Still on top 16 years later: It's the anniversary of Floyd Mayweather's first world title

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Still on top 16 years later: It's the anniversary of Floyd Mayweather's first world title
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It didn't take a boxing expert to realize very quickly at the start of his professional boxing career that Floyd Mayweather Jr. was destined to be special.

For those skeptics who remained two years into his career, Mayweather proved himself on Oct. 3, 1998, when he dominated the very tough Genaro Hernandez over eight rounds at the then-Las Vegas Hilton to win the WBC super featherweight title in his 18th pro fight.

It was one of the great performances of Mayweather's career. He was impossible for Hernandez, who was 38-1-1 entering the bout and unbeaten at 130 pounds, to hit Mayweather cleanly. Mayweather's fast hands and accurate punches took a serious toll on Hernandez. After eight one-sided rounds, Rudy Hernandez, Genaro's brother and trainer, stopped the fight. 

That caused the 21-year-old Mayweather to drop to his knees near the ropes and say repeatedly, "I've done it! I've done it!"

The HBO broadcast crew of Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and George Foreman was smitten with Mayweather that night. 

Shortly before the bout started, the cameras showed Mayweather patiently waiting, totally composed, when Merchant said, "Like any undefeated young fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s head is uncluttered by doubt," Merchant said.

At one point late in the bout, Merchant noted that Hernandez seemed like an aging fighter, but pointed out that a lot of that had to do with who was standing across from him.

"Hernandez has gotten old in this fight," Merchant said. "Old because he's in with a wonderful young fighter. You're seeing the thoroughbred in him come out right here."

Shortly before Rudy Hernandez opted to stop the bout after the eighth, Lampley was speculating whether Hernandez would want to surrender the belt while sitting on the stool.

Though Mayweather is now known mostly for his brilliant defensive acumen, Foreman said, "Sometimes your life is more important than a title belt, and this guy is hitting him." It was a nod to Mayweather's offense. 

He said a similar thing earlier as Mayweather had Hernandez pinned on the ropes and was firing at him. 

"The Mayweather kid is not backing up; maybe he should back up a little bit," Foreman said when Hernandez landed a rare counter hook.

Hernandez was a highly regarded fighter who was as tough as they come and whose only previous loss came at lightweight, a division higher, to Oscar De La Hoya.

But he was taking a brutal beating on this night and Foreman pointed out correctly it was because he was facing a potentially great opponent.

"In boxing, you're not going to run into many young Mayweather-type fighters," Foreman said. "Believe me, this guy is something special."

Mayweather has become one of the richest and most famous athletes in the world, but rarely has he performed the way he did that night, in his 18th pro bout, 16 years ago today.