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'The Best Ever'? Hold Your Judgement on Masterful Mayweather

Undefeated Floyd Mayweather may have finally added Manny Pacquaio's name to his extraordinary resumé, but the five-weight world champion must have spent every day since his majestic May 2nd victory wondering what he needs to do to silence his critics once and for all.

Undefeated Floyd Mayweather may have finally added Manny Pacquaio's name to his extraordinary resumé, but the five-weight world champion must have spent every day since his majestic May 2nd victory wondering what he needs to do to silence his critics once and for all.

After pocketing over $200million for a thirty-six minute exhibition of his spellbinding skills at the MGM Arena, he assured fans that he was "on top of the world" in an interview with US broadcaster Showtime on Saturday. Mayweather certainly has every reason to be cheerful, but deep down he must question how he will ever be able to secure his place at the summit of boxing's pantheon.

Immediately after the fight, the victor suggested that the media should admit that "Floyd Mayweather turned us into believers," but, not for the first time, his pleas for recognition appear to have been largely discounted. Instead, there seems to be more belief than ever that the conservatism of his tactics means that he will forever be compared unfavourably with the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

Much of the talk in the build up to his clash with Pacquaio was about money, but defeat for Mayweather would have come at a dramatic cost to his legacy and the purse surely ceased to be his chief motivation. He will have been aware that an unblemished record is not enough to cement a position amongst the greatest boxers of all time, and he will have rightly hoped that his surgical dismantling of his long-time adversary would mean that comparisons with the greats are no longer up for debate.

We know that Mayweather has enough self-belief to shrug off the howls of frustration that accompanied his victory, and after five years of shadow boxing behind their promoters the bout was unlikely to live up to its huge expectations. But Mayweather must once again wonder why he has to bear the bulk of responsibility for the world's disappointment.

One of the explanations for the jeers that accompany his victories and the alienation that many sports fans feel for him is his antics outside the ring. We rightly detest his well-reported criminal behaviour and for many it is difficult to sympathise with the champion when he does not receive the recognition he feels he so richly deserves.

For somebody with such a chequered history, Mayweather does not appear to experience many moments of diffidence - and if he does then they are behind closed doors. Perhaps the public would prefer to see a more humble character, rather than a flawed genius that regularly massages his ego in front of the cameras.

For many it is very easy to begrudge the extravagant lifestyle that Mayweather enjoys as a result, but for all the unsavoury behaviour, bling and brashness, he remains boxing's biggest draw and it's not only Las Vegas that will suffer when he's gone.

The superstar is one of the finest athletes of his generation and his nineteen-year domination of the sport has been breathtaking to follow. He turns impenetrable defence into attack with bewildering speed and he has eluded punishment from the sport's most accomplished boxers. If he is not as entertaining as some of the legends that have fought before him, then he must be considered the most naturally skilled practitioner of the artistic pursuit. He is undoubtedly a master of his craft.

Mayweather's skills demand acclaim and so do his business deals, which are just as calculated as his victories in the ring. 'Money', as he calls himself, has career earnings of a staggering $410million. He is also responsible for four of the ten highest grossing fights in history. In an era where the quality of the show is just as important as the fight, there is no salesman as good as Mayweather and his product has been the best on the market for many years. His place at the top of sport's rich list is an acknowledgment of his immense ability and there is no deliberation about his position as the box office pound-for-pound king.

At 38, he is still performing at the top of his game and the possibility that he will come up against anyone likely to threaten his perfect record seems remote. He will fight again in September before he is unable to resist a likely rematch with Pacquiao next year, in what is sure to be his final swansong.

Mayweather only has one outing left on his six-fight deal with Showtime and a bout next year to beat Rocky Marciano's unbeaten record of 50-0 could spark a monumental bidding war between his current broadcaster and rival HBO. The rematch would not entice the glittering crowd of celebrities that paid up to $40,000 for a ticket earlier this month, but it would still generate jaw-dropping revenues, especially if Pacquaio's excuses for his dismal performance continue to gather momentum.

The allure of a rematch demands controversy - not least because Pacquaio cited his injured shoulder as the reason for his defeat. It's the perfect opening to the second chapter of their lengthy tale, and the satisfied smirk Mayweather brandished in Saturday's interview could be etched on his face for some time if the public continue to buy into Pacquiao's excuse and fuel the excitement ahead of another fight. Plenty has been written about there being no appetite for a second instalment of their rivalry, but who didn't enjoy the fanfare of the richest fight in boxing history?

If the two were to clash again then it would also give us the opportunity to marvel at Mayweather one more time before he hangs up his gloves for good. Though many will try and punch their way on to the grand stage he leaves behind, it will be a long time before boxing produces a character as skilful and captivating.

Comparisons with the legends of the sport are compulsory when it comes to a fighter with a record as stunning as his and Mayweather is confident about how he fares in such debates. He refers to himself as 'TBE' - the best ever - but does he deserve the title? Let's revel in his final contests and let his flashing fists argue his case before we decide whether to allow him the place in history that he has always desired.

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