ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Floyd Mayweather has staked his reputation as boxing's best fighter, pound-for-pound.
Roy Jones used to hold the mythical title, but a loss earlier this month would seem to leave the crown to Mayweather.
Mayweather (32-0, 21 knockouts) has made his case in the ring, most recently here on Saturday night, outclassing former junior welterweight champion DeMarcus Corley with a unanimous decision in a 12-round, non-title bout. Mayweather, a champion at 130 and 135 pounds, moved up to the 140-pound class for the fight.
Mayweather, 27, also has done it with his mouth, leaving no doubt about who he thinks is boxing's top fighter. "I'm one of the best that's ever been in the sport of boxing," Mayweather said after the Corley fight.
And that was one of the least incendiary statements by Mayweather, who sat down for a one-on-one interview with The Sun in his hotel at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
The Sun: What makes you the best?
Mayweather: I can't say what the future holds, but I think I'm one of the best that's ever been in the sport of boxing. It comes from being blessed. I have good people around me, a lot of smart people around me. I'm still learning each day about the sport. I hadn't fought a southpaw in seven years. I got caught with a couple of good shots, but I shook them off. A true champion just shakes it off and keeps coming.
The Sun: You have spoken of accepting challenges. Do you think that other fighters don't?
Mayweather: Ask me about a certain fighter and I'll give you the whole scenario and what I think is the breakdown on him.
The Sun: Roy Jones.
Mayweather: Roy Jones - good fighter, good hook, good right hand. But that can only take you so far. You need a jab. A jab sets up everything.
The Sun: Do you respect what Jones has done over the course of his career?
Mayweather: Do I respect him? Yes, I respect him. But what I don't respect is that he says that I don't deserve to be the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. How are you going to say that? You're going to say that a guy that you beat, Bernard Hopkins, deserves to be there, just because you beat him. He doesn't want anyone to be there who hasn't fought him. ... Roy's just got to take his hat off to me. I don't knock him; he's a good fighter. But if we were in the same weight class, I'd beat him. I'd rise to the occasion.
The Sun: How much of what you did tonight was for you personally, how much was for the fans, how much was a message to your pound-for-pound rivals?
Mayweather: A while back, I gave the fans a lot of boring fights, boxing and moving. Tonight, I wanted to fight this guy. It's not like I wanted to get hit - I got hit with a couple of shots - but this was for pound-for-pound. I told myself, `Look, you can take this.' You're not Roy Jones, you're Floyd Mayweather. Jones is a good fighter, beat a lot of guys, but to tell you the truth, some of the guys he's been in with, I think I could have beaten [at his present weight]. I'm still young. I fight with heart. I've got a granite chin. I take it and I give it back.
The Sun: Are there fighters you emulate?
Mayweather: We know about the great Muhammad Ali and the great Sugar Ray Robinson. But there are two fighters out there that don't get their respect. What about Pernell Whitaker? What about Aaron Pryor? Aaron Pryor was a better fighter than Sugar Ray Leonard. I'm a combination of the two.
The Sun: What do you like about Aaron Pryor?
Mayweather: Heart. Conditioning. No matter what, he had to win. Same thing with me.
The Sun: Do you think HBO will give you a fight with Arturo Gatti? Do you think that fight will come off, even if he is able to fulfill his contract with HBO with wins in his next two fights?
Mayweather: I should be HBO's No. 1 fighter. I went through my whole contract. I went through the Top Rank contract. ... I'm not like Oscar De La Hoya. You don't need to hand-pick opponents for me. Oscar De La Hoya knows his career is coming to an end, so he's got to fight Bernard Hopkins for that big money. It would have been embarrassing for me to spank him, so that's why he took that other route.
The Sun: In a perfect world, what should tonight's fight, and your performance, have done for your career?
Mayweather: I should be [marketed] as the best, pound-for-pound. Why not? My first fight at 140, I took it to a bigger guy. He had more fights at this weight. You know I punished him, and that I deserved more than two knockdowns. The referee was against me totally. He hit me with head butts, with low blows, elbows. I don't cry. I'm a fighter, man.
The Sun: In a perfect world, who would you fight next and over the next few years if you could make your own schedule?
Mayweather: They need me; I don't need them. They could make more money with me. I don't need anybody anymore. They need me [emphasizing this by alternately pounding his chest with his fist, thumb and forefinger]. I'm the man. Oscar ain't the man. Roy ain't the man. Bernard ain't got nobody to fight no more. ... I'm the man; they need me. Million Dollar Mayweather.
The Sun: Are you sure you've gotten everything off your chest, or is there anything else that you want to say?
Mayweather: Yeah, since this is my last fight with Top Rank, I do have something I want to say. I've never told them this, but ah, Oscar De La Hoya ain't [good], he ain't never been [good], and he's a punk - straight up."