You have to hand it to Floyd Mayweather. You really do. Somehow, a guy who makes bad fights, is an extraordinarily protective matchmaker, and nearly impossible to like stands on top of the world of sports. Or at least on a mountain of cash.
In less than one month’s time, a record number of people will pay out just under 90 bucks for what will surely be the largest Pay Per View grossing fight in the history of oxygen and all other necessities.
Let’s face it, while boxing needs this fight like none other, there’s half a chance it may be a slog. A never-ending series of shoulder rolls, pot-shotting, and fancy footwork from the Money Man that will quite likely flummox Manny Pacquiao and lead to a unanimous decision victory by Floyd that will neither excite nor inspire. That’s not to say I don’t want to be wrong. Hell, I’m desperate to be wrong. Not only for myself as a fan, but for the sport of boxing as well.
The worst thing for the sport would be for this fight to never happen. The second worst thing is for it to happen, and, well, have it suck. Considering that Floyd probably does see true danger in fighting the fast handed Filipino, I’m not expecting fan-friendly Floyd on May 2nd. I’m anticipating the ultra-cautious, highly-skilled, defense-first expert who never loses, but often leaves you wondering why you spent all that middle class money on a lower class entertainment.
I expect Manny to do his part to try to keep it from going that way. I suspect he will be busier, throw unusual angles and harder punches at Floyd than he has probably ever seen before. I’m just not sure it will work Floyd out of his shell. If Manny hasn’t landed something heavy in the first three to four rounds and isn’t clearly ahead on the early scorecards, Floyd will have no reason to alter his game plan.
The question is can Manny pull that off? Like many, I would be more confident of that possibility were the fight taking place five years ago. While both fighters have shown vulnerability since the desire for this fight originally reached fever pitch, Manny has clearly had the rougher time of it. It’s not so much the ridiculous malfeasance of the three blind judges of Pacquaio-Bradley 1, who awarded the fight to the clear loser, or even the devastating knock out of Manny by Marquez in their 4th fight that concerns me so. It’s that Manny has clearly lost some of the dynamism that made him such a hard foe to counter. Let’s face it, Manny hasn’t knocked anyone out since Miguel Cotto during the first year of the Obama Administration.
You know who is more keenly aware of that fact than anyone? Floyd Mayweather.
Whenever these two got together, it was always going to be the biggest fight ever. So Floyd waited. Why? Because he knew that Manny’s offense first style would likely atrophy his skills at a faster rate than Floyd’s “protect yourself at all times” methods. The only question now is how much has Manny slipped? Floyd is betting enough to make the fight a low risk proposition for him.
Which for the most part is how Floyd has made all of his matches. Sure, there are a lot of fancy names on Floyd’s resume. But ask yourself, how many of them were right smack dab in their prime when Floyd met them in the ring? By far his match ups have been against guys slipping down the ladder (Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley), or still on their way up it (Canelo Alvarez and Victor Ortiz). Most of the time the former more than the latter.
That isn’t to say Floyd isn’t a great fighter. Of course he is. Few have ever packed so much skill into such a small frame as Floyd Mayweather Jr.
It’s certainly not that he isn’t smart either. For all the jokes about his reading skills, he sure knows how to gauge his opponent and negotiate a favorable contract.
Despite all this caution, he is perhaps the single greatest individual draw in sports. He manages this at a time when the sport he has invested his time in is considered to be on the decline. Think about that. Boxing is arguably at one of the lowest points in its esteemed history and most of Floyd’s fights aren’t even that fun to watch. Not only that, he’s not exactly a guy you would want to spend 15 minutes with next to you on a bar stool. He is impossibly arrogant (even by boxing standards), intermittently mean-spirited and nasty, and if you go by the police blotter, a serial abuser of women.
So what is it that makes this guy such a big deal? The only answer I have is he’s the fella you love to hate. He keeps winning, talking, and offending at such a high rate that even those who are at best casual fans of his sport are dying to see someone, anyone, beat him.
That is Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s magic trick. One part success plus one part hate equals a whole lot of money, and we are the people in the audience wondering where that rabbit came from. Now excuse me, I’ve got to pull up my PPV channel on my cable box and plunk down $89.95 like the easy mark I am.
Follow David Phillips on Twitter: