The pound-for-pound king is nearly dead. Or so he says. Long live the king.
If the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather does retire after Saturday’s welterweight title fight against Andre Berto there is no shortage of talented fighters in the division lining up to inherit his crown.
With Manny Pacquiao, who lost to Mayweather in May, also in the twilight of his career, the door is wide open for a new generation to take over the weight class, the most exciting in boxing right now.
First in line could be Berto, if he springs one of the biggest upsets in boxing history and becomes the first man to defeat the 38-year-old Mayweather.
Experts say it is highly unlikely. Instead, they point to Keith Thurman, Kell Brook and Danny Garcia, all undefeated, as contenders. There is also Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan and Shawn Porter.
Fight fans were hugely disappointed that Mayweather failed to pick one of those for his supposed swan song; tacit acknowledgement perhaps from the champion that they were too dangerous.
Timothy Bradley (32-1-1; 12 KOs)
There is a feeling that Bradley, 32, never quite gets the recognition he deserves. And that includes judges who somehow figured it a draw when Bradley fought Diego Chaves last year.
Bradley lacks a knockout punch, as shown by his record. In his last appearance, in June, he dominated Jessie Vargas for 12 rounds to earn a deserved unanimous decision. But he was caught in the final moments of the fight and had a blundering referee to thank for calling time early.
Kell Brook (35-0; 24 KOs)
It has been a roller-coaster year for the powerful 29-year-old Briton. He inflicted the only loss on Shawn Porter to earn a title in the American’s backyard in August last year – a surprise but deserved victory. Soon after that he suffered life-threatening injuries when he was stabbed in the leg during a holiday. He appears to have recovered well, if his performances against Jo Jo Dan and Frankie Gavin are anything to go by. He will again defend his IBF title in October and has emerged as a real world-class act.
Danny Garcia (31-0; 18 KOs)
The unbeaten American announced his arrival in 2012 when he defeated Erik Morales twice and knocked out the more fancied Amir Khan. The 27-year-old Garcia may not have the punching power or be the most thrilling boxer, but the Philadelphia-born fighter is smart. He impressed in his most recent bout, in August, against the fading Paul Malignaggi. He has a lethal jab.
Amir Khan (31-3; 19 KOs)
The Briton is already 28, but the jury is still out on whether Khan has what it takes; whether he has the defensive nous and the chin to make the transition from a very good fighter with some of the fastest hands in the business to an elite-class boxer.
Khan seemed to be on a fast track to stardom when he was knocked out in the first round in a fight against Breidis Prescott in 2008. It was his first defeat, and he also suffered damaging losses in 2011 and 2012. But he badly wanted a go at Mayweather.
Shawn Porter (26-1-1; 16 KOs)
Porter’s progress hit the rocks last year when the American lost his title to Brook. The 27-year-old was competent enough against the outclassed Erick Bone in March this year, winning by knockout in the fifth round, but was excellent in June when he won by unanimous decision against Adrien Broner despite being knocked down at the start of the twelfth. The explosive Porter also hoped for a shot at Mayweather, but the champion dodged him.
Keith Thurman (26-0; 22 KOs)
There is a massive amount of buzz surrounding the American, 26, who has blitzed his way through the division. Thurman called out Mayweather after retaining his belt against Luis Collazo in July and boxing fans were yearning for the fight. But Mayweather was never going to take the fight because of Thurman’s fast-growing reputation as the most dangerous fighter around. While Mayweather built his reputation on defence, part of Thurman’s attraction is his all-out blood-and-thunder approach.