This is well-tilled soil at this point, but the foundation beneath the monument to himself that Floyd Mayweather is building out of fool’s gold is sandy and nutrient-poor.
The business of boxing is equal parts solipsism and snake-oil.
You can blame Al Haymon, the architect of prolonging a fighter’s earnings by building up a parade of trumped up matchups where the star power is isolated solely in the red corner.
You can blame the warring factions of television networks and their allied promoters.
You can blame Don King because, hell, that’s always fun.
It’s hard to blame the fighter, ultimately, for letting himself be led away from the competitive fire into the icy chambers of the money; it’s a brutal, physically unforgiving sport to train and compete in. And you can always blame yourself, because even though you know that the product of the fight card billed as “The Moment” is a false promise, you can’t help yourself from finding your way to watching these fights.
The false promise began with a false choice and a bogus social media vote to decide between two underwhelming foes: Amir Khan and eventual contest-winner Marcos Maidana. On most pound-for-pound top-tens, there are five boxers that Mayweather could potentially fight between welterweight and middleweight: Pacquiao, Martinez, Golovkin, Marquez, Bradley. It’s not going on a limb to suggest that we’ll never see him fight any of these guys. Maidana became The Moment when he underdogged the hotdog Adrien Broner last December. Broner, also a shoulder-roll boxer fired in the same Midwestern kiln as Mayweather, took a beating from Chino that must have made The Money Team drool. Here was a prominent imperfectly mimicking Mayweather’s style getting dramatically comeuppanced by an eminently beatable fighter. The die was cast, the marketing copy began spooling from the mouths of Mount Mayweather: Floyd would seek revenge for the sake of his shadow’s legacy, he would transmute the smoke back into the mirror.
To be completely fair, it’s rare that the old “puncher’s chance” metaphor gets such a ready fit as upon the sinewy mantle of Marcos Maidana. “Puncher’s Chance” would probably be an apt title for the Maidana biography. It’s doubtful that the guy has ever been in a boring fight, or that he has ever been discouraged by a solid punch to the nose. He’s one of the sneakiest and hardest hitters in the game, arguably more dangerous a fighter than Mayweather has seen in a while. But let’s not fall into the well-engineered hype trap; Mayweather is the bigger, faster, and better fighter and has earned his line of -1000.
Aside from the Vegas odds, another way to gauge the quality of a card’s matchups is to go Gucci and examine the purses. Mayweather is guaranteed a minimum of $32M, while Maidana’s cut, although a career best, is a paltry $1.5M. Head down the card and you’ll find other mismatch gems like Amir “Consolation Prize” Khan ($1.5M) versus the sturdy Puerto Rican Luis Collazo ($350K), or Adrien “Comeback Trail” Broner ($1.25M) against Carlos “Not the other Carlos Molina” Molina ($150K). If the PPV package is $80 and the guy garnering the lion’s share enjoys lighting money on fire, why for the love of Sugar Ray Robinson can’t Broner fight Khan?
Boxing has seen some great fights in recent years, occasions where fighters put their legacies, their health, their futures, on the line for the rewards that 36 minutes or less inside the ring can bring. Mayweather has been in none of those great fights and yet he’s the sport’s top draw. I understand that watching Floyd box anything, a giant bear doll, perhaps, would be highly watchable. Like any performance art, it’s a joy to witness a master at his craft. But the casual fan doesn’t pay big money to watch technical mastery- or otherwise Guillermo Rigondeaux would be the A-list rather than Bob Arum’s s------t. Does boxing attract such tepid support that the casual fan simply doesn’t know any better?
In a transparently calculated move to ride the wake of sport’s biggest news of the past week into PPV buys for The Moment, Floyd’s camp threw their name into the hat of prospective owners for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Not that it’s entirely impossible, given his ability to out-earn every other athlete despite not having one iconic performance among his curated cadre of 45 wins. But it’s as unlikely Mayweather would sacrifice his freedom to gamble as it is that the NBA would allow a franchise embroiled in a racism scandal to fall to a man who once referred to Manny Pacquiao as a “little yellow chump” that he would “cook with cats and dogs.” It’s that old Mayweather sleight of hand, politicking for his next payday.
Boxing’s alive and well as long as great fights continue to be made. Last month Pacquiao revived his career with a scintillating performance over a balls-out Timothy Bradley. Next month, Miguel Cotto is moving up to fight a bigger, tougher Sergio Martinez in attempt to become the first Puerto Rican belt-holder in four divisions. In July, it looks like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will accept a dance with the world’s scariest middleweight, Gennady Golovkin. After The Moment passes and is quickly lost to history, Mayweather will seek another lackluster and/or vulnerable opponent, hype the heck out of him and make another $30 million dollars.
At the MGM this Derby Day, there are some great boxers in the lineup that will provide some action: Mayweather’s art, Maidana’s spirit, Khan’s speed, Collazo’s power, Broner’s promise. But unlike the Derby, you already know who will win.