The ultra-talented and often controversial Floyd Mayweather Jr. returns to the ring on May 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. And while it’s not the matchup fans were hoping for—instead of facing Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather will put his 40-0 record on the line against 38-year-old Shane Mosley (46-5-0)—any time Pretty Boy Floyd laces up the gloves, it’s a big-time event.
To preview the fight and break down all things Mayweather and boxing, we caught up with Las Vegas’ foremost boxing authority, Al Bernstein. Now in his 30th year as a boxing commentator (and currently working fights for Showtime), Bernstein gives Mosley—who is coming off his biggest victory in years, a ninth-round technical knockout of Antonio Margarito in January 2009—more than a puncher’s chance against Mayweather.
What do you expect in this matchup?
It’s going to be a really interesting fight. I think Mosley could be—potentially—as tough or tougher a fight for Floyd as Manny Pacquiao. It’s a different kind of fight. Shane Mosley’s boxing IQ is very high. Physically, he’s strong; he’s a true welterweight now. And his hand speed—even at age 38—is among the quickest Mayweather has faced. And [Mosley] was brilliant in his last performance against Margarito. … One thing I can see happening is Mosley will force him to be more active by pressuring him and throwing a lot of punches.
One of Mosley’s punches that is overlooked is his left hook. And you have to have a left hook if you’re going to beat Mayweather because of the way he fights. You can’t throw one punch at a time, either. You have to throw combinations, and Mosley’s capable of doing that.
So if Mosley wins this fight, you wouldn’t call it a colossal upset?
I wouldn’t call it a monstrous upset, no.
Do you think the majority of boxing fans are rooting for Mayweather to lose this fight just to shut him up?
Listen, Floyd Mayweather has [intentionally] positioned himself as the bad boy of boxing, but I don’t know that that’s true. I have a nice relationship with Floyd. I like him. I don’t have any issues with him, and I don’t see him as a villain. … He has a lot of fans, too.
Do you think a lot of the anti-Mayweather sentiment is not only because he likes to talk a lot, but also because he doesn’t like to fight when he gets in the ring?
There’s a perception that he’s very selective—probably too selective—in terms of the fights he picks, and I think that leaves boxing fans annoyed from time to time. And let’s be honest—and especially in recent years—he fights like a businessman. He does exactly—exactly—what he needs to do to win fights. He’s almost got it calculated down to the punch. He’s like some brilliant accountant who knows where to place this decimal point and that decimal point. … He does what he needs to do to win.
Where do you rank Mayweather among the all-time greats?
Part of the problem is he’s fought … good opponents but not a great one. And because of that, it’s a little hard to place him in the pantheon of great fighters. It also depends on what weight class you put him in. Among lightweights, he ranks higher than in the welterweight class. At lightweight, he’s certainly in the top seven or eight of all time. But among welterweights, he’s not nearly as high on the list.
So among welterweights, you’d rank him below guys such as Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns?
Oh, unquestionably. That whole group was above him. Certainly, I’d never see him beating Ray Leonard or Tommy Hearns; I can’t imagine that. Stylistically, Tommy Hearns would be a nightmare for Floyd. He’d never get near Tommy Hearns physically to hit him. … As for Ray Leonard, he’s just a better fighter, and he’s physically bigger and stronger than Floyd. [Roberto] Duran, though, that would be an interesting fight.
Is Floyd a victim of his era in that there’s just not a lot of quality fighters in his weight classes, or is it just a matter of he won’t fight the best out there?
Yes and no. I think the Mosley fight is a perfect example—and I’m not saying it’s all [Mayweather’s] fault, but this is a fight that should’ve happened a while ago. And there was at any given time guys like Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, they were all floating around. Say what you will, whether it’s a business decision or what, but there have been other quality fighters that Floyd Mayweather could have fought.
What about Mayweather-Pacquiao? Is it going to happen? Does it need to happen?
Whoever wins this fight, it would be terrific for the sport of boxing if they fought Pacquiao. If Mosley wins, I guarantee you he’ll fight Pacquiao. If Floyd wins, they’ll have to get past this drug-testing issue. And I don’t know if they’ll do that because Mayweather and his camp have drawn a line in the sand.