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Floyd Mayweather better than Muhammad Ali? Here's what people are missing

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Last week in a series interviews with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Floyd Mayweather shocked the sports world, insisting he was better than Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

To many fight fans, casual and hardcore, his comments were a sacrilege to say the least.

“No one can ever brainwash me into thinking that Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali was better than me,” emphatically stated Floyd Mayweather Jr.

And fight legend George Foreman, a former Ali foe, agrees.

"Pound for pound Floyd is better than me and Muhammad Ali ever were," the fight legend told TMZ.

"This is a better generation by far," Foreman said. "They're smarter, they're stronger, they're overall just better fighters."

So, what is one's definition of "better?" Is it literal of figurative?

And, given all of the advancements in science, nutrition, gym equipment and boxing, itself, shouldn't today's fighters be better, in a literal sense, than men who fought 40 years ago?

  • Are televisions better today versus 40 years ago?
  • Is flight aviation better?
  • Is  phone communication better?
  • Are computers better?

In a "literal" sense, today's version of Floyd Mayweather is probably better than a 1960s Muhammad Ali just as today's track stars are faster than sprinters of the past.

But the real question is: How good would have Floyd been had he been born in 1942 and didn't have the luxury of modern advances in training, nutrition and equipment?

That's the question we should be asking ourselves. Is he "greater" than Ali, not better?

People fail to realize comparing athletes of different eras is not an 'apples to apples' proposition.

Analogy: Is the person who invented the cell phone "greater" than Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the phone itself? After all, today's cell phones are far and away "better" than the equipment manufactured by Bell. 

While the inventor(s) of the cell phone created a superior product, he/she/they also had 100 years of technology at their disposal; something Bell didn't have. Hence, that does not make them greater than Bell; it only makes their product "better."

Having the aid of modern advancements in your favor may make an athlete or product line better than those of generations past but certainly not "greater." 


As a result, it's wrong to make a "direct" comparison of legends of different eras because the person in the latter generation may have had so many more advantages as a result of human progression.

The real measure of greatness when comparing athletes starts by placing them on equal footing and comparing the achievements of their respective eras.

While Floyd's opponents have also benefitted from modern advancements, are those fighters "greater" today than Ali's foes were in the 1960s and 70s?

Mayweather's greatness today only answers part of the question. Again, how good would have Floyd been had he been born in 1942, the same year as Muhammad Ali?

Like sprinters, computers and telephones of that era, he most certainly wouldn't have been as good as he is today... That is for sure.


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