Wednesday, November 5, 2003
Updated: November 7, 4:56 PM ET
Mayweather should not jump in weight
By Max Kellerman
Special to ESPN.com
Floyd Mayweather Jr. should never fight outside Michigan again. Making ostensibly his last lightweight title defense in front of his hometown fans in Grand Rapids, "Pretty Boy" Floyd dominated power-punching challenger Phillip N'dou to a greater extent than he dominated any other contender he has fought since moving up from the junior lightweight division. Of course, N'dou was a junior lightweight until this fight, and maybe that had something to do with Mayweather's performance.
At 130 pounds, Floyd was untouchable. He took on all comers, and I mean the kind of fighters who really kept coming: Diego Corrales, Jesus Chavez and Angel Manfredy to name a few. No one at 130 was ever able to even give Floyd a fight.
Then, in the middle of his junior lightweight reign of terror, Mayweather tested the waters at 135 pounds when he took on contender Emmanuel Augustus. It turned out to be, up to that point in his career, Mayweather's toughest fight. Still, Floyd scored a ninth round stoppage. He then dropped back down to 130 and looked as dominant as ever.
Finally, Floyd Jr. left junior light for good. Thing was, against full-fledged lightweights he did not seem to be as good. To Floyd's credit he immediately took on the best 135-pounder in the world, lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo. For the first time in his career, however, Mayweather not only failed to dominate, but he failed to even win convincingly. There were plenty of people who felt that the decision should have gone to Castillo.
Floyd won the rematch more convincingly, and then also convincingly beat tough challenger Victoriano Sosa, but he was clearly not the same dominant force at 135 that he had been at 130. Until last Saturday.
Though a natural 130-pounder, N'dou is a big, strong, dangerous fighter. Floyd established his own physical strength in the first round, staking out the middle of the ring and even forcing N'dou back at times. Defensively Mayweather was his usual stingy self, giving N'dou no openings at all, yet unlike his recent lightweight performances (pun intended), Floyd stayed within punching range, and frequently took the initiative offensively. He looked every bit the brilliant Floyd Mayweather Jr. who showed up against Corrales and Chavez.
Floyd now says he intends to move up and take on the biggest names in boxing all the way up to 154 pounds. Were there no challenges left at 135 and below, moving up would make a lot of sense. Five pounds north Kostya Tszyu, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Shambra Mitchell and Ricky Hatton are all intriguing opponents for Floyd. Ricardo Mayorga still makes his home at 147 and at 154 Shane Mosley heads a top heavy division that includes Oscar De La Hoya.
But there are challengers and big fights left for Floyd at 135. So, for the time being, he should stay put. Especially considering he just now looks as though he is coming into his own as a lightweight.
Acelino Frietas and Joel Casamayor are currently competing for supremacy at 130 and either one of them would be good Mayweather opponents. At lightweight Juan Lazcano has established himself as Floyd's real mandatory, and looked like a potential champion knocking out Stevie Johnston on the Shane Mosley-Oscar De La Hoya undercard this last September.
Then again, Floyd would be the substantial favorite against Freitas, Casamayor or Lazcano. Sure, any one of those three opponents would provide Floyd with a fight that excites many hard-core boxing fans in this country, but none of them are big enough names, nor are any of them viewed as threatening enough to Mayweather, to create a high-profile superfight.
At this moment there is only one fighter with whom Floyd Mayweather Jr. can make a superfight. Should Kostya Tszyu emerge from his upcoming title defense against Shambra Mitchell with a win (far from a certainty), then a Mayweather-Tszyu fight for sub-welterweight supremacy is a legitimate superfight.
I'd pick Floyd.
Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and the host of the show "Around The Horn."