Mayweather is not the greatest of all time
Mayweather can't compete. And Robinson isn't alone in that; there are a number of boxers who can point to a more impressive list of victories than Mayweather can, impressive enough that their defeats
If one was being exceedingly generous, Mayweather might be able to slip into the very bottom of the top 10 all time for his current results. But that would be exceedingly generous. More realistic is probably somewhere between top 15 and top 30 depending on the mood that takes you on a given day.
That doesn't mean he couldn't beat many of the greats
I think the only way to fairly rank a boxer's place in history is by comparing their résumés. Trying to mythically match them up head-to-head to determine who was the greatest is an exercise in confusion and twisted logic.
I think Robinson outpoints Mayweather fairly clearly in a tactical bout. I think Hearns dominates him to either a wide decision or late stoppage. I think Leonard is crafty and cunning enough to eke out a controversial, narrow decision. I think Mayweather gives Duran a boxing lesson and wins a wide decision. I think Mayweather narrowly beats Whittaker in a debatable decision. I think Mayweather outboxes Armstrong in a bout where Armstrong has his moments but can't find sustained success. And I think Mayweather picks off Galivan to win a decision.
Mayweather hasn't 'ducked' as many boxers as people suggest
Mayweather tried to make a bout with Casamayor but the Cuban preferred to wait until he had unified with WBO champion Acelino Freitas (at a time when the WBO was starting to gain some recognition as a legitimate world title) so he could demand a bigger purse.
Not long before talk of a bout with Mayweather appeared, Margarito had lost to solid but unspectacular 154lbs title holder Daniel Santos and frankly, few thought much of him.
Mayweather's first bout in the period we're discussing was a superfight with Judah, a battle between two people seen as being near the top of the pound for pound rankings, a battle against a man who could seemingly match Mayweather's speed and beat him on power and a battle that when it was signed was for the IBF, WBA, WBC and Lineal 147lbs titles.
The second bout in the period is the one that gets most of the attention and features Mayweather facing Carlos Baldomir rather than Margarito.
Margarito had picked up a good win while Mayweather was beating Baldomir, outlasting Joshua Clottey. But Mayweather's choice for his next bout was between Margarito and Oscar De La Hoya.
The fact is Williams only arrived on the world title scene with his victory over Margarito and Mayweather's choice then was between Williams and the man at 140lbs, Ricky Hatton, in a superfight.
if Mayweather had taken on Williams instead of Hatton people would be claiming he ducked the lineal 140lbs champion who had already won a title at 147lbs. And shortly after Mayweather beat Hatton, Williams was comprehensively outboxed in his first title defence against the limited Carlos Quintana and was out of title contention.
I don't have the time or space here to go through all the twists and turns of this bout. Suffice to say that if we say Mayweather ducked Pacquiao then we must also say Pacquiao ducked Mayweather.
Both sides played hardball; both sides featured boxers and promoters who dislike (and possibly even hate) each other; both sides made serious demands; and both sides were in a position to walk away (although, for the record, each time the bout has been close to happening it has been Pacquiao's side to leave the table). There is no side of the angels in this case; everyone is to blame and trying to put all of the fault on one party or even one side is letting personal feelings about the characters involved cloud one's judgement.
… but he has ducked some
Somewhat surprisingly, the two fighters who can claim Mayweather ducked them and have those claims stand up to scrutiny often don't get mentioned when people discuss who Mayweather supposedly ducked.
Mayweather was brave to challenge the naturally larger Wright, a man basically in his prime and with a style that would have been awkward for Mayweather. But when you call someone out and agree all of the details, why then suddenly pull out and take on Sharmba Mitchell instead? That's ducking.
In 2007-08, Cotto was the next best welterweight in the world behind Mayweather.
There was no reason for the bout not to be made. But Mayweather instead signed for a pointless rematch with De La Hoya.
Then Mayweather "retired" instead of taking the second De La Hoya bout.
Of course Mayweather did eventually face Cotto and he should be given some credit for doing it at 154lbs. But that Cotto had been given a beating by Margarito and his controversial gloves, had gone through a war with Clottey and been cut to pieces by Pacquiao. Put simply, he wasn't the same fighter.
Appreciate the boxer if not the man
You don't have to like Mayweather as a person or a boxer. I don't particularly. You certainly don't have to respect Mayweather the man.
But you should appreciate and respect Mayweather the boxer.
If you have watched Mayweather in recent years, you have watched a man near the absolute pinnacle of the sweet science. His athleticism is starting to fail him, his legs are nowhere near as quick as they once were, even his hand-speed is not the blinding flash it once was. Yet through technique, dedication and craft, Mayweather has remained largely untouchable.
Mayweather's upcoming bout with Maidana may not be the most scintillating. It may not be the most competitive. It may not feature him beating an all-time great or cementing his place in boxing history. But it will almost certainly feature sublime skills that all boxing fans should be able to appreciate and enjoy.