Floyd’s Farewell?

Another Floyd Mayweather fight, another 12 round exhibition of defensive boxing tactics. Andre Berto, as expected, lacked the skills or the athletic gifts to challenge Mayweather and fight fans got yet another ho-hum main event from the undefeated champion who says his career is finished. If so, judging by the underwhelming turnout at the MGM Grand last night, boxing is ready and willing to let Floyd move on.

What is there to say about last night’s fight? Indeed, it is hardly worth discussing. Berto simply was not in Floyd’s league. Which is not surprising since virtually no one gave Berto any chance of making Floyd uncomfortable, let alone winning. In fact, the announcement of this match was greeted with cries of bewilderment and dismay from pundits and fans alike. Sure, victories over Saul Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao ostensibly gave Floyd the right to take on a soft touch if he wanted, but wasn’t this going a bit far? Especially as Floyd resolutely sticks to his bi-annual fight schedule?

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Fact is, the majority of Floyd’s outings in recent years were against outclassed opponents. Didn’t he want to at least give the appearance of a competitive match for his final bout, as he had for example when he faced an over-the-hill Shane Mosley and the clever tagline for it was “Who Are You Picking?”, as if Mosley had any shot. Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, Marcos Maidana — few gave these guys a serious chance to beat Floyd, but at least they represented some degree of challenge and potential competition. Berto, who had lost to Jesus Soto Karass for crying out loud, represented no challenge at all.

Some wondered if Floyd might intentionally take some risks against his last opponent, go toe-to-toe and rumble (as he claimed he did against Miguel Cotto), just to defy expectations, but nothing doing. Floyd fought his usual fight, showing astonishing speed and reflexes for a man nearing the four decade mark, and Berto had virtually no answer. He possibly outworked Floyd in round three and maybe one or two of the middle rounds, but even then, you had to be wanting to score a round to Berto to actually give it to him. At the very worst, Floyd took nine rounds. And he did it with ease while showing no desire to try for a stoppage win. Many had Floyd pitching a shutout.

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Immediately following the bout, Mayweather confirmed that this was his final fight. Few believe this to be true, but he certainly appeared resolute. The more likely scenario is the man takes a year or so off and then returns to scoop up another huge payday and break the hallowed 49-0 mark. The more cynical among us wonder if it won’t be a rematch against Pacquiao if Manny can rehabilitate his reputation with a win over someone like Amir Khan or Kell Brook. And if U.S. sports fans won’t bite, they can always put that match on in Macau, China and make even more money.

But serious fight fans hope this is not the case. There really is no anticipation attached to Floyd Mayweather anymore. Some talk about what a brilliant defensive talent he is and how the sport will miss him, but there is no denying the repetitiveness of his recent performances. Technical skills and the ability to hit without being hit are great, but there’s a reason why the Alvarez and Pacquiao fights were so huge: those opponents were viewed by all as legitimate challenges to Floyd’s dominance. Perfection is boring; intense competition is exciting. Watching Secretariat win a horse race by eight lengths must have been thrilling at first, but eventually that got tired too.

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The frustrating thing, and the aspect of all this which many fight fans have difficulty forgiving Floyd for, is that our perspective on his achievements would be drastically different had the man chosen to take risks and really challenge himself. Had he defeated De La Hoya and Mosely in their primes, beaten Pacquiao in 2010, and then moved up to take the scalps of say Sergio Martinez or Gennady Golovkin, then instead of 13 000 coming to his farewell fight (and it’s rumored that a big chunk of those were comps), he could have sold out any stadium in the country because it would have marked the end of a truly monumental career.

It’s difficult not to think about what might have been had Floyd genuinely tried to take his talent to the limit. It’s hard not to lament when greatness doesn’t want to be great.               — Robert Portis

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