His record stands at 44-0. He’s won World titles in five different weight classes. He’s widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive boxers of all time. And he can’t get any respect.
Such is the dilemma facing Floyd Mayweather Junior. While it’s impossible to reach the zenith of any other sport without having to prove it all on the pitch, rink, court, etc… boxing is in the peculiar position of being a sport in which greatness, to a certain extent, can be engineered.
Lionel Messi cannot decide he does not want his Barcelona team to play Real Madrid. A boxer and his management have the luxury of such a choice, being able to decide that a particular opponent provides to much of a risk.
It’s a paradox, certainly. While you cannot hide once you’re inside the ring, it is easy enough nowadays to hide from opponents outside of it. It’s a great discredit to the career of a fighter like Mayweather that many regard his selection of opponents as being based around who provided the biggest payday rather than the most competitive match up.
On one hand, it’s easy to see why. If one can fight a past his prime fighter for millions of dollars rather than a hungry up and comer for a far lesser payday, any reasonable businessman is going to pick the former. Risk versus reward and all that.
On the other hand, boxing is a sport where bravery and brutality are adored over intelligence and savvy. While the media has done its part in bringing to light the dark side of the sport, there are still many fans who do not give a second thought to a fighters life outside the ring.
Too often the man who is at one time adored for leaving it all in the ring is left with nothing once he’s left it. The list of punch drunk, broke fighters who were at one time massive stars is far too depressing and long a list.
But this article isn’t meant to bring up a far deeper and important subject. We’re merely trying to give our readers context as to the decision making of Floyd Mayweather.
He’s done an incredible job protecting himself, in and outside of the ring. His renowned shoulder roll defence, one of the most impregnable in boxing history, has led to him taking less damage than many of his contemporaries.
Whereas many fighters get to the top through sheer savagery within the ring Mayweather took a different route. He was never going to be the brawler and he was never going to be the fighter with the one punch knockout.
His defensive style of fighting was also very likely to irritate fans. It takes a deep love and appreciation for the sweet science to be able to respect and admire the style in which Mayweather fights. People prefer to see Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti beat each other to a pulp than Mayweather pick apart an opponent systematically, allowing his opponent to completely unravel himself.
So what did Mayweather do? He created a out of the ring persona guaranteed to annoy the majority of fight fans while making himself a massive celebrity in the process. No one understands marketing better than Floyd Mayweather.
He figured out that whether people are shelling out money on tickets and pay per view to see you get knocked out or watch you knock somebody out, the money’s still green. So while the rest of the chumps were getting their brains battered for twelve rounds he’d be getting a bigger payday making sure he didn’t get hit.
You have to give it to him, he’s been an incredibly astute businessman thus far. But it’s hard to reconcile the heart of a fighter with a heart of a businessman. While the businessman tends to have one focus, money, the fighter has something far more important to worry about: respect.
While Floyd will certainly tell you he’s the Greatest of All Time and he couldn’t care less what everyone else thinks because he’s a millionaire many times over, undoubtly there’s a voice at the back of his mind. The voice that realizes he hasn’t fought the best competition out there. That he hasn’t left the legacy he claims. That he isn’t the Greatest of All Time.
That voice told him he had to take on Canelo Alvarez. The need for respect was too much, as it often becomes for any fighter. Millions of dollars, millions of pay per view buys, none of it means anything if you cannot go down in history widely revered by the fans and historians of the sport.
Muhammad Ali fought the best, Sugar Ray Robinson fought the best. It was the only way business was done back in the day, and it’s why those two are so revered. Mayweather wants to be in that rarified air. He never will be, but he’s trying to take the steps towards it.
There’s millions of dollars, likely the biggest guarantee Mayweather will ever receive barring a showdown with Manny Pacquaio, in his fight with Canelo. There’s also a massive size advantage in favour of Canelo. But most importantly there is respect to be had in this fight.
Mayweather has broken from all previous tradition to make this event happen. He knows the clock is ticking and time is beginning to close on what has been a great career. He sees the chance to cement himself as one of the Greatest of All Time slipping away. He knows the time is now.