In roughly a week the supposed top pound-for-pound fighter in professional boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr. (48-0, 26 KOs) will fight and defeat Andre Berto (30-3, 23 KOs). Beating Berto will be Mayweather’s 49th consecutive victory without a defeat, and he insists he will retire for the second time – he also retired, briefly, in late 2008 – immediately thereafter.
Excuse me for being cynical, but if you believe Berto is Mayweather’s last fight you must also believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. That’s how outrageous Floyd’s claim is. You can bet the house that Mayweather was go for No. 50 sooner rather than later, and that his “retirement” announcement is not as genuine as when Lennox Lewis walked away from the ring and never came back after beating Vitali Klitschko.
The amazing thing about Mayweather talking retirement, just to hype interest in the Berto fight, is more fans than not probably are hoping he keeps his word and stays away from the sport that has made him almost incomprehensibly rich and famous. It’s easy to understand that kind of thinking. Floyd’s carnival act has grown old and tiresome. Since he beat a shopworn Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Floyd’s career has been run like a Fortune 500 company in that every decision is made fo maximize profit while being exposed to the least risk. That has made Floyd’s bouts for the last eight years as preordained as a WrestleMania script, only the matches are less entertaining. This has soured fans on boxing, and has a lot to do with why it is in the malaise that it is in today.
Floyd’s arrogance in fighting only who he wants to fight, when he wants to fight them, really has damaged boxing’s credibility. In no other sport does one combatant get to decide who he wants to plays and demand millions of dollars to do so. Tennis great Roger Federer doesn’t make it to the final of the U.S. Open and instead of facing Rafael Nadal says, “Nope, I’m not playing him. I want to play `Slow Joe’ from Idaho instead.”
True, boxing is run like no other sport or business, but Mayweather has taken it to a level that we’ve never before seen, and it’s time for his bullying tactics to end once and for all. The fight with Berto is such a farce, and everyone knows it, that I can write as if it already has happened and I know who won. That’s terrible. Who would dare to argue otherwise?
Throughout boxing history all the true greats have fought the occasional no-hope opponent. The Sugar Rays, Robinson and Leonard, did it. Muhammad Ali and Roberto Duran did it. But no one can honestly say that much of their success had to do with the picking their spots to the degree that Mayweather has. If you want to nit-pick you might find a worthy opponent here or there that they missed, and maybe even purposely, but never did they use their stature to game the system like Mayweather has. Sadly, in a way you can’t blame Floyd. Why fixs something that’s already just the way you want it to? If a million pay-per-view-purchasing fans like to see the same script and movie with the same actors once or twice a year, I'm not on such a high perch that I can belittle them for it. All I would say is that I don’t consider those who buy most of Mayweather’sfights to be hardcore boxing fans; they’re more Mayweather fans than anything else, just like there are Tiger Woods fans that only follow golf when he plays and football fans who watch Denver Broncos games just so they can see Peyton Manning.
Because of Mayweather’s massive presence, he dominates the sport to the extent he overshadows other potentially great fighters whose careers are now ascending. Boxing has major talent in between flyweight and light heavyweight today, fighters who are ready and willing to take on all comers. Roman Gonzalez, Terence Crawford, Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev are warriors, fight whomever is deserving and have never ducked anyone in their respective divisions. Boxing needs more like them, and it needs more action-packed fights like we recently saw between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares. When Floyd is gone these fighters will command more of the spotlight, and to me that looks to be a good thing.
Floyd is an all-time great fighter and a technician. How great is he? Who knows? He’s never really had to put to the ultimate test despite all the Hall of Famers on his record. With the exception of Miguel Cotto, Floyd fought every other big name on his resume when they were in decline, like De La Hoya, or before they fully flowered, like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Had he fought and beaten Antonio Margarito or Paul Williams – who had styles that would given him real problems — when they were pleading to fight him, I’d feel better about assessing his greatness. So I’ll just say that because of his skill set and his unblemished record, largely manufactured or not, he has to be mentioned as an elite fighter. But Floyd Mayweather Jr. certainly is not, as he has so often claimed, “the best ever.”
I hope Floyd retires after he beats Andre Berto. His act has worn thin and he’s hurting boxing’s growth by not giving the fans who pay so much to see him what they deserve. Boxing will be better off when Floyd is acting, or whatever he chooses to do after his ring career is over. And when that happens, I doubt there will be many boxing fans who miss him.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com