EDITOR NOTE: I recently posted blogs on the ESPN New York website which touched on a question that dogs at me: does the boxing media treat Floyd Mayweather fairly, or is there a double standard applied to the outspoken boxer, as, say, compared to Manny Pacquiao. Our man at TSS Lee Wylie read the posts, and was moved to respond.
I think we treat Mayweather the way HE wants us to treat him.
I'm going to use a wrestling analogy here. Back in In 1996, Dwayne Johnson came into World Wrestling Entertainment. At 6 '5'' and nearly 300 pounds, Johnson had a similar physique to the all-time popular Hulk Hogan. WWE owner Vince McMahon thought Johnson was going to be the “next big thing.” At the time, Dwayne was playing off of his Samoan heritage, calling himself Rocky Maivia. It was obvious from the start that he was talented, but the marketing was all wrong. What made Hulk Hogan popular in the 80s and early 90s – a fan friendly style, aimed at the younger generation – was not what fans wanted in the late 90s. As a result, Dwayne Johnson found himself to be on the receiving end of much hatred from WWE fans, even though Rocky Maivia was considered to be a fan favourite. Dwayne Johnson knew this moniker wasn't working. His in-ring style was not the most exciting, nor was his personality – neither was Hulk Hogan's, but he, unlike Johnson at the time, had charisma to compensate for his lack of excitement in the ring. Dwayne Johnson's act was stale and dated.
Enter The Rock.
After an unsuccessful stint as a babyface that was met with hostility from fans, Dwayne and McMahon decided to go with the flow and turn Rocky Maivia into a heel. This way, the fans would continue booing him, but now, it would look like it was because of Rocky's villainous behaviour, rather than because fans just did not take to his character. At first, things went according to plan. Maivia continued his regular behaviour, but because of who he aligned himself with at the time – a hated faction called The Nation Of Domination – the booing from the fans did not seem out of context with his character like before. Then the transformation. Johnson changed his character name from Maivia, to simply The Rock. The Rock became a brash, cocky character, who only referred to himself in the third person, i.e – The Rock said…..
As a result, The Rock became a lot more interesting. The fans booed him even louder. Until the unthinkable happened. Fans got so into Johnson's character, that they actually started appreciating him. So much so, that The Rock became arguably the biggest superstar in WWE history. In the ring, nothing changed – Johnson did the exact same things inside of the ring that he always did. But his out of the ring persona is what makes The Rock larger than life. Fans were and still are captivated by his charisma. Despite Johnson actually being talented between the ropes, it's The Rock's personality outside of the ropes, that makes him the most polarizing wrestler ever.
From “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Money May.
When Floyd Mayweather Jr. came onto the pro scene in 1996, he was being touted as the next Sugar Ray Leonard. This was immediately a marketing mistake by Bob Arum. (The same thing will happen to Adrien Broner soon enough.) While Mayweather's talent may have been even greater than Leonard's, fans by and large adored Ray Leonard.
By facing and defeating Arturo Gatti in 2005, Mayweather believed that he would capture some of Gatti's fan base. Back then, Mayweather had a different attitude. He was the fighter who wanted to face and beat the best. After the Gatti fight, you see Mayweather burst into tears, yelling “Gatti's great, Gatti's great” almost to reassure himself that he was finally going to receive his just dues. Mayweather's interviews at that time were typical of what he thought fans wanted to hear – you would often hear him calling out the likes of Kostya Tszyu and Naseem Hamed,who were the biggest perceived challenges at the time. To say fans never took to Mayweather is an understatement. Under the next Ray Leonard tag, Mayweather couldn't sell out Boardwalk Hall in AC. Mayweather's in ring style, while superb for the purists, lacked excitement.
Enter Money May. Mayweather, like Dwayne Johnson, developed a new persona. Brash and cocky, Mayweather became the fighter everybody loves to hate. He is now arguably the most compelling athlete in all of sports. We will never seen him compete again at the Boardwalk Hall, let alone not sell it out. Mayweather has the character outside the ropes to compensate for any lack of between the ropes buzz.
Like Bruce Wayne said in the movie, The Dark Knight, “Batman will be whatever Gotham wants him to be.” At the time, the city needed a focal point to aim its hatred towards. Batman was it. Boxing already has its super hero – Manny Pacquiao, the nicer than nice, exciting fighter between the ropes. Boxing fans don't need another Manny Pacquiao. They need a villain. Floyd Mayweather is what boxing fans want right now.
He is the fighter everyone loves to hate. We wouldn't want it any other way. And neither would Floyd.