Mayweather no match for real money men Leonard and Hearns

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It is too easy to forget that long before Floyd Mayweather was dominating in the ring and at the bank, there were other welterweights making fortunes in stunning fights.

On September 16, 1981, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns split the spoils from a fight that grossed $36 million for their welterweight unification clash in front of a global TV audience of 300 million people. Last Saturday Mayweather, who is now 38, and Andre Berto split $36m dollars for their hitless waltz at the MGM in Las Vegas.

It is perhaps unfair to use the Leonard v Hearns first fight as an example, but then again, it serves as a brutal reality check to the modern fans that insist Mayweather is the best fighter to ever lace on a pair of gloves. I'm not interested in comparisons or fantasy fights between boxers separated by decades - I'm just interested in facts and figures and here are a few for people to digest.

Hearns was unbeaten in 32 fights and the WBA welterweight champion. He had knocked out 30 of his victims and was still only 22.

Leonard had lost just once in 31 fights and had avenged that defeat to Roberto Duran in style. He was the WBC welterweight champion and still only 25.

The WBA and WBC belts were NOT mentioned in the contracts for the fight and the officials from both organisations had to wait in line for their credentials - this was about the boxers, not the fat men from South America in shiny suits.

The fight was outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and scheduled for fifteen rounds. A total of 23,618 paid top dollar to watch the fight live in the giant car park that was converted for fights. The ringside seats were 500 bucks.

Tony Ayala Jr was on the undercard and moved to 10-0 with another stoppage. He was meant to be the man that would beat the winner, but he lost his way, went to prison and earlier this year was found dead from an overdose in his San Antonio gym.

"It was called The Showdown and victory would finally get me the respect I deserved," said Leonard. There were still veterans in the press corps who doubted his heart and desire.

Leonard won the coin toss and arrived in the ring second. On the back of his robe was this simple message: Deliverance. Hearns went for: Winner Takes All.

At the end of round 12, Angelo Dundee, in Leonard's corner, grabbed his fighter and shouted above the noise: "You're blowing it son. You've got to pick up your tempo." It worked and in the 13th Hearns was dropped, but he survived until the bell.

At the start of the 14th round Hearns was in front on all three scorecards: 125-122, 125-121 and 124-122. It was quite simply brilliant and thrilling in equal measure. However, many thought the fight much closer and some cynical ringside writers suggested that the judges should not be allowed out again unless accompanied by their guide dogs!

Ding-ding, round 14: Hearns had nothing left, his legs gone and his head all over the place. The fight was lost at 1:45. Leonard was the Greatest of his generation.

"We put on a great show for them. If you never see another fight, but you saw this one, that would be enough," said Hearns.

Both boxers would go on and make more money and take part in massive fights. However, that September in the car park behind Caesars Palace a high was reached. I would argue it has not been equalled.