Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is a gifted fighter, perhaps the best boxer in the world today, but if he is ever going to succeed in a lasting way in his life it is time he learns a lesson that seems to have eluded his grasp for 34 years.
It is a simple lesson really but often the simplest things are the most difficult. Take boxing, for example. At its most elemental it is a simple thing, one man trying to overwhelm another by breaking his spirit and, at times, his face.
Yet Mayweather understands it is nowhere near as simple as that. Prize fighting is not just some savagely brutal exercise. If it is done the way he and the other great practitioners of the dark trade do it, it is a science. A.J. Liebling called it the sweet science but there is seldom anything sweet about it except when someone like Mayweather is performing it like an artist. They are the ones who make the difficult look easy, the complex look simple.
There is nothing simple about prize fighting but there is a simple answer to the problems Floyd Mayweather, Jr. keeps heaping upon himself. Seven words can explain it: everything in life is not a fight.
Until Mayweather grasps that as completely as he has the intricacies of prize fighting he will continue to make problems for himself when they are not necessary and eventually pay a high price for wrestling with the world in that way.
The latest and clearest example of this is his refusal last week to show up for a simple deposition hearing ordered by a judge in the defamation suit filed against him by Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather asked to postpone it for whatever reason, which was his right, but Federal Magistrate Judge Robert Johnston denied his request, which was his right.
The simple thing would have been for Mayweather to show up, listen to the surely irritating questions asked by Pacquiao’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, and reply as often as sensible “I do not recall.’’
As many a fallen politician, Archbishop of Boston and Mafia Don has proven you can’t get yourself in much legal trouble saying “I don’t recall,’’ especially if you really do recall.
However, because he is, for the moment, young and rich and talented, Mayweather has come to believe the normal rules of society don’t apply. What would be a tragedy is if someone who frankly has always seemed to be a fragile kid in need of a hug from the first time I met him when he was an amateur kid hoping to make the U.S. Olympic team (which he did), blows up his life because he can’t learn the simplest thing: that life is not always a fight.
Life is a struggle. Life is filled with pain and disappointment and sometimes tragedy. On that level life is a fight. But every day does not need to be a fight nor can every problem be ignored or lashed out at.
Sometimes, just as in the ring, you need to slip the punches, not take them flush. Sometimes you need to retreat to get your equilibrium back. Sometimes you need to recognize where you are weak to become strong.
Mayweather has been in self-imposed exile from the one thing he has full control of – his ability to box – for nearly a year and a half. That is a waste of talent and earning power.
It is a result of personal choice and personal problems, some of which have him looking at possibly ending up in jail - which is not where he belongs or where he will best serve himself, his family or society.
Yet if he doesn’t wake up and learn to respect his enemy – which at the moment is the way he too often conducts his life outside the ring – he will end up someplace he should not be.
When a judge exercises his legal right to deny your request, whether you think it fair or not, the answer is not to act like a child and refuse to show up, as if you’re entitled to do whatever you want. As in boxing, the rules apply even to the most talented among us some times and this is one of those times.
Pacquiao’s defamation suit is not like dealing with some business opportunity where everyone involved is willing to kiss your ass in hopes of making money off you. This was a judge saying “No, I will not postpone this deposition hearing. Attend and answer the questions or say you don’t recall but be there.’’
Naturally, Petrocelli has gone on a PR campaign, claiming “he is just dodging his deposition because he’s afraid to testify.’’
He may be but what’s more likely is he simply didn’t like being told what to do and figured he’d defy authority because the rules don’t apply to Money Mayweather. Well, as Mike Tyson and Rep. Anthony Weiner and Bernie Madoff and the Catholic Church and an endless parade of people who thought they had become bullet proof because they were wealthy or talented or smart or revered found out, just when you least think the rules apply to you any more someone comes along and shows you they do.
Often it takes a while and many times innocent people get hurt along the way but eventually, if you keep treating your daily life as if it’s a fight or a reality show someone takes you down. Usually it’s yourself, which is the saddest part of what’s been going on with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for some time.
As talented as he is, and until someone proves otherwise I believe he’s the most talented fighter of his generation, he cannot go undefeated in life if he makes every day a fight. Why he chose to defy a simple court order to appear at a deposition hearing resulting from things he allegedly said or implied about Pacquiao only he knows.
What I know is that if he doesn’t come to learn – and accept – the simplest fact of life - which is that if you make every day a fight one day you will lose and lose big - how it’s going to end for him is clear. It will end badly and he will have only himself to blame.
Not his enablers, who are many. Himself.
Recently Mayweather’s associates at Golden Boy Promotions, Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya, did a wise and simple thing. Instead of continuing to battle Pacquiao and his promoter, Bob Arum, over the issue of whether or not Pacquiao used performance enhancing drugs they did what a smart fighter like Mayweather has done so many times in the ring. They slipped the punches.
“Richard Schaefer and Oscar de la Hoya, on behalf of themselves and Golden Boy Promotions, wish to make it crystal clear that we never intended to claim that Manny Pacquiao has used or is using any performance enhancing drugs, and further state that we do not have any evidence whatsoever of such use,’’ they said in a statement that followed a twittered apology from De La Hoya to Arum and Pacquiao from a rehab center where he was wrestling with his own demons.
“Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest fighters of all time, and we apologize if anyone construed our prior remarks as in any way claiming or even suggesting that Manny uses or has used performance enhancing drugs.”
Almost immediately Arum and Pacquiao accepted the apology and ended the lawsuit against them. The wise fighter – and there is no one wiser than Mayweather inside the ring – knows when the best course is to spin away.
That’s what Floyd Mayweather, Jr. needs to do now. Spin away from unneeded trouble. Attend the deposition hearing, issue the same kind of vague apology and suggest whatever differences exist between him and Pacquiao be settled in the ring.
That is the one place where every day is a fight. To continue to make every day outside the ring one too is a choice that no one who makes it can survive.
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