I was watching the 30 minute promotional segment just prior to the pay-per view telecast of the Mayweather-Marquez fight. A clip of the promotion shows an interview of Floyd – and he was quoted as saying “if you are not watching a Floyd Mayweather fight, you are watching the wrong fights”. It was at that moment it occurred to me that Floyd was ‘wrong’!! It is more like the other way around. A revised version of Floyd’s quote should read, “if you are watching a Floyd Mayweather fight, you are watching the wrong fights”.
Floyd promptly went out and pitched a shutout over Marquez in a landslide victory. Floyd put on a great performance coming off a 21 month layoff against a very good pound for pound fighter in Marquez. The question I had to ask myself after the fight was: Does Floyd want to be a great fighter, or is he just a businessman? The answer is simple. He is a businessman who has transformed from talented boxing prodigy who lived and breathed boxing to a money flashing, gambling, jet setting, jive talking ‘celebrity’ persona. Some may say that Floyd has just evolved and has just become who he is. As a purist, I can do without it.
As an elite fighter and long time pound for pound king prior to his ‘retirement’ in 2008, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a household name. When he retired, it was very similar to the screen going blank on the season finale of the Sopranos. We didn’t know how it ended, but somehow, we knew there will eventually be a conclusion to the story.
He had beaten Oscar De La Hoya in May of 2007 and followed up with a 10 round destruction of Ricky Hatton in December of 2007. Prior to the Hatton fight and during training camp, he appeared as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. This helped him cross over into the public consciousness of non boxing fans. Since the De La Hoya and Hatton fights did so well on pay-per view, Floyd starting thinking he was the reason the fights drew say many pay per view buys. And why wouldn’t he think that? He is the most talented and skilled fighter in the world and has never been beaten.
The reality was that just like Bernard Hopkins, his fights are based on skill, experience, defense, and playing it safe. Definitely not a crowd pleasing style. His pay per view success was based on Oscar and Ricky’s fan base – and many boxing fans that just wanted to see him lose. He walked away from the sport on top, but to most fans, an incomplete legacy. Now he is back, and hopefully, he can cement his legacy.
Don’t get me wrong, as a boxing purist, I think Floyd is amazing to watch. I am not here to disparage his ability. He is the most skilled fighter in the sport of boxing, and also the smartest fighter in the ring today. The problem is, only a purist can appreciate a fighter like Floyd. The precision, the speed, the almost impregnable defense, the great stamina, and the wonderful footwork and foot speed that enables him to avoid punches. The average fan who watches an occasional fight here and there would say he is boring to watch. I would have a hard time disagreeing with them.
Why didn’t he press Marquez and stop him? Why didn’t he turn it up a notch and pour it on during the Oscar fight? Simply, why can’t he be more exciting? During these big pay per view events, the world is watching.
The answer is that in the ring, he is pure talent, skill, and defense. At welterweight, he shows very little offense, but he throws very accurate and effective punches. Rarely do you see a combination thrown. His skill and talent do the talking, and nobody can talk him into doing it any other way. He simply just doesn’t take risks which provide the fireworks that fans want to see.
Outside the ring, he thinks he is a star attraction. A must see fighter who everybody is compelled to watch. He will only take fights that are the lowest risk, and the highest reward. I know boxing is a business, but if you fight just for money and to just sustain your ‘Money’ image, it takes away the credence and luster of your legacy.
Floyd wasn’t always this way though. I first remember watching Floyd beat Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez in the fall of 1998 for the WBC Super featherweight belt. It was clear Floyd had all the ability in the world with tremendous speed and fluidity that made him really fun to watch.
At the time Floyd was just 21 years old. He had just won his first title. His father Floyd Sr., was a professional fighter who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. His uncles were professional fighters as well. Roger “The Black Mamba” Mayweather and Jeff Mayweather. Roger had been an elite level fighter in the 1980’s and 90’s who had fought Hall of Fame fighters such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker. Jeff had been a perennial lightweight fighter who fought Oscar De La Hoya in 1993. At that time, I was convinced he had everything he needed to be an all time great fighter. He had the Mayweather name – boxing was in his genes. His future looked bright and I was very excited that a fighter had come along similar to my favorite fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard.
Floyd made good use of his talents and took on all comers in the super lightweight division from 1998 to 2001, defending the title 8 times with impressive wins over Diego Corrales, Angel Manfredy, and Jesus Chavez. Floyd was at this best during this period. At 130 lbs, he had power and let his hands go. The effervescent fighter would overwhelm Corrales with speed and power and knocked him down five times before Corrales’ corner threw in the towel after 10 rounds. Corrales was the best fighter at junior lightweight to challenge the “Pretty Boy”. Floyd walked through him like a hot knife through butter.
As good as Floyd Mayweather Jr. was, he didn’t have much of a fan base. He was arguably the most gifted fighter on the planet since Roy Jones Jr. His skill was revered in boxing circles. Purists respected his talent and dedication to being a great fighter, but he was not a household name. He moved up to lightweight in 2002 and fought Jose Luis Castillo and won a controversial unanimous decision. Floyd would fight Castillo again in a rematch and win a comfortable unanimous decision. He showed the fans that the first fight, which many think he lost, was an aberration due to Floyd fighting with great pain in his hands. Even with these wins over the tough and formidable lightweight champ Castillo, his first two fights at lightweight, Floyd still didn’t win over the fans. As a matter of fact, Floyd didn’t headline a pay per view event until June of 2005, against the late Arturo Gatti, in his ninth year as a professional prize fighter.
It wasn’t until the De La Hoya fight that Floyd’s head really began to grow. He was in the national spotlight since he was fighting the cash cow which was Oscar De La Hoya. A new series on HBO, 24/7, profiled each fighter in camp and their private lives leading up to the fight. Floyd knew he was a great fighter, but he never had the status of an Oscar De La Hoya or a Sugar Ray Leonard. This was his time to have camera time. To be in living rooms across America consistently for a month prior to the fight. Floyd was shown with his diamonds, jewelry, his cars, his mansion, his entourage -which included rapper 50 Cent, and his personal barber. It was around this time that Floyd’s ‘Money’ image was born and he subsequently changed his boxing nick name from “Pretty Boy” to “Money”. The fight ended up being a split decision victory for Floyd and sold 2.4 million pay per view buys. Floyd reportedly earned about $25 million for the fight. The money man had his huge payday. Its too bad the payday was formulated with his skills outside the ring and not inside the ring. The fight did not live up to the hype and the majority of the pay per view buys were due to Oscar’s fan base.
It’s not too late for Floyd, however. He still can salvage his legacy. With impressive wins over Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, and Shane Mosley, he would be regarded as maybe one of the best fighters ever.
Maybe one day we can reflect on these potential fights by watching ‘The Tale of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao’ on HBO or ‘The Tale of Mayweather vs. Cotto’. Hopefully, these fights will come to fruition. Furthermore, lets hope someone like Pacquiao or Cotto can press Floyd into a memorable battle similar to Leonard vs. Hearns I or Chavez vs. Taylor I. Come on Floyd, forget the ‘Money’ persona and give us some legendary fights to remember.