Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s performance against Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night was so brilliant and so decisive it has to be considered one of the best performances in a career filled with them. But where specifically does this junior middleweight unification victory rank?
Here’s my opinion on the top 10 performances in the career of the pound-for-pound king:
1. Diego Corrales (2001): A massive puncher, Corrales was undefeated and had a terrific résumé, and he should have had a world title but gave it up as part of boxing politics to make the fight with Mayweather happen. Although Corrales had distractions going into the bout -- he was soon headed to prison for a domestic-abuse situation and was also having problems making weight -- he was viewed as having a serious chance to win. In fact, this fight is the last time I picked against Mayweather. Instead of winning, or even making it competitive, Corrales was dropped five times and was stopped in the 10th round. It remains Mayweather’s signature victory.
2. Canelo Alvarez (2013): Alvarez was 13 years younger and strong, and he outweighed Mayweather by 15 pounds on fight night (165-150). It made no difference. Mayweather took every possible weapon away from Alvarez and did as he pleased, landing lead right hands and jabs all night long, not to mention solid body work. It was a masterpiece.
3. Genaro Hernandez (1998): Mayweather was 17-0 and had yet to face anybody who was any good. Hernandez was a well-respected champion, undefeated at 130 pounds and considered No. 1 in the division. Many thought Mayweather was biting off more than he could chew so early in his career. But Mayweather rose to the occasion and authored a beatdown, forcing Hernandez to retire on his stool after eight one-sided rounds. Hernandez retired after the fight while Mayweather, who won the first of his nine world titles in five weight classes, went on to greatness.
4. Ricky Hatton (2007): Hatton was 43-0 and the reigning junior welterweight champ when they fought in a huge fight. It felt like half of England had come to Las Vegas to support Hatton, making Mayweather’s hometown like enemy turf. But Mayweather took his time, broke Hatton down and, while leading widely on all three scorecards, drilled him for a spectacular 10th-round knockout.
5. Juan Manuel Marquez (2009): After beating Hatton, Mayweather retired but returned nearly two years later to face Marquez, who was moving up to welterweight. Although Mayweather purposely blew the 144-pound contract weight by two pounds and paid a $600,000 penalty, he was dazzling against a future Hall of Famer, who has since proved he is legitimate as a welterweight. Despite the long layoff, Mayweather looked as good as ever, dropping Marquez in the second round and cruising to a near-shutout decision.
6. Oscar De La Hoya (2007): In the fight that set all boxing revenue records (some of which the Alvarez fight broke), Mayweather moved up to challenge the Golden Boy for his junior middleweight title. Although Mayweather had some problems in the first half of the fight thanks to De La Hoya’s superb use of his left jab, De La Hoya could not maintain it for the entire fight, while Mayweather figured his opponent out and coasted to a split-decision victory that really should have been a clear unanimous decision. Besides a strong performance, the fight helped Mayweather break through as a pay-per-view megastar.
7. Miguel Cotto (2012): Mayweather, who had returned to welterweight after beating De La Hoya, went back up to junior middleweight -- no catch weight for this fight -- and met Cotto for his belt. Cotto is a future Hall of Famer, and although no longer in his prime, he gave Mayweather a very tough fight. But Mayweather did what he always does: He found a way to win a clear unanimous decision in one of the most entertaining fights of his career. In the long view of history, this will go down as one of his biggest wins.
8. Jose Luis Castillo II (2002): In early 2002, Mayweather moved up to lightweight and challenged Castillo, the No. 1 fighter in the division, for his world title, winning via a controversial decision. There are many who believe Castillo deserved the victory or, at least, a draw. Perhaps stung by the criticism of the performance, Mayweather gave Castillo an immediate rematch later in the year and left no doubt as he won another decision, this time with more authority.
9. Angel Manfredy (1998): Just 47 days after dominating Genaro Hernandez to win the junior lightweight world title, Mayweather not only returned to make his first defense, but did so against the de facto No. 1 contender, Manfredy, who had looked good in a string of wins and had stopped Arturo Gatti earlier in the year. While many thought Manfredy would hang tough, he was nothing more than fodder as Mayweather simply crushed him in two one-sided rounds.
10. Arturo Gatti (2005): Few doubted that Mayweather would beat Gatti. The speed and defensive differences were going to be overwhelming. However, given his heart and penchant for comebacks and slugfests, Gatti could never be totally counted out. This one, however, was more or less over right off the bat. Mayweather absolutely dominated even more than some anticipated. He was ahead by a shutout on all three scorecards after six rounds when Gatti did something shocking: He retired on his stool. Not only had Mayweather battered Gatti, but he had made the ultimate warrior quit.