• Steve Bunce

Mayweather's only problem: The Great Opponent for the Great Fight

Steve Bunce September 17, 2013
Mayweather has all the belts he could ask for - now he needs one great rival to seal his boxing legacy © AP

Floyd Mayweather is desperately seeking a partner to add his name to the following list of iconic pairings: Laurel and Hardy, Creed and Balboa, Mickey and Minnie, Frazier and Ali, Leonard and Duran, Benn and Eubank and USA and USSR.

However, the fighting clock is ticking and there is less chance now that a great challenger will appear to help little Floyd on his quest before he quits the ring in 2016.

The great fights have been there for Mayweather over the years and for a variety of reasons they never took place, which is something that is too often overlooked.

The future landscape is packed with potential fights as boxers consult dieticians and conditioners in crazy attempts to drop or gain fifteen or more pounds. Mayweather has been the sport's cash cow for a long time and a single fight with him will double or even treble the previous highest purse of even the very best boxers.

There are men fighting down at super-feather and lightweight with ambitions to get in the ring with Mayweather and there are several terrific fighters at middleweight, super-middleweight and even light heavyweight with their names on a legitimate list of contenders. Right now the men that want Mayweather's money are scattered across the sport's divisions, separated by 45 pounds but united in their ambitions to get their hands on the cash and their fists on Mayweather.

In this week's podcast, Steve Bunce and Barry Jones chat to a selection of boxing experts after Floyd 'Money' Mayweather's latest victory, plus the latest on Billy Joe Saunders and Ensley 'Bingo' Bingham recalls his 1996 world title fight.

The history of boxing is rich in mad fights and, at this moment, I would not rule out a single fight between anybody currently weighing in at light-heavyweight, which is 175lbs, and super-featherweight, which tips the scales at just 130. Mayweather started to fight at 131lbs in 1996, weighed 147lbs when he woke up Saturday morning and if the money made sense he would move up and down a few pounds to make a big fight happen.

"It's not about the weight with Floyd," said Bernard Hopkins, who fought for a decade inside the middleweight limit of 160lbs and is now IBF champion at light heavyweight. "It's not about power, it's about skill and there are people out there: I'm out there. I can do 160 again, so let's see what happens." Hopkins, by the way, turns 49 early next year.

During the last week and specifically the last few days, since Mayweather's easy win over his leading contender Saul Alvarez on Saturday night, a couple of names have been noticeably absent from most lists of potential contenders.

One is current WBA welterweight champion Adrien Broner and the other is undefeated former world super-middle champion, and 2004 gold medal winner, Andre Ward. The pair sat ringside on Saturday, low-key in their shades and held back from throwing their names forward for consideration in any future Mayweather circus/fight. I find that odd, or perhaps they are simply keeping their mouths shut knowing that they will get a chance and that they don't have to act like love-sick teenagers.

Ward is 29 and will probably weigh 168, the super-middle limit, when he fights again in November. He is also unbeaten in 26 fights, weighed 160lbs just a few years ago and is a master boxer of the highest order. He is also difficult at times to watch because of his style.

He must look at Mayweather's safety-first brilliance and swollen bank account and think: "What am I doing so wrong?" Ward sits at number two in the current pound-for-pound list of modern boxers; he is just a few pounds and about $200 million away from Mayweather.

The situation with Broner, who is 24 and unbeaten in 27 fights, is slightly more complicated. Broner is an annoying guy with huge talent and has said that he will not fight Mayweather because they "are brothers." He is, in my opinion, a natural future opponent.

Broner jumped 12 pounds in weight in his last fight to move from being the lightweight world champion to become welterweight champion. Broner also fights like Mayweather, using the same facial expressions, hand movements and punches. However, he has even less charm than Mayweather and would be hard to market without some serious PR. The fight would generate a small fortune, so I'm guessing "serious PR" would not be a stumbling block.

Mayweather against Ward next year and Broner the year after would be terrific fights and could just move him closer to a place next to Mickey, Minnie, Ali and Frazier.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.