Floyd Mayweather (L) and Canelo Alvarez hold the seven-pound gold WBC belt at stake on Saturday (Getty)
One of the themes the many critics of Floyd Mayweather Jr. have harped upon in the second half of his career is what they contend is his habit of hand-picking opponents.
Largely, this line of thinking is flawed, because it ignores business realities. Mayweather sought fights with both Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley as early as 1998, when Mayweather was still fighting at super featherweight. De La Hoya was at welterweight and Mosley was on the verge of moving up at that point.
Mayweather won the lightweight title in 2002, and was still seeking a De La Hoya bout that year. De La Hoya defeated Fernando Vargas that year in a super welterweight bout.
The fighters Mayweather could have fought but didn't at 130 is a small one, and it's because both Acelino Freitas and Joel Casamayor were fighting on Showtime at that point and Mayweather was contracted with HBO. But he fought all of the other elite 130-pounders who were available.
In 2003, Mayweather fought Victoriano Sosa and Philip N'dou in lightweight title defenses. None of them were memorable opponents and Mayweather might have been able to get in with Tszyu then. In 2004, he moved up to 140 and fought DeMarcus Corley, his only bout that year. And in 2005, he met Henry Bruseles and the late Hall of Famer Arturo Gatti at super lightweight.
Tszyu retired right around the time Mayweather beat Gatti.
So, it's not really fair to say that Mayweather has skipped anyone. He didn't fight Antonio Margarito, but judging by Margarito's performances against Mosley and Manny Pacquiao, it's not like there would have been a real threat of a loss to Margarito.
The most glaring omission on his record is Manny Pacquiao, and that is a highly complicated issue where blame lies on all sides.
That all said, Mayweather got onto the topic of hand-picking opponents while meeting with the media the other day prior to his pay-per-view super welterweight title bout on Saturday with Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand Garden.
"I come to think about it and I was in this training camp and I said, 'You know what? If they said Mayweather has hand-picked his opponents, I said, You know what? My team did a [expletive] good job!' " Mayweather said. "They're supposed to hand-pick my opponents. Everything is supposed to go easy for me. Life is supposed to be easy? Who wants to go through life in a hard way, a tough way?
"If they hand-picked all my opponents -- They say all Mayweather opponents are hand-picked -- If I'm able to hand-pick opponents and make $60 and $70 and $80 million, $100 million dollars, keep doing it. Keep doing it. [Expletive]. Make it easy on me so I can retire healthy and feeling good."
He said that he didn't understand the business in those days, and didn't realize that Top Rank was intentionally keeping those fighters from him.
"Now that I'm older and wiser, I understand business," Mayweather said. "It's like this: With Top Rank at that time, Oscar De La Hoya was their cash cow. They weren't going to risk me fighting him and him taking an 'L.' Top Rank didn't believe in me. [Top Rank's Bob Arum] said I was one of the best fighters he had ever seen, but he didn't believe in me. Eventually, and he was was, but Oscar left.
"And [Arum] didn't let me fight Cotto, because he said, 'I know Floyd is going to beat Cotto, and you're not going to beat Cotto and then leave.' Because he knew he had to build Cotto to become his cash cow. Once he got Pacquiao, he knew Pacquiao was his cash cow and he didn't mind feeding Cotto to Pacquiao at a catch weight."
But beyond him, there is little to criticize Mayweather about. By not fighting Margarito, he paid Arum to get out of his contract and went on to become the sport's biggest attraction shortly thereafter.
And on Saturday, he's facing a young, strong fighter who is naturally bigger.
It's trendy to say Mayweather hand-picks his opponents, but the results don't really bear that out. The problem is those exclusive premium cable television contracts that bind a fighter to only one network and often prevent great fights from happening.
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- Oscar De La Hoya
- Floyd Mayweather
- Manny Pacquiao