Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the greatest boxers of all time. That seems like a given, a statement hardly worth making. But sometimes it's easy to forget Mayweather's sustained excellence because of the deluge of hype, bling, and arrest warrants.
Those things are a product of his performances. People don't care about Floyd because of his stacks of cash, his Bentley, or his hilarious appearances on HBO's 24/7 where he's personally reinvented boxing promotion with his motor mouth. At least not entirely.
People care because of Mayweather's career long destruction of some of boxing's best. Since before he could legally drink "Money" has been decimating professional opponents in the ring. Here are five of his greatest moments, the fights that made "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather into "Money."
1. Angel Manfredy: Known as "El Diablo," even going so far as to wear a devil mask into the ring, Manfredy put him self on the map with a January 1998 upset over Arturo Gatti. Fighting in Gatti's hometown, Manfredy shocked the world when he dropped the budding star in the third round, eventually opening up a cut that made the referee stop the fight.
Mayweather, just 21, was making his first defense of the WBC Super Featherweight title he had won from Genaro Hernandez earlier in the year. HBO announcer Jim Lampley understood early what would make Floyd so great: "He punches you and then he's gone." In the second round Mayweather landed a leaping lead right and followed it up with a barrage of punches. Manfredy never went down, but he didn't fight back either. If there was any doubt that this was a star in the making, Floyd Mayweather erased it in this high profile fight on HBO, securing the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award in the process.
2. Diego Corrales: Both men entered this 2001 fight with undefeated records. Corrales left with his brain scrambled and his first loss. Corrales was the favorite in some sports books going into this fight; he had knocked out Derrick Gainer and Roberto Garcia to win the other alphabet soup world titles at 130 pounds and wanted to add Mayweather's WBC title to his collection. It was a grudge match of sorts, with Mayweather fueling the fire by dedicating the fight to "battered women everywhere." Corrales stood trial for domestic abuse shortly after the bout and served 14 months in prison. Mayweather, unfortunately, would face domestic abuse charges of his own later in his career.
Corrales vowed to make Mayweather pay for his remarks. Instead, Floyd dropped Corrales five times in the fight. It all started with a blistering left hook in the seventh round. From there, Mayweather dominated. Eventually, in the tenth round, Corrales' corner threw in the towel.
3. Arturo Gatti: If you were looking for Floyd Mayweather's polar opposite, you just might come up with Arturo Gatti. Mayweather was known for not getting hit. Gatti, by stark contrast, became a folk hero for getting pounded in the face by Micky Ward, a Boston fighter barely graduated from the club level.
Gatti was considered invincible by a new breed of fan who mistook excitement for excellence; this fanbase was nationwide but particularly vocal in his home base of Atlantic City. Floyd had moved to lightweight, taking the world title and winning two close fights against Jose Luis Castillo. Now fighting Gatti at 140 pounds, there was some thought that Gatti might be big and strong enough to make his mark as a world class fighter. Floyd Mayweather came into town like a hurricane and disabused a lot of illusions.
Mayweather dropped Gatti in the first and spent five more rounds embarrassing him. It was a wakeup call for boxing fans who loved Gatti's warrior ethos. He might have been a tough guy, but Mayweather definitively proved he was no great boxer.
4. Oscar De La Hoya: Beating Oscar was a right of passage for most of the best fighters of a generation. Mayweather was no exception. Floyd entered the ring on Cinco De Mayo in 2007, wearing the Mexican colors and a white sombrero. He also came into a fight at light middleweight at just 148 pounds, six under the weight limit.
Mayweather won a split decision. Had he lost the fight, it would have been a travesty. He landed 85 more punches than De La Hoya, including 56 more power shots. De La Hoya recently took Mayweather to task, claiming Floyd has faced a collection of stiffs and fighters past their prime. That was like throwing meat in front of a hungry lion. When Mayweather got his chance, revenge was sweet:
"Was Oscar in rehab when he said that?" Mayweather asked, taking a jab at De La Hoya’s recent stint in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. "Was he coked out when he said it? Was he drinking alcohol when he said it? Tell me what he was doing, because we know what he did.
"Come on, this is a guy who dresses in drag. I don’t worry about what Oscar De La Hoya says. He’s the same guy when we fought, he chose my gloves, he chose the ring, he chose the weight class. It wasn’t like that when he fought Pacquiao at 145 and there was a [penalty clause] of $3 million a pound [overweight]. I don’t care. I don’t got nothing against Oscar. He can say what he wants to say. My record speaks for itself."
5. Ricky Hatton: The finish of the Hatton-Mayweather fight was kind of funny. That's only fitting, as Floyd clowned the British star for nine rounds before knocking him out in the tenth. It was a counter left that did the trick, with Hatton smashing face first into the turnbuckle before hitting the ground.
Hatton brought thousands of rabid Brits with him to the MGM Grand for the welterweight title fight. They chanted and yelled in the early rounds, but in the end, Mayweather silenced them as only he could. It was another win over a highly touted, undefeated opponent.
Tomorrow, Mayweather will face a rising star in Victor Ortiz. Will it be another "Mayweather moment?" Tune in to HBO PPV to find out.