Not long ago, I posted a story here at The Sweet Science entitled “For boxing, here's the problem….and maybe the solution” which, in part, talked about a common practice among promoters of this sport to shove an event – or a fighter – down the public's throat, whether the public wants it or not.
I was thinking more along the lines of John Ruiz, who is not a performer in demand but who has the right connections and wins enough to justify not being completely sent away by the public.
But I started wondering whether the Floyd Mayweather-Sharmba Mitchell matchup fit into the same category. Mitchell, admittedly a good fighter but who can best be described as a champion who benefitted from the proliferation of sanctioning bodies, had reached for the real brass ring twice, first “retiring” against Kostya Tszyu then being starched in the rematch. In between he had worked his way back into contention and won an interim “title” somewhat artificially, hammering out wins over some people who may have been plausible by IBF standards, but not otherwise. And on top of all that, even though there may have been some genuine interest in Mayweather moving up to the welterweight division, there was NO interest whatsoever in Mitchell's journey to 147 pounds.
So why have this fight in the first place? What was the “hook” that justified this being an HBO “big event”? Did Sharmba Mitchell have a chance, and did we really need to see him recylcled all over again? The answer to that last question is, of course not. I'm hardly bringing up unique points here. Other writers were questioning why this fight was ever made, including some on this website. Whether this kind of predictability really advances the cause of boxing with the public is a legitimate point of discussion.
But then it occurred to me, and it became, in a way, this bout's saving grace for me – right now Floyd Mayweather is at a similar stage of his career as Roy Jones may have been at one time. There is a part of us that doesn't necessarily tune in to see him in a competitive fight, because after all, it is not likely anyone outside of Zab Judah (a pay-per-view possibility) is going to have much of a chance with him at 147. Instead, we tune in to see a virtuoso; an artist at work.
Greatness is rare enough to witness in boxing, and sometimes it really doesn't matter what the opponent's name is – force-fed or not.