COMMENTARY | Floyd Mayweather's six-fight deal with Showtime and CBS immediately alters the landscape of the sport from a business perspective. But more importantly for Mayweather, and for fight fans watching him, is that he has an opportunity to elevate his status from a generational great to a true legend of the Sweet Science, as long as he maximizes his opportunities.
By sticking to the ambitious six-fight, 30-month schedule, and choosing his opponents wisely, Mayweather could set himself up to go down as one of the best fighters in the history of the sport. While has already made his mark and will go down in history, this plan could put Mayweather onto the Mount Rushmore of the Sweet Science, his head alongside the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong and Muhammad Ali.
Here's what he has to do step-by-step, and fight-by-fight, to secure his legacy as an all-time best. Keep in mind, this is a guide to historical greatness for Mayweather; it's not necessarily what I project to happen in the real world.
Fight 1: Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero - May 4, 2013 in Las Vegas
Mayweather vs. Guerrero is already scheduled, so this fight is a reality. In facing "The Ghost", Mayweather is taking on the top available challenger in the Welterweight division who he hasn't already faced and beaten. Guerrero presents a unique threat, thanks to his combination of size, skill, toughness and power, all from a southpaw stance.
Luckily for Mayweather, his lead right hand, the southpaw killer, is the best in the business. Mayweather outclasses his younger foe, and immediately sets his sights on the next fight we all knew would be coming.
Fight 2: Mayweather vs. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez - September 14, 2013 in Mexico City
Mayweather vs. Canelo is a massive event anywhere, but it could fill a soccer stadium if it was held in Mexico. And during Mexican Independence Day weekend? It would be an unforgettable event.
That's key for building Mayweather's status from the best of his generation, to one of the single best fighters of all time. He needs to not only defeat the best fighters available, he needs epic events on grand stages which fans will look back on in a few decades with awe. This certainly falls into that category.
While Canelo brings his youthful exuberance, power and size into the bout, Mayweather finds him incredibly easy to hit. So much so, that in front of tens of thousands of shocked Mexican supporters, Canelo's team pulls the plug and waves off the fight in the 10th round.
Fight 3: Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao - May 3, 2014 in Las Vegas
You didn't think you were done with all talk of a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, did you? Mayweather needs the fight not only to scratch an itch for himself, but to eliminate that question mark from his career. The fight will never again reach the status it could have had from 2010-2012, but nevertheless, it matches the two biggest stars and brightest lights of the era.
Let's say Pacquiao came back from his knockout defeat to score a decisive victory against Juan Manuel Marquez in their 5th fight. After that, he takes care of another piece of unfinished business, clearly defeating Timothy Bradley and erasing that stain on his resume. He's riding high, and he's ready to ride off into the sunset as well before becoming a full-time politician.
Mayweather, cautious of the foe he has been accused of avoiding for much of the past decade, wants to dictate the terms of the fight and stay on the outside. Pacquiao blazes a path inside though, sending Mayweather to the canvas in Round 3.
Mayweather pops up, surprisingly more comfortable and confident with that out of the way, and begins busting Pacquiao up slowly from round to round, peppering him with an unending barrage of crisp jabs and straight rights. The referee waves the fight off in Round 11, and Pacquiao retires following the defeat.
Fight 4: Mayweather vs. Sergio Martinez - September 13, 2014 in New York
Middleweight champion "Maravilla" finally gets his wish of a fight against Mayweather. For Mayweather, this bout represents a huge step in further climbing the all-timers list.
He's meeting the real Middleweight champ for a chance to win a title in his 7th weight class. Plus, Mayweather has never fought in New York throughout his entire career, and fighting at Madison Square Garden under these circumstances would create another defining, hallmark moment for him.
Martinez makes life miserable for Mayweather, using his tricky athleticism and superior height and reach to force Mayweather to turn aggressor and deal with long jabs and leads on his way inside. Mayweather scores a flash knockdown in Round 8, but the extra point is negated from a deduction in Round 9 for holding and hitting, and using his elbow to try to pile on punishment.
Most fans believe that the scorecards could go either way. Mayweather is announced as a Split Decision winner, sending Martinez to retirement in disgust and protest, and establishing himself as the Middleweight champion of the world.
Fight 5: Mayweather vs. Matthew Macklin - March 14, 2015 in the UK
Mayweather has long stated his desire to fight in the UK. Several years ago, the fights which would have made sense were against the likes of Ricky Hatton or Amir Khan. Now though, as Middleweight champ, Mayweather has bigger fish to try.
Want a career-defining moment on a unique, grand stage? Taking on British-Irish Middleweight Matthew Macklin, in the UK, on the weekend before St. Patrick's Day, satisfies those requirements and then some.
Macklin lost to Martinez in 2012, and had to force his way back to the top the hard way. He became the clear top British middleweight by stopping Darren Barker, and then he picked up a Middleweight title by soundly defeating Daniel Geale, defending it once against fellow Brit Martin Murray. With Maravilla in retirement, and Gennady Golovkin already up at 168 pounds, Macklin is the clear number 2 fighter in the division. The stage is more than set here.
Mayweather controls the fight early with his supreme boxing skill and defense. He's too old to be on the bicycle at this point, so he's morphing into the Muhammad Ali the world watched in awe in Zaire, defeating George Foreman with the rope-a-dope. Only that's not him, and Macklin sends Mayweather careening to the canvas after a looping overhand right finds its mark in Round 7.
Macklin tries to finish him, but the bell rings and the round ends, allowing Mayweather to recoup. Still on shaky legs, Mayweather stays in ring-center and lets Macklin come in. While he's taller and vastly stronger, the men have equal reach.
Mayweather begins focusing on a developing bruise over Macklin's left eye. He busts it open and begins tearing it up. After a few rounds of bleeding from a gash which is now two inches across and half an inch tall over his eyebrow, the doctor is forced to call the bout midway through Round 11. Mayweather unifies his Middleweight championship, heads triumphantly back across the pond, and prepares for a swan song.
Fight 6: Mayweather vs. Andre Ward - July 4, 2015 in Detroit
Las Vegas may be the adopted home of Floyd Mayweather, but he's a Michigander through and through. What better place to end his career than with 60,000 fans filling up Ford Field in Detroit? And on July 4th, no less! It doesn't get better than this.
Mayweather has been bothered that despite his amazing two-fight stretch at Middleweight, some critics still point out that old rival Pacquiao has the record with 8 division titles. Awaiting him one weight class up is Andre Ward, still undefeated, and regarded by most as the best fighter in the world, having surpassed Mayweather himself.
Andre Ward is bigger, he's in his prime, and his style is all wrong for Mayweather. Ward enters the fight as a 5-1 favorite over the undefeated 38-year-old from Grand Rapids.
A tactical fight ensues with each man prying for weaknesses. Ward towers over Mayweather by 4 inches, but Mayweather surprisingly has the slightly longer reach, enabling him to work behind the jab. Ward is just so big and strong though, and Mayweather can't keep him off. Conversely, Ward is perplexed by the fact that he's finally in the ring with someone who can match wits with him technically, and can't seem to separate himself clearly.
A grueling 12-round affair sees each man have his moments, although Mayweather looks far worse for the wear. He's exhausted, and for the first time in his career he's truly bloodied and battered.
The scorecards are read, and a Split Decision is announced -- 115-113 Mayweather, 115-113 Ward, 116-112 Ward.
Mayweather has been defeated, but acquitted himself even better than most would have thought. He put forth a game effort, and a valiant challenge.
Despite the loss, tarnishing the undefeated record he cherished so much, Mayweather's status is only elevated with the performance, his heart, and his willingness to even take the fight. In defeat, he finds out that what people had always said was true. It wasn't the undefeated record that mattered, at all. It was who, and how, he fought.
Perhaps he sticks around for another fight or two to try to go out on a win, or perhaps he immediately hangs up the gloves for good. Either way, the legacy is unimpeachable.
So, can it happen? Will it happen? If Mayweather fights these fighters, creates these signature moments from Mexico City to Madison Square Garden to the U.K. and more, and fulfills his six-fight contract, he'll certainly be on the short list of the best fighters to ever lace them up.
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.
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