Consider this piece a prelude to my next columns, which will discuss the realities of the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout scheduled on May 2.
For this column, let me ruffle some feathers on how Mayweather could possibly fare against some of the all-time greats of the sport in “mythical” bouts. About five years ago, I wrote a similar piece on Pacquiao and saw him winning against Salvador Sanchez at featherweight, Roberto Duran at junior lightweight, Alexis Arguello at lightweight, and Aaron Pryor at junior lightweight. But I saw the Filipino losing to Sugar Ray Leonard at welterweight.
Now let’s pick the opponents for Mayweather for the mythical match ups and see how the American will fare: Duran at junior lightweight, Arguello at lightweight, Pryor at junior lightweight, Leonard at welterweight, and Wilfred Benitez also at welterweight.
I never thought of matching up Mayweather or Pacquiao against Thomas Hearns in a mythical bout because that would result to an obvious mismatch for the two. The reasons are obvious: Hearns was a freakish specimen and the only way for either Pacquiao and Mayweather to beat Hearns is to bring a gun into the ring.
Now how would Mayweather do against Duran at junior lightweight? At that weight, Mayweather would have formidable punching power that however, would not be enough to knock out Duran. But in as much as Duran was an aggressive puncher, he left himself open to the counters of his opponents.
The Mayweather-Duran bout would not end with the American knocking out the Panamanian great, but Mayweather’s counterpunching will earn him a close unanimous decision.
A mythical fight between Arguello and Mayweather at lightweight would be interesting, given the four-inch height advantage of the Nicaraguan legend. But surprisingly, Arguello would have no advantage in the reach department, since he and Mayweather have a 72-inch wingspan.
While Arguello was known for his excellent boxing skills and respectable power at lightweight, Mayweather’s counterpunching skills and good power at that weight would prevent the Nicaraguan legend from romping away with a win. Also, Arguello was not known for his mobility and preferred to fight advancing or flatfooted, which would pay dividends for Mayweather. The American wins this fight with a unanimous decision.
When Mayweather fought a then undefeated Ricky Hatton at junior welterweight on December 8, 2007, the American demonstrated that he could eventually figure out the holes in the game of the British brawler. And true to form, Mayweather stopped Hatton in the 10th round. The same thing will likely happen if Mayweather faced Pryor in the mythical bout – Pryor getting stopped in the later rounds. The only way Pryor can beat Mayweather is for the legend of the 1980s to lure the modern-day boxer into a brawling match. But Mayweather won’t fall into that trap.
Now on to the mythical fight against Leonard at welterweight, which will be a tough one for Mayweather. In my fight analysis on the mythical fight between Leonard and Pacquiao, my prognosis is the Filipino would lose to the American who enjoyed a reach and height advantage, with speed and power to boot. While Mayweather would only give up two inches in reach to Leonard, there is no way Mayweather can deal with the speed, power and skills of Leonard. So Mayweather loses via decision or even late stoppage to Leonard.
While Benitez was one of the prolific counterpunchers in boxing history, he lived forever in the shadows of Leonard, Hearns and Marvin Hagler during the golden era of the welterweight to middleweight. And while he would tower over Mayweather at 5’10”, he would actually be giving up two inches in reach to the American.
Mayweather would have the edge over Benitez in ring movement and overall defense, but this won’t be an easy win for the American. The possible result would be a close decision for Mayweather.
For the sake of extending this column, a bout between Mayweather and Hearns would be tantamount to murder. Why? Because Hearns at 6’1” with a 78-inch reach advantage and fearful punching power would be too much for Mayweather. So it’s a good thing Pacquiao never fought in the era of Hearns. Anyway, Duran lasted only two rounds against Hearns. Scary.