He is the best boxer on the planet, we can all agree, so that gives Floyd Mayweather a leg up when we start sifting thru nominees for TSS Fighter of the Year. But choosing F.O.Y. means different things to different folks, so I suppose it makes much sense if the criteria that I use to do the choosing is laid out.
First, there is no rule in my nonexistent rule book, the contents of which can morph from day to day lol, which says the F.O.Y. has to be a superlative boxer. Traditionally, that is the case, of course, but mere skills aren't the be all end all to attaining this coveted award.
Second, I think we can all agree that the Fighter of the Year has to have done something quite special in the past year to get the award. Oftentimes, because the special athletes we cover do marvelous things on a regular basis, it helps a nominee's cause if he or she does more than one stellar thing. Call that a tie breaker, of sorts.
Beyond that, in choosing my F.O.Y., I incorporated some criteria that isn't, frankly, always present when I mull this designation.
My 2013 TSS Fighter of the Year is Floyd Mayweather, and let me tell you why.
Foremost, the man fought twice and made two high-level boxers look something between average and amateurish on those nights. Robert Guerrero is a B plus boxer who couldn't win even a portion of the majority of the 12 rounds the two men engaged in on May 4, 2012 in Las Vegas. This was no small feat, not for a 36-year-old man who'd fought last over a year ago, and who many thought might have left something in the jail cell he sat in for a couple months after getting popped on a domestic charge. Mayweather's work came against a man who was a 5-to-1 underdog but was coming in with some solid momentum after roughing up Andre Berto in his last bout. I gave Floyd extra credit during the nomination process for looking so damned sharp, so at or near his peak at this advanced age, and for upping his game, adapting by using his legs more than he had in recent bouts.
OK, so that win alone wouldn't be enough to award Floyd F.O.Y., right? How about another win, again on a Golden Boy card produced by Showtime, against a young gun with a poundage and strength advantage coming into the bout? How about a win that some smart folks said wouldn't occur, because finally Mayweather would be in with a resolute pressure fighter who would summon the strength of past Mexican fight icons and be the first to force Floyd to taste from the losers' chalice? Remember, some folks thought the age difference would finally catch up to Floyd, that at 36, he'd show his age against the 23-year-old, and the 42-0-1 Canelo would score a win that would put him right there with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. among the gods of boxing in Mexico.
Folks taking issue with my choice might well point to Mayweathers' insistence that Canelo weigh no more than 152 pounds at the weigh-in for the "super welterweight" title, and indeed, I did deduct a half point off my ballot for that. Floyd's need to gain that sort of edge seems built-in to his personality and, frankly, diminishes his legacy slightly. Back to legacies in a bit, friends...
I'm not one to enter money into the mix when the balloting process is in flow. I don't really care all that much that Floyd was set to earn a base of $41.5 million to fight Canelo, a record, but that might matter to some folks on the fence when they are deciding to agree or disagree with my F.O.Y. choice. After all, we do attach immense import to money, and how much or little of it people make, but I think that is to our societal detriment, overall. A figure that does factor in to my pick is the live gate of $20 million at the MGM Grand, a record which surpassed the $18.4 million for the 2007 Floyd-Oscar fight. The reason I focus on the gate is because it speaks to the allure of the bout, and the degree to which it resonated outside of our boxing bubble. Yep, it resonated all right.
People who still think Mike Tyson is the heavyweight champion were aware of the bout, some of them, and since our sport does indeed battle a perception problem of being a mere "niche" sport, I do appreciate it when a fight or fighter rises above the bubble, and inserts his or herself into a winder consciousness. With the buildup to the Canelo fight, and his once again superlative ring generalship against the Mexican, Floyd did indeed do that. Once again, Mayweather made a B plus boxer look at times like a journeyman level talent, with a mix of potshotting, smart movement, and finely-tuned reflexes which prove that his radar is still the best in the business. Even a duncecap like CJ Ross couldn't dampen the regard for the showing, which cemented the choice I made for Fighter of the Year.
The performance cemented it, and my choice was buffeted by Mayweathers' appearances on such mainstream programs as "The Colbert Report" and the Kelly Ripa/Mike Strahan show before and after the triumph. That is a credit to his support staff, his PR crew, but believe me when I tell you, bookers don't allow any guest to be forced down their throat, so Floyd's participation in such programs speaks loudly to the power of his persona.
Slight apologies go to runner up Timothy Bradley, who gave us more than our money's worth in wins against Ruslan Provodnikov, in which he battled through an early concussion to win a tight decision, and Juan Manuel Marquez, in a bout which showed that he belongs, no debate allowed, in the pound for pound top 5 mix. In another year, Bradley would have had my vote, and he deserves oodles of credit and acclaim for what he gave the sport and the fans this year.
Looking ahead, I have a suggestion for "Money" on how he can go into 2014 as my favorite to again snag TSS Fighter of the Year honors and remove a potentially immense asterisk from his name in future decades. He can junk, once in for all, the explanations why he doesn't want to give the fans the bout they want, against Manny Pacquiao. No more talk of take the test, or purse splits, or demands for Pacquiao to sever ties with longtime promoter Bob Arum, who Mayweather apparently blames for not doing enough to build Floyd into a PPV attraction in the mid 2000s. Floyd could and should be a leader, a role model, and be that better man who is able to put aside real or perceived grievances, and give the fans what they want. If he doesn't do so, in his second bout of 2014, then it makes it that much harder for promoter Golden Boy and cabler Showtime to use their "best fighting the best" line.
Congrats, Floyd, for your superb 2013; here's hoping you surpass that in 2014, with more radiant in-ring work against foes that can test your other-wordly prowess, including the humble Congressman from the Phillipines, Manny Pacquiao. Happy New Year to you, and to all fight fans, and especially the faithful readers of TSS. Be well, all.
Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?