Ask three boxing fans who would win between Mike Tyson and Mohammed Ali in their primes, and you’ll get five different answers. That’s the nature of professional sports and professional sports fans. We’re a passionate, opinionated bunch, and the what-if scenarios of dream match-ups we’ll never see can keep us blabbering for hours.
But every now and then we get a get a changing of the guard, as one all-time great slowly fades out and a new great emerges. Today in MotoGP, Marc Marquez is having a terrific year, and he’s poised to clinch another world championship this weekend in Thailand. Valentino Rossi on the other hand, who has been chomping at Marc’s bits in the standings for the passed few years, is having a season he’d rather forget. MotoGP fans won’t ever get to see these two living legends in their primes race against each other at the same time. The best we can do is use history and look at the numbers to determine who the more dominant racer was in their first 200 starts.
That’s exactly what CycleWorld did here. I don’t often link out to other motorcycle publications, because I like YouMotorcycle to do it’s own thing, but I liked what they put together here:
Earlier this year Marc Marquez celebrated his 200th MotoGP start, and that raised the question amongst fans. In their first 200 starts, who was the more dominant: The Ant of Cervera, or The Doctor?
Looking strictly at world titles, the two are evenly matched. If most wins come next, than Rossi has 16% more than Marquez. That’s important, because if we look at 2nd place and 3rd place finishes the two are perfectly matched!
Marquez has a habit of testing, pushing, and feeling things out in free practice sessions and qualifying sessions before delivering one phenomenal qualifying lap time and taking pole position. In that area he completely outshines his competition 89 to 50.
Rossi’s counter-argument, aside from more wins, is a greater number of points 3,509 vs 3,201 which results in a greater point percentage, 70.18% vs. 64.02%.
Now, you might be reading this and thinking, well, Marquez is on his way to clinch his 8th world title this year, so we can round up to 8. Sure, but back in 2008, when Rossi hit his 200th MotoGP start, he went on to win the world title that year as well. So we could round Rossi’s 7 world titles to 8 as well. These two really couldn’t be any more evenly matched.
It’s easy to forget that Rossi in his prime was every bit as dominant as Marquez is today. Like Tyson vs. Ali, it’s a shame that we’ll never see these two in their prime compete against one another. But we can’t complain. We’re very lucky: On Sunday we get to watch two of the greatest motorcycle racers to ever suit up out on the track in Thailand. And I’ll cheer for a 40 year old Valentino any day.