Floyd Wins, Boxing Loses
Floyd said it would be a massacre before the fight.
He called it a masterpiece afterwards.
It was neither, and once again, the biggest loser in the whole scheme of things was the sport of boxing. And of course, the fans who paid up, and were promised a classic, and got something far less than that.
We were promised a Super Bowl of boxing on May 5, and it was like one of those recent NFL season finales that was over late by the start of the fourth quarter.
The crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday evening was a gracious bunch as they saw Floyd Mayweather fight his typical fight, and bring precious little of the toe-to-toe ferociousness he promised he would bring to the table, because they didn't boo the ears off him.
Mayweather took a split decision (116-113, 115-113, and one guy, in need of a well-trained dog, scored it 115-113 for Oscar), but on an evening when he needed to hit a walk-off home run, and give the sport an injection of growth hormone, PBF laid down a suicide squeeze.
Now the owner of the WBC junior middleweight title, Mayweather (38-0), save for the odd lead right that tagged De La Hoya chose to hurl one punch at a time, and then scamper to safer ground rather than risk absorbing a De La Hoya hook.
The 34-year-old loser, who will come away with enough money to bankroll his promotional outfit and snag any attractive free agent in the sport for the next couple of years, didn't disgrace himself. Neither fighter hit the canvas in the bout, and there were precious few telling blows landed.
The 154 pound De La Hoya (38-5) didn't look out of place against the man some regard as the game's best pound for pound hitter, if you don't factor in entertainment value in the P4P equation. But at the end of the night, only Tom Kaczmarek, imported from New Jersey to get it wrong, thought he did enough to win.
Probably about 1.5 million households ponied up $54.95 to watch this showdown, and we were inundated with a barrage of promotion in the last four months that whetted our appetites and raised our expectations to a sky high level. It became apparent in the first third of the fight that Floyd wouldn't be transformed into a different sort of fighter on this night.
It became clear that he would stay Floyd "One And Done" Mayweather, and work from the playbook "Winning The Wille Pep Way." And it was sadly apparent that boxing didn't get the superlative Super Bowl it needed. In the MGM Grand, Dana White probably grinned his crap-eating-est, and plotted the PPV card that will break this fight's revenue number.
The Boston media has a saying to explain the bizarro antics of goofball Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez: they just say, "It's Manny being Manny."
On the night of May 5th, it was a case of "Floyd being Floyd," and the sport needed more than that. To stave off irrelevance, to defend the UFC's chokehold application, to stem the tide of an aging fan base, we needed a thriller, a back and forth beef with more whacks than a Sopranos episode. Didn't happen.
Most of the discredit has to be directed at the 150-pound Floyd, age 30, who we can now conclusively say, is an entertaining persona, but not a spectacularly entertaining fighter.
All due respect to his technical wizardry, his stellar coordination and footwork and pinpoint accuracy...but if Floyd Mayweather does in fact retire, as he promised he would before this fight and reiterated to Larry Merchant afterwards, I will not cry a river. Or even a pond.
Because, in the fashion of Roy Jones, Mayweather is too defensively oriented to produce thrilling theater. No fighter likes to get hit, but some dislike it more than other. And as Floyd showed against Oscar, so often tossing one measured blow and then ducking for cover, he is so hesitant to get hit that he simply cannot force himself to set down on his punches and risk getting nicked by return fire. And a fighter of this ilk will never, ever, attain the sort of acclaim that Floyd feels he has earned. We will look back on his career and speak reverently of his technique. But his time in the ring will not be thought of as an era unto itself.
Mayweather is well suited for his own reality show, as his braggadocio and misbehaviors and familial soap operatics provide ample drama. But as a boxer, the reality is, Floyd cannot and will not emerge now as the standard bearer for the sport.
By the third round, anyone who watched his 24/7 workouts, and recalled that Mayweather tried to throw 10,000 punches in a workout, would be well within their boundaries to wonder why the *@#$ he was throwing 35 punches in a round?
A man with his hand speed, at his weight class, should be throwing double that, each and every round. When he doesn't, he is telling, you, and me, and the other 1.5 million who plunked down the money, that he is holding something in reserve, that he refuses to give his all. And while that may bring you 38 wins, and nary a loss, and multimillions of dollars, it will not bring you the level of respect you feel you are owed, Floyd.
In the fourth round, the MGM sounded like a college library during Spring Break. Jim Lampley ringside could have heard an rat fart in the balcony.
One person who was impressed was Floyd Mayweather Sr., who told Merchant afterwards that he thought Oscar won. Thus insuring that he and his son will not be hugging it out and ending their deep freeze of a relationship.
In the eighth round, working from my home office, I was scanning the crowd for celebs. There's J-Lo, I yelled to the friends and family who piled over. And Spiderman, whatsisname, Tobey Maguire!
That's not what we were promised. And Oscar tried. He wasn't particularly sharp--he acted like he was getting money deducted from his purse for throwing jabs--and basically this one unfolded as I predicted it would.
I took a little heat from pro-Oscar emailers who didn't like that I said Floyd would take this one easily, and you know what? I wanted to be wrong. I wanted Oscar to act less than his age, to shake off the rust like Clark Kent sheds the civilian clothes before he dons the Superman suit.
I wanted Floyd not to be like Floyd, just this once. I wanted him to think about what he wanted his legacy to be. I wanted him to understand that he's an entertainer, and when people pay big money to watch him in action, they expect more than "one and done," and 35 paltry punches a round.
Larry Merchant asked during the ninth round, a round that Floyd took off, Oscar's last energized round, how Floyd can be considered a great fighter when he so often throws one punch at a time? I'll answer--he can be considered great, and can make the Hall of Fame. But he cannot, even in passing, with a straight face, hope to be lumped in with the Sugar Rays, or The Greatest. Not...even...close.
You are a master, Floyd, at what you do, but what you do will not elevate you to all-time status, on the short list with the heavy hitters, the icons.
How you fight won't make me, in 2047, as I sit with my other old fart buddies and talk about the greats of yesteryear, wax nostalgic about what a master you were. My guess is, I'll be more likely to talk about Gatti/Ward I, or Corrales/Castillo I, or Buster Douglas when he upset Tyson, than I will about a guy who cared more about winning at all costs, and not getting hit, than he did about fighting in a bold, offensive oriented manner, and pleasing the customers who put all those much celebrated Benjamins in his pocket.
And that's Floyd's prerogative, and when he has his marbles in 2047, and still looks handsome, then he can tell me he was right, and I was wrong. But now, and then, he cannot tell me he's in the same league as the Sugar Rays and The Greatest.
I'll defer to Larry Merchant. Because he's the best boxing analyst of his era, and any era, I offer, unless you can submit me inarguable proof otherwise, in summing up this match, titled with grandiose excess, "The World Awaits."
"We have a boxing match which doesn't quite live up to the hope and the hype that we wanted," Merchant said during the eleventh round.
Amen, Larry. You speak truth to power, and in this day and age, that maybe makes you a target for dismissal. But boxing needs to be told the truth. Same thing goes for Floyd. He needs to be told that he isn't close to the Sugar Rays and Ali when it comes time to make the pound for pound all-time list.
Floyd, who enjoyed a 207-122 edge in punches landed, told Merchant that he will indeed retire.
"I have nothing else to prove, I made a ton of money, these years are important to my children," PBF said.
Enjoy the Benjamins, Floyd, and enjoy the time with the kids. Just don't be surprised if the only ones agreeing with you when you discuss your legacy and put yourself up there with the Sugar Rays and Ali is your posse.
You had a chance to edge up closer to that sacred ground, but to paraphrase the words of Angelo Dundee, You blew it, son.