I was asked this week for my views on an article which gave an insight into five fighters from the 1980’s who the publisher felt would beat Floyd Mayweather. The five fighters were: Pernell Whittaker, Thomas Hearns, Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler and I will let you know what my views were later in the article however, for now I want to touch on these ‘current day’ versus ‘fighters from the past’ comparisons.
Take Floyd Mayweather out of this topic for the moment as his ability level surpasses most current and past fighters regardless of other contributing factors, and let’s focus on a few fundamentals which I feel give modern day fighters an advantage over past fighters:
Training – a lot of the elite level fighters have adapted their training regime to a more modern approach in recent years by replacing daily long distance runs with interval sprints, realising the importance of strength training and explosive plyometric work. The boxing world in general is still a little behind other combat sports such as MMA when it comes to all round training however, the approach taken by these elite boxers gives them an advantage over the stars of days past due to: improved fitness levels allow the boxers to fight at a higher intensity, their recovery rate is improved (especially when taking a shot) and strength is increased.
Diet – similar to the above, the advancements in nutritional and biological understanding enable a fighter to be correctly fuelled to get the best results in training, making weight and most importantly, refuelling post weigh-in to ensure the fighters body is performing to the required level of output. Which leads me on to my last point;
Weight categories – due to the fighters training and diet they are able to cut weight more extremely and to some degree more safely than fighters of the past. This would allow them to gain a size and strength advantage over the past fighters without draining themselves for the fight.
Now, you may disagree with me and give it the ‘they used to box 15 rounds so they must be fitter’ argument, which is correct in theory however, the 15 round fights were very rarely fought at a high tempo or with the intensity of today’s fights. Modern day fighters (in the same weight categories) would generally be bigger, stronger, faster and fitter than the past fighters therefore, when you look at two fighters (one current and one past) with similar skill levels, I find it difficult to find an argument for the past fighter to win as they are not really fighting on a level playing field.
There are exceptions to the above however, if you don’t believe the general principals I have pointed out then have a look back through, not just boxing but, any sporting records and see how the records have continually been broken as we have gone through time. Try to find me a world record set by an athlete from the 1980’s or earlier which still stands today. See how aesthetically different the athletes look, how differently they train, eat and perform.
Sports, training and humans in general have continually evolved and this has resulted in a more well rounded modern day athlete. Therefore, in conclusion I think the modern day fighter versus past fighter comparisons are not as close a contest are we are led to believe…
RE the earlier question about my views on how Mayweather fares against the fighters from the 1980’s, see below:
Whittaker – Mayweather wins a close SD in one of the most boring fights the world has ever seen.
Duran – tailor made for Mayweather but too tough for Floyd to get a stoppage. Mayweather wide UD.
Leonard – gives Mayweather all kinds of difficulty but is out pointed in a close but not controversial UD.
Hearns – range and height is nullified by Mayweather by using sharp lunging left hooks (see Mayweather v Corrales for example) to gain a late stoppage.
Hagler – I refused to give a view as he was a career middleweight. If we go down that route we may as well put Tyson in there for good measure.