Floyd Mayweather was linked to fighting Paul Spadafora almost his entire career as the pair turned professional within a year of each other at the same weight.
Racing to world titles in the late 1990s, it was Mayweather who got the fast-track to a world title within twenty-four months of entering the paid ranks.
Spadafora waited a little longer. He eventually got his title at lightweight in 1999. Floyd had claimed his belt at the same super-featherweight limit they began their run.
As Mayweather rose through the divisions and on to superstardom, Spadafora had a contrasting road. Beating 18 opponents with losing records, to Mayweather’s two, didn’t help him attract the major spotlight.
‘The Pittsburgh Kid’ also had troubles outside of the ring, serving time in boot-camp and prison facilities.
Despite this, the southpaw retained his undefeated record, even through extended periods on the sidelines.
Twelve fights in ten years was a worst-case scenario for Spadafora. But amazingly, he was still consistently named in the same breath as Mayweather.
In 2013, two years before Floyd Mayweather retired, Spadafora was in with a shot of potentially being one of those final opponents.
All he had to do was stay undefeated against Johan Perez. Unfortunately for Spadafora, his world came crashing down.
The 38-year-old (at the time) began the fight well, but the hard-hitting Perez took over in the second half of the fight. Spadafora was eventually handed a 117-111, 115-113 reverse on two of the judges’ cards, with the third scoring it a draw.
It wasn’t as close as the cards suggested. Days later, and due to a protest to the WBA in regards to the magnitude of what was possibly at stake for Spadafora, a review of the cards was undertaken.
A full analysis came back with a general consensus in favor of Perez 116-112. It was conclusive.
Not only did Spadafora lose, but he missed out on equalling the great Rocky Marciano’s record of 49 wins without a defeat. Perez picked up the interim WBA light-welterweight title into the bargain.
Without the magical ‘0’, any Mayweather encounter was now dead in the water. Spadafora knew it.
Mayweather moved on to chose Marcos Maidana in 2014. They would fight twice due to the lack of Spadafora in the picture.
If Spadafora had matched Marciano’s mark of 49 without loss at 48-0-1, there’s no doubting the ‘Money’ man would have wanted a piece of that action.
Selling a Pay-Per-View of a 45-0 Mayweather taking on a 48-0-1 Spadafora (93-0-1) to halt the breaking of the long-standing benchmark by his rival, would have firmly been in the offing.
It was a blow for Spadafora.
Instead, he was slow to return to action. Eight months on, the ex-world title-holder beat Hector Velazquez, a late replacement for Jake Giuriceo.
The off-TV bout went ahead with a whimper. It was a far cry from the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Even at 49-1-1 and with Mayweather scouting for his last foe of a multi-million pound Showtime deal, that solitary blemish steered the pound for pound king firmly away.
In a surprise move, Andre Berto got the curtain-closing honor. Mayweather himself hit 49-0 and the rest is history.
At 39 and with nowhere to go, Spadafora then decided enough was enough. Without one defeat, it could have been so different.