In this new series of articles, I will concentrate on the five greatest athletes of the 21st century. Since the year 2000, there have been a plethora of great athletes in every single sport. Starting with this article, I will focus on five men and women who dominated their sports consistently since 2000. Today, we start with the greatest boxer and fifth greatest athlete of the 21st century: Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
Mayweather began the year 2000 as the reigning WBC Super Featherweight Champion, a belt he won back in 1998 at the very tender age of 21. The very first signature win of Mayweather’s career occurred on January 21, 2001 against undefeated IBF knockout artist Diego Corrales. Floyd put on a virtuoso performance, making the taller Corrales miss all night while dropping him five times with accurate hooks and crosses. Finally, in the tenth round, Corrales’ father stepped in and stopped the fight. Many so called boxing experts thought Corrales was too tall and powerful for Mayweather. He gladly proved them all wrong.
In April of 2002, Mayweather won the WBC Lightweight title in his toughest fight to date; against the rugged Mexican champion Jose Luis Castillo. Many thought Castillo won the fight. A few months later, Mayweather scored a convincing decision victory in the rematch.
While Mayweather continued to dominate all his opponents, his then promoter Bob Arum was not convinced there was big money to be made with Floyd. Finally, on June 25, 2005, Mayweather landed his first pay per view, against the very popular warrior, the WBC Super Lightweight Champion Arturo Gatti. It was another virtuoso performance. Mayweather knocked down Gatti in the first round, and displayed the same type of defense and spectacular offense like he did against Corrales. The fight was mercifully stopped in the sixth round. Mayweather left the 140 pound division afterwards. He would move up to the Welterweight Division, the division in boxing history that has been the most talent laden.
In 2006, Mayweather would easily decision Welterweight Champs Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir, making him the undisputed Welterweight Champion. But it was his next fight against legendary boxer Oscar De La Hoya that began Mayweather’s unprecedented run as the greatest pay per view attraction of all time.
De La Hoya gave a great accounting of himself, but he was unable to penetrate Mayweather’s superior defense to land his signature left hook. Mayweather won De La Hoya’s WBC Super Welterweight title and the torched was passed as the De La Hoya era had ended. It was now the Floyd Mayweather era.
Beginning with the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight, HBO began airing its 24/7 series. Four episodes following each fighter as they prepare for their fight. Mayweather was electric in his segments, showing a gift of gab unseen since the days of Muhammad Ali. It helped Mayweather-De La Hoya set the all time pay per view record at 1.9 million buys. Eight years later, that record would be obliterated by his fight with his most heated rival, Manny Pacquiao.
I always knew Manny was tailor made for Mayweather. While Pacquiao was a tremendous fighter with incredible tenacity and punching power, he was always susceptible to a right cross, as seen when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out with a right cross. For seven years, the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight kept hitting roadblocks. Finally, in May of 2015, the fight happened. The fight sold over four million pay per view buys, setting a record that never will be broken. Unfortunately, the fight itself did not live up to the hype. It was a very easy win for Mayweather, as he won nine of the twelve rounds. Manny would reveal that he fought with a torn shoulder. Torn shoulder or not, Manny’s style was always tailor made for Floyd.
Floyd fought one last time in September of that year, easily defeating the overmatched Andre Berto by decision. Mayweather retired with an undefeated record of 49-0, cementing his place as the fifth greatest athlete of the 21st century.