Crossroads in boxing happens a few different ways.
A fighter can be at the crossroads of their career as age encroaches on their ability to maintain the same frenetic training regimen. Fighters that have had great success often reach the crossroads when they need to decide when to call it quits to maintain an unblemished legacy or to continue because fighting is all they know and care about. Regardless of wins/losses accrued or their health.
This truly is the great divide in boxing, where die hards who revel in the spirit of the relentless Mexican pugilist, Julio Cesar Chavez, and his abandon of logic to endure physicality that takes the human will past its breaking point.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who reinvented himself after buying out his promotional contract from Bob Arum of Top Rank, has generated the biggest purses in boxing history and created a global maelstrom of intrigue around his lifestyle and the careful pursuit of perfect.
When you listen to many a Mayweather interview, including the one we did with him within his gym in Las Vegas last year, he scolds fighters for chasing money and famously regurgitates that Floyd Mayweather chased the victory” as a testament to his mantra of “hard work and dedication.”
In regards to boxing, who should be lauded more and labeled as the example of the best boxer ever? Is it the unofficial Statesmanship of Muhammad Ali for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War and taking a stand for civil rights over boxing? The debate will rage on forever, but for the purposes of this story I have chosen to focus on the ethereal art of the win as a testament to discover who is the best.
Before he became famous for telling virtually everyone he didn’t respect in pugilism, "you don’t know sh** about boxing,” Roger Mayweather was an up and coming boxer. His path met JCC’s twice and each resulted in a loss. However, their first encounter on July 7th 1985 saw a 46-0 Chavez TKO Mayweather in the 2nd round to win the WBC World Super Featherweight title. Mayweather was down twice in the 2nd round and Chavez advanced to 47-0.
When Floyd Mayweather, Jr. entered the ring in his rematch against Marcos Maidana, many believed he was the only fighter that pushed Mayweather to the brink of defeat. But Mayweather's unanimous decision victory that advanced his record to 47 victories in 47 bouts also set up the question of career completion prerequisites to be called “The Best Ever.”
JCC went on to 87-0 before suffering his first loss to Mike Powell via a fourth round KO in 1993. Amazingly, Chavez had 69 wins come via KO during that unbeaten streak. Chavez would lose a total of 6 bouts in his career, two from Oscar De La Hoya, and would retire with an amazing record of 107-6-2.
Chavez was a 6-time world champion in three weight divisions and is a legitimate candidate for the term, TBE. Floyd Mayweather shares these accolades as he currently holds a record fetching 6 titles in 2 weight classes. However, with only one fight remaining after the historic bout with Manny Pacquaio this Saturday, is the self-proclaimed TBE leaving the game too early?
Mayweather sounds like is becoming less interested in boxing as an athlete in his interviews and at media day junkets. His work ethic and ambition have yet to wane but the tonality is noticeably different with only two fights left on his storied career.
The Mayweather Promotions engine thrives off the sale of luxury achieved through perfection. As long as Mayweather stays perfect his brand remains intact as the perfect athlete’s lavish lifestyle. This has sustained him thus far as he has never accepted corporate endorsements and only promotes lifestyle collateral he owns like his TMT line.
Mayweather, like boxers Andre Ward, Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins, the latter who formed Golden Boy Promotions with Oscar De La Hoya, are the new generation boxers turned businessman in the post-Don King era.
The mega promoter is fading fast and the multifaceted athlete-promoter is the new normal. The fact that Mayweather has placed a realistic expiration date on his ability to uphold that image is both clairvoyant and intelligent on his part because he understands the mechanics of his brand performance.
Chavez never thought that way about boxing for he is a pure pugilist that wanted to give his all in the ring and for the fans. He just never graduated into fully understanding how to control the manipulation of his image to reap the lion share of the financial benefit. That’s old school, they just boxed while the promoters boxed them out.
"The Best Ever" rests in the lives of a few men that laced up the gloves and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., regardless of his record, will undoubtedly be considered one of them. Romanticized former bouts of a young vigilant Chavez will always inspire and stand as a testament to the power of the human spirit.
Mayweather will always be the example of the smarter, athletic businessman who understood his own desire to live injury free, financially independent and in control of his packaged and distributed product.
They are both the bests ever of their generation and the debate that will continue to roll on at least has its cadence.