Is Mayweather the best ever?

LAS VEGAS—It was in the 11th round that it happened: Floyd Mayweather so brilliantly bamboozled Andre Berto that it was possible to buy into his claim of being “TBE”—The Best Ever.

Certainly dozens in the crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday thought so, chanting “TBE! TBE!” as Mayweather earned a unanimous decision over the limited Berto.

The widely expected victory gave the American, 38, a perfect 49-0 record to equal the feat of heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano.

Mayweather said before the bout that he had achieved all he could from the fight game and Berto was to be his final victim -- and he repeated that assertion afterwards.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. speaks during a post-fight news conference at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino after he retained his WBC/WBA welterweight titles in a unanimous-decision victory over Andre Berto in Las Vegas, Nevada.  AFP

But then it is not the first time the welterweight world champion has quit: he also did so in 2008.

Whether he stays retired this time only time will tell, but fans, pundits and fighters are already evaluating his glittering career and trying to work out what his legacy might be.

The man himself was in reflective mood.

“I’ve been in the sport 19 years and I don’t know anybody who’s been in the sport and made upwards of $800 million,” he said, handing more ammunition to critics who say Mayweather has been the best ever only in terms of knowing how to make more money from boxing than anyone else in history.

“It’s crazy. I’ve been in the sport my whole life and they say I’m the best,” he added.

“Every champion -- Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard -- there’s so many champions... Larry Holmes... the list goes on and on.

“They opened the doors to pave the way for me to be what I am today. I’m appreciative.” 

Dividing opinion

Mayweather is a deeply polarizing figure.

His fans rightly defend him as a deeply hard-working and magnificently gifted boxer who has perfected the art of avoiding getting hit.

They also admire his undoubted business acumen that has made him the highest-earning sportsman in the world and say he has introduced a financial savvy never seen before in boxing.

His critics dismiss him as an arrogant, money-obsessed man and boring boxer who has dodged some of the best in the business simply to maintain his unbeaten record.

Many cannot look beyond the incidents of domestic violence that saw him spend time behind bars.

Evander Holyfield is in as good a position as anyone to judge where in the pantheon of boxing greats Mayweather ranks.

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