There is now only one reason left to watch Floyd Mayweather, Jr. box.
You do not watch in expectation of seeing a competitive fight because it has been so long since he’s been in one you have to go back to Jose Luis Castillo 11 years ago to find it. You do not watch in expectation of him being beaten because he has long ago made clear that for the time being at least the only people who could do that are dishonest or incompetent judges at ringside, or himself.
So why do you continue to watch after the way he undressed and embarrassed previously undefeated junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez Saturday night at the sold out MGM Grand Garden Arena?
You watch for the same reason you would watch Yo Yo Ma play the cello or Mikhail Baryshnikov dance or Miles Davis launch into a jazz rift so bizarre you have no idea what he is trying to do, you only know no one else could do it.
You watch to see a genius at work.
“Boxing is like jazz,’’ former heavyweight champion George Foreman said recently. “The better it is the less you understand it.’’
For many that is the case with Mayweather, who won the most lopsided majority decision in boxing history Saturday night by mystifying and mastering young Alvarez and apparently putting to sleep a myopic judge named C.J. Ross, who somehow concluded she had seen a draw when most everyone else with a view of the fight and eyes to see it felt he’d lost no more than two rounds and very likely none.
Yet Mayweather’s brilliance is so blinding it can lead people to argue they are not seeing what they just saw. They argue he can’t punch or that he is too defensive or is a boringly safety first practitioner of a sport that rewards aggression and violence.
They say he ducked this guy or that guy or is more of a master matchmaker than a master artisan plying the most difficult and dangerous of trades.
Those who say these things are as silly sounding as the few who gave Canelo Alvarez a chance to defeat Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in one of the most overhyped sparring sessions in boxing history. Mayweather was paid a guaranteed $41.5 million for the fight, $500,000 of which he gave back to purchase tickets himself, because he is the face of his sport and the finest fighter of his era. The fight attracted the largest live gate in Las Vegas history, $20,003,150, and sold over 23,000 more closed circuit seats in Las Vegas at $100 each. The pay-per-view numbers are as yet unknown and while they seem unlikely to approach the all-timer record set by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 of 2,552,566 they may yet well eclipse the all-time pay-per-view gross of an estimated $137.5 million also set in that fight because the average pay-per-view charge was $15 more than in 2007.
If all those people watched for the chance to get a glimpse of a great artist working on canvas they got their money’s worth. If they watched in search of a boxing match, they did not because Canelo Alvarez proved to be far more Hype than Hit Man, far more victim than the embodiment of viciousness. That is not the master’s fault. That is the student’s and those who bought into a story line without looking at the resumes behind it.
“Canelo brought a checkerboard to a chess match,’’ said Bernard Hopkins, the 48-year-old reigning light heavyweight champion not long after Mayweather had baffled, bemused and battered his 23-year-old challenger for 12 lopsided rounds to lay claim to the unified junior middleweight title and put it alongside the welterweight one he already held. “Here’s the difference, that was a Ph.d vs. a GED.’’
Hopkins’ analysis could not have been more correct. By now you have seen or heard of the one-sided nature of the fight. You are aware Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KO) came nowhere near challenging Mayweather (45-0, 26 KO) or even hitting him harshly and have come to grips with the fact those like myself who tried to warn you that this kid had no idea what he had gotten himself into and no ability to do anything about it but take a licking until his face began to turn red from embarrassment and purple from bruising were telling the truth.
So why watch next May when Mayweather said he would next be back in the ring on what he termed “Cinco de Mayo-weather,’’ the traditional Mexican holiday weekend that hosts in Las Vegas one of the biggest pay-per-view shows of the year?
The reason is the same reason we watch excellence of any sort. It is the reason we revere mastery of any art form be it blowing glass or landing blows. You watch because to not watch is to deny yourself a moment that will not come along very often in a lifetime.
Watching Floyd Mayweather move inside a boxing ring is a joy. Watching the mental mastery he holds over space and distance and timing is like watching Michelangelo take a piece of stone and turn it into David, the greatest statue ever made.
Was it worth $74.95 Saturday night to see him in the ring against Canelo Alvarez? Well, that depends on what you went for.
If it was to see a fight you went to the wrong place as Mayweather warned you earlier in the week when upon his arrival at the MGM Grand he said ““This is not a fight. This is what we call an event.’’
That’s what it was so if you were expecting a fight you should have shut off your television after Danny Garcia again proved he is more than people say he is by dismantling with his mind as well as his right hand Lucas Matthysse. But if you went there for a higher calling, if you tuned in to watch a Grand Chess Master work you were well served.
What is the price of seeing greatness even if only for an hour? It’s not priceless but it’s well worth $74.95.