The Cat Is Out of the Bag

Thus far, it has not been a banner year for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and it appears things are not going to turn around for “Money” anytime soon. Though at least he hasn’t found himself back in court. Or in jail. There’s that to keep in mind I guess when people are openly accusing you of abuse and filing lawsuits.

But that ugly stuff aside (and make no mistake, it is ugly), it’s clear the erstwhile “Pretty Boy” is a control freak of the highest order and the pain of no longer being in charge of the narrative is evidently getting to him. His recent rant against ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith demonstrates a psyche in deep discomfort as it confronts a situation it can no longer influence to its satisfaction. The cat is officially out of the bag and Floyd has nowhere to hide. Time to start acting like a real champion, let alone “TBE.”

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Ms. Jackson filing her lawsuit.

There has been no bigger apologist for Floyd Mayweather Jr. than Mr. Smith. For years he has insisted, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Floyd is not avoiding Manny Pacquiao, because why would anyone avoid a boxer who is clearly inferior? According to Stephen A., Pacquiao could never, not even on his best night, come close to defeating Floyd Mayweather Jr. Indeed, Mr. Smith routinely refers to Floyd Mayweather Jr. as not just the best boxer competing today, but as the greatest defensive fighter of all-time, as if guys like Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche and Pernell Whitaker never existed.

But Smith has abruptly hijacked Mayweather’s carefully written script and helped to put the whole situation in a new light. If an adamant Floyd booster like Smith is going to call into question “Money’s” courage and demand he finally make a Pacquiao fight happen, then we really have reached a stage where all excuses and stalling tactics are now officially null and void, not to mention some icy polar vortex action must be taking hold in hell.

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Stephen A. Smith wants Floyd to fight the Pacman.

Yes, Floyd is rich. Yes, he has umpteem girlfriends and fancy cars, accessories which appear to be pretty much interchangeable for “Money May,” but despite all this, little right now is going the way he wants it to. Marcos Maidana, of all people, gave him the fight of his life and while Floyd clearly won the rematch, it was no walk in the park and many are now concluding that we have seen the last of the “great” Floyd Mayweather. In both contests he appeared uncomfortable and not in the best of form.

Meanwhile, former best buddy 50 Cent is making Floyd a laughing stock and calling him out for his inability to read, and his former fiancée is telling the world he beat her up and threatened to shoot her toes off. And now to top things off, this: a knife in the back from Stephen A. Put up or shut up. Fight Manny Pacquiao or lose the respect of one of your most public and ardent admirers.

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Fiddy and Floyd in happier days.

The response was predictable, but surprising at the same time, as Floyd raged against Smith in an interview with fighthype.com. What Floyd had to say was not particularly illuminating, but the fact he went out of his way to publicly lambaste Stephen A. tells us quite a bit. There was a time not long ago when one could easily imagine the self-proclaimed “TBE” calmly shrugging off such statements before getting into a Bentley with ‘Fitty’ and heading to the club. But not now. Instead Floyd took umbrage and decided to blast Smith with both barrels. Obviously not all is untroubled within the confines of “The Money Team.”

It is my opinion we are witnessing the final steps of a long, drawn-out dance which will go down as the biggest duck in boxing history. There is little doubt in my mind that after Manny Pacquiao knocked Ricky Hatton out cold in less than six minutes, with Floyd Mayweather Sr. in Hatton’s corner no less, the decision was made then and there: Pacquiao, an incredibly fast, aggressive and powerful southpaw, was a high-risk proposition who jeopardized Floyd’s precious ‘0’; he must be avoided for as long as possible.

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Pacquiao demolishes Hatton: high risk.

And to his credit, Floyd, a shark who lives to be in charge of every situation, managed it all (no doubt with some help from Al Haymon and others) and made it feasible for people to admire him and cheer for him and watch him perform, while at the same time he used every ploy possible to keep that match on the back-burner. Whether it was PED testing, money, Bob Arum, Mayweather going to jail or Manny losing fights, when push came to shove, Floyd had a reason why that match just couldn’t happen. At least, not yet.

Now, finally, we are at a stage where all reasons, all excuses ring hollow. Why? Simple: Marcos Maidana.

Floyd looked human in both fights with “El Chino,” and the result is the public is no longer interested in watching Floyd perform for the sake of watching Floyd perform. Virtually every Floyd Mayweather bout since his close decision win over Oscar De La Hoya has been one-sided and devoid of drama and thus Floyd and his admirers had to sell the idea that the public should feel privileged just to see the great Mayweather do his thing. No matter who the opponent was, no matter how tediously one-sided the contest. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was, we were told, a unique, once-in-a-generation talent we should appreciate before it’s too late.

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Maidana made Mayweather look mortal.

But Mayweather didn’t appear to be a once-in-a-generation phenom against Maidana, a challenger who was judged a full level below in terms of skill and talent. And yet last May he pushed Floyd to the brink, in the process earning himself a rematch and a second big payday. Sure, Floyd clearly won the second meeting with room to spare, but he didn’t exactly look like the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson in the process. Mayweather doing laps in the final round in a shameless bid to avoid any exchanges cemented the public’s new perception of him: simply put, not as advertised. And if Floyd is not as advertised, then what the hell have we been doing watching all these boring fights against Marquez and Mosley, Guerrero and Alvarez?

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Mayweather schools Guerrero: ho-hum.

So the public’s patience has worn thin. Not just in regards to a match people have been demanding to see since 2009, but in regards to Floyd Mayweather Jr., period. And Stephen A. Smith is no dummy. He sees which way the wind blows. The “TBE” act just ain’t working like it used to. And if that’s the case, just how do you sell a fight with Amir Khan? Answer: you don’t. You can’t. A year ago, you could have, but Maidana ruined all that. Now the cat is out of the bag. Now Floyd is no longer above it all. Now he’s just another champion, just another boxer.

And the public’s expectations of such people are very simple, as they always have been: get in that ring, fight the guy we want to see you fight, and we will pay good money to see you do it. That’s one of the few great things about boxing, the most uncomplicated of competitions: eventually, first principles usually win out.         — Robert Portis

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