LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather Jr. was only about a year into his professional career and still a year away from fighting for his first world title when he was already considered by many boxing insiders as one of the game's elite talents.
Even while still a teenager, Mayweather had a preternatural ability to see an opponent's punches as well as deliver spectacularly fast and accurate counters.
He was an underdog when he met the great Genaro Hernandez for his first world title on Oct. 3, 1998, but only because Hernandez was so highly regarded and because so few could believe what they were seeing from Mayweather could be duplicated against an elite opponent.
Mayweather's rise to the top wasn't like that of Leon Spinks. Spinks became the heavyweight champion in his eighth professional bout through a set of good fortune and fluke circumstances.
Spinks was one of the gold medalists on the highly acclaimed 1976 U.S. Olympic team that got significant air time during ABC's television coverage of the games in Montreal.
Spinks got a title shot against an aging and unmotivated Muhammad Ali, largely because of his name recognition. Ali was near the end of his career, didn't take Spinks seriously and lost his title when Spinks outworked him.
No one, though, looked at Spinks as one of the world's best fighters.
It was vastly different, though, when Mayweather fought Hernandez for the WBC super featherweight title in Las Vegas. Hernandez entered that bout with a 38-1-1 record, having lost only to Oscar De La Hoya in a lightweight bout. Going into the fight with Mayweather, Hernandez was perceived by some as the best 130-pounder in the world.
[Slideshow: Most important wins of Floyd Mayweather's career]
Eight brutally one-sided rounds later, though, and it was Mayweather who sat at the top of the super featherweight heap.
He's had a series of major bouts since that victory. Here, in order, are Yahoo! Sports' selections of the 10 most significant fights of his illustrious career.
10. Unanimous decision over Shane Mosley on May 1, 2010, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas:This had been a fight that many had clamored for a decade earlier, when Mayweather was at super featherweight and Mosley at lightweight. Mosley had rejuvenated his career a year earlier with a blowout of Antonio Margarito. Mosley nearly scored the massive upset when he caught Mayweather with a huge right in the second. Mayweather staggered to the ropes, clearly hurt, but kept his wits about him and survived the round. He then came out for the third on steady legs and won every round the rest of the way.
9. Unanimous decision over Juan Manuel Marquez on Sept. 19, 2009 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas:Mayweather returned to the ring for the first time since announcing his retirement in June 2008. He was criticized for picking Marquez, who to that point had never fought above lightweight. It was a ridiculously easy victory for Mayweather, as he never allowed Marquez to mount any offense and romped to a one-sided decision.
8. Tenth-round TKO over Ricky Hatton for the WBC welterweight title on Dec. 8, 2007, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas: Both fighters entered the bout undefeated and were a combined 81-0 with 55 knockouts. Hatton attempted to pressure Mayweather and fight a rough-house style, but Mayweather surprised him by being just as physical. Hatton complained that Mayweather was fouling by using his elbows, but Mayweather was repeatedly catching an off-balance Hatton with hard, perfectly time shots. He battered him in the 10th and forced referee Joe Cortez to stop it.
7. Unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto for the WBA super welterweight title on May 5, 2012, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas: A Mayweather-Cotto bout had been dreamed of for years, and the rivals finally met after much anticipation. The aggressive Cotto was able to force Mayweather to stand and fight. Mayweather's style is generally to use his lateral movement and counter punching ability. Mayweather promised to fight flat-footed and he did. Cotto had his moments in the bout, but Mayweather came out on top. It was also the second-best pay-per-view performance of Mayweather's career, generating 1.5 million sales and $94 million in revenue.
6. Unanimous decision over Zab Judah for the IBF welterweight title on April 8, 2006, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas: Judah was one of the first opponents Mayweather faced who had similar hand speed and quickness. He was giving Mayweather problems early in the fight, but Mayweather was able to adjust and dominated the second half. Judah got frustrated and appeared to intentionally foul Mayweather with a low-blow. That set off a brawl in the ring between the corners, though Mayweather calmly and correctly went to a neutral corner and stayed there as the brawl unfolded. The bout also sold 378,000 on pay-per-view, a slight increase from his debut in the Gatti fight.
5. Unanimous decision in rematch with Jose Luis Castillo for the WBC lightweight title on Dec. 7, 2002, MGM Grand, Las Vegas: Eight months earlier, Mayweather moved up to lightweight for the first time and defeated Castillo to win the belt. There were some who believed Castillo should have taken the decision, so Mayweather agreed to a rematch. It was another close fight, but Mayweather was able to outbox Castillo, who was regarded as the best lightweight in the world before their first fight, while they were along the ropes.
4. Sixth-round TKO over Arturo Gatti for the WBC super lightweight title, June 25, 2005, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.:
The bout was Mayweather's first at super lightweight and marked his pay-per-view debut. He sold the fight exceptionally well, generating a higher-than-expected 369,000 pay-per-view sales, and performed even better in the ring. It was a virtual no-hitter as he tore Gatti apart without taking one significant punch of note.
3. Tenth-round TKO over Diego Corrales for the WBC super featherweight title, Jan. 20, 2001, MGM Grand, Las Vegas: Corrales was 33-0 with 27 knockouts going into the fight and had been on a roll. He had been destroying quality fighters, stopping Robert Garcia, John Brown, Derrick Gainer, Justin Juuko and Angel Manfredy in impressive fashion heading into the match with Mayweather. The bout, though, was no contest. Mayweather battered Corrales with precision counter punching. He was never in danger from Corrales' brutal punching power, and put Corrales down five times en route to one of his most impressive wins. It was after this bout that he moved alongside Roy Jones Jr. and Shane Mosley as one of the three top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
2. Eighth-round TKO over Genaro Hernandez for the WBC super featherweight title, Oct. 3, 1998, Las Vegas Hilton: Mayweather was brilliant in dismantling a highly regarded champion. His defense was impregnable and his counter shots were deadly. This may have been Mayweather at his best.
1. Split-decision victory over Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC super welterweight title, May 5, 2007, MGM Grand, Las Vegas: The bout became the richest fight in boxing history, selling a record 2.5 million pay-per-views and generating $137 million in PPV revenue. It also generated $18.4 million in gate revenue. Mayweather had yet to become the biggest star in the sport, but he promoted the fight expertly and stole De La Hoya's mantle after the bout. It wasn't one of his greatest performances in the ring, though; De La Hoya was doing surprisingly well for the first half of the fight, until he stopped jabbing. Mayweather pulled out a tighter than expected split decision and, for one of the few times in his career, his face was bruised and swollen, showing the visible signs of battle.
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