As a boxing fan who during those five years, including the brief period but what seemed like an eternity of a retirement by Floyd Mayweather, I wanted to see him fight anybody and fight often. Today I’m simply jubilant that for the second time this year, just like the previous two, I get to see the pound for pound king lace up the gloves.
While its natural for the highest paid athlete in the world to receive critical analysis of his performance, in my opinion its hindered away from unbiased coverage brought on by the fans negative reaction to his last win which in turn has made it popular to not endorse this fight in the media. There are those who on one hand admit fans and viewers of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight should not have expected fireworks and indeed got what was admittedly a likely result. On the other hand those same critics conclude that Andre Berto isn’t deserving of a shot at Mayweather’s crown while there’s more appropriate candidates available. So the number one ranked opponent was expected to fail and lost in an otherwise uncompetitive fashion which theoretically would mean those ranked below him would have the same result or at least have nothing more than a punchers chance- yet Andre Berto is a bad option? These kind of bipolar conclusions with double standards against Mayweather but not his apparently more credible opponent options show a lack of credibility in boxing media that has been characterized by some, including Showtime’s boxing commentator Paulie Malignaggi, as unreliable. The result is negative coverage of what should be another classic Floyd Mayweather Jr. experience.
So who is the number one contender for Floyd Mayweather Jr. now that he’s displaced Manny Pacquiao? With several boxing organizations that each have separate ranking systems in place and may label multiple champions per division it’s difficult to accurately give a single name. However, after consideration of all the factors I concluded that there is no one boxer at this moment that unequivocally is deserving of the Mayweather fight. Given that realization, no matter who was given the chance to challenge the champ on September 12th, there would’ve been ample criticism about opponent choice. This stems from boxers within the top of the division’s rankings developing a sort of survivalist mentality where if they can all continue winning, even against lesser opponents because they’re not fighting each other, they can argue they deserve to get the fight against Mayweather.
But what made Manny Pacquiao such a decisive number one contender is that he fought a number of opponents who were highly ranked and either beat them convincingly, made the fights entertaining, or both. This is by far the most important factor that led to a deserving anticipation to fighting Floyd Mayweather. Ricky Hatton, Oscar de la Hoya, Tim Bradley, and Miguel Cotto were all very highly ranked and in defeating them Manny Pacquiao proved he was elite.
Let’s take a look at the other fighters in the division and determine what they can do or haven’t done to be the number one contender:
Mr. Khan has by far been the most vocal about wanting to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. over the last couple of years. ESPN’s Dan Rafael even mentioned him as a better option than Andre Berto. What Dan didn’t mention in a follow up sentence and what Khan refuse’s to acknowledge is his incredibly selective process of picking smaller and lesser ranked opponents. Since Khan has entered the division, he’s fought only one top ten contender in Devon Alexander who was in the bottom half of the ten and who hasn’t come close to making his way back and probably never will. Chris Algieri, his last opponent, is a junior welterweight who has zero wins in the welterweight division and has had an otherwise short career which would underscore his lack of experience. In that fight, Khan didn’t even get an impressive win against Chris as he got rocked with several hard shots throughout the fight while Khan continually grabbed and held.
Khan is rumored to be facing Ruslan Provodnikov next, another junior welterweight who’s lost not only his last fight but three of his last five. In the meantime Khan’s turned down offers to face IBF champion Kell Brook, top ten bruiser Keith Thurman, and WBO champion Tim Bradley. A fighter who’s avoiding top competition yet wants to call out and defame Floyd Mayweather as dodging him doesn’t rouse my interest in a fight or come close to being my choice of a deserving number one contender.
Khan needs to face fighters from his own division, ranked ones at that, and beat them. Until then I don’t see him as a deserving opponent for Mayweather nor do I see him as a better option than Berto.
Shawn Porter has been one tough cookie in the division. He rocked Paulie Malignaggi and took the IBF title from him; beat up Adrien Broner; stifled Devon Alexander; and lost to Kell Brook.
While those are some impressive and notable names, only Kell Brook could be argued to be a potential top five welterweight from the list and he lost that fight. A scrappy fighter who so far hasn’t backed away from anyone, Porter has a lot of potential. I don’t see him as a number one contender but I do see him as a part of the future of the division. A rumored fight against Keith Thurman is a major step in the right direction and could propel his career if he wins in decisive fashion. Again, does he arguably pose a threat or a real draw any more so than Andre Berto? I don’t think so.
You can repeat everything I just said about Porter for Thurman. I think he’s the future of the division though he too lacks the experience of big fights and may have a less impressive resume than Porter. It’s not all Thurman’s fault as he’s been plagued by injuries and has been avoided by the likes of Amir Khan among others. While I thought Canelo at the time he fought Mayweather was too inexperienced and underprepared, I think Thurman is even more so. Keep fighting and keep winning Keith because you’ll be in some big fight’s and will be a champion sooner or later.
Miguel Cotto/Canelo Alvarez
The winner of this November fight would in my mind give Floyd his best option of a suitable foe. Both are reconizable names and have large fan followings to generate a nice PPV event. They both have the exerpience of facing and losing to Mayweather and could have theoretically corrected some of their previous mistakes and offer Mayweather a tougher challenge the second time. With each boxer having won against big names since their respective losses and then having one of them emerge against the other in a classic Puerto Rico vs Mexico fight I don’t see how you could have a better opponent option than this. Alas, the fight took too long to materialize so they both miss out on the option of a rematch with Mayweather this time- maybe if Floyd continues his career we can see the winner getting a second go.
Tim Bradley/Kell Brook
A fight was rumored to be in negotiations but broke down between Bradley and Brook. With Bradley holding the WBO title and Brook the IBF, a unification would present Floyd with the second best option to the winner of Canelo/Cotto. Bradley has by far the more recognizable name and experience of the two with fights against Pacquiao and an impressive win over Juan Manuel Marquez. His upcoming tilt against Brandon Rios, even in spectacular fashion a win doesn’t necessarily help his cause besides the fact he’d be continuing to beat divisional opponents. Though Bradley is a veteran with PPV experience, does a recent win over smaller Jessie Vargas and a draw in the fight previous to that make him a deserving number one contender? My answer is no. If he were to get a win against someone like Brook, he’d have a chance at being the guy.
Brook too would need not only a win against Bradley, but also wins against any recognizable names. His resume besides a win against Porter is lackluster. Brook needs to take a chance and step up his level of competition.
Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin
He’s not a welterweight. Hell, he’s not even a super welterweight. Triple G is a middleweight. Thirteen pounds may not sound like much of a difference to a lot of people but in boxing it is. Even if Golovkin makes weight and were to hypothetically meet Mayweather at 154, he can rehydrate to well over 170lbs where as Mayweather walks around at about 150. First of all, I don’t see this as a fair fight l and hardly see him as deserving either. While I rank him highly in both the P4P list and at the top of the middleweight division, he lacks big name fight’s and wins to adequately find himself as a credible number one contender. This fact would also deplete the excitement to a Mayweather fight as the average person has never heard of him. Beat a Canelo or Cotto then we’ll talk.
“He’s lost three of his last five fights.” Let’s break that argument down right now as it’s the most commonly used phrase to describe Berto. First of all he’s won two in a row. Three fight’s ago against Karass, Berto tears the tendon in his shoulder during round two. Berto fights on with one arm and even knocks down Karass with his left. If he could’ve survived a nasty twelfth round pundits would be saying he’s won his last three. Now to the first loss against Ortiz: fight of the year. I would’ve like to have seen them fight again and maybe even a third time but Ortiz went on to face Mayweather in the aftermath. You don’t hang your head on losses like those. I’d take Berto as a more credible opponent in those two losses rather than Khan in his last two wins, or a Porter win against a lazy Adrien Broner, or Thurman in his win against over the hill Collazo who also lost to Khan. Only Khan could ratchet up more PPV buys because he has a stronger following, but more deserving? No.
The bottom line is nobody has earned the right to call themselves the number one contender. With Berto, he found himself on the cusp of a Mayweather fight several times because he was alway in the mix, always in tough fights. At this stage of his career you can’t ask Floyd Mayweather for much else. He gave us two fights a year for the last three years, gave us the Pacquiao fight and he gave us the continuous undefeated record with a lot of entertainment that both preceded and followed his fights. This Saturday I’m going to find solace in the fact that I get to watch Mayweather fight a hungry and exciting fighter like Berto who never ducked anybody as opposed to Mayweather fighting nobody at all.