Late last night I was watching both of Rocky Marciano’s classic bouts against Ezzard Charles and was struck by what energetic, thrilling, brutal, high-end affairs they were. Charles was clearly more skilled than Marciano, but it didn’t matter because ‘The Rock’ was completely, thoroughly, undeniably relentless, and clearly much stronger.
A lot of people are comparing Floyd Mayweather to Marciano these days because he is moving in on the heavyweight legend’s 49-0 record. Indeed, Floyd may well break it by next year. But he has never, as far as I know, engaged in anything close to resembling the Marciano vs Charles bouts. The first fight with Maidana was arguably similar, but not nearly as epic.
Perhaps if Floyd had met a modern day version of Rocky Marciano, people would not be as outraged as they clearly are, now that it’s been announced he’ll be facing Andre Berto next month in a pay-per-view match-up in Las Vegas. Truth be told, I’m surprised by the vitriol this fight is receiving within the boxing world. Fans are furious and insisting they won’t be buying it. The question now is whether or not Floyd’s core supporters will make this outing a financial success in spite of public opinion.
In all honesty, I don’t blame Floyd for taking it easy this fight. I know that sentence in and of itself will draw anger, but May 2nd was such an over the top, unwieldly, overwhelming circus that I’ve no doubt it had to drain both Floyd and Manny to their cores. Heck, I’m just a fight writer and I myself was drained by weeks of interviews, insults from the promotion, and the overall senselessness of all the hype. Floyd and Manny had to feel like dry sponges when all was said and done, in spite of the fact they earned enough money to put Fort Knox to shame.
With that in mind, the anger boxing fans are feeling towards Floyd right now doesn’t have all that much to do with the fact they were disappointed with his bout against Pacquiao. It’s actually the culmination of years of frustration and the feeling they’ve been played by a talented athlete who nonetheless is disinterested in really challenging himself and competing against the very best.
Andre Berto is seen as a has-been who was either overrated as a prospect, or never reached his full potential after being damaged in defeats to Victor Ortiz and Roberto Guerrero. Either way, he’s now the final nail in the coffin of a reputation that was already on the ropes. Had Pacquiao vs Mayweather happened in 2009 or 2010, when the Filipino champion appeared invincible, things would undoubtedly be different today. The fight happened in 2015, however, and so Mayweather remains on the receiving end of a public backlash the likes of which I’ve never seen. Tyson was vilified for allowing himself to literally become a villain, but Floyd is being vilified for essentially being too cool for school.
It’s worth noting that things would probably be less intense right now if Floyd had actually gone ahead and agreed to fight Berto on free television. Indeed, the guy may have gotten some nods of approval for throwing fans a freebie while giving himself an easy fight. Those who don’t like Floyd would have kept on disliking him, of course, but everyone else would have at least found the arrangement bearable.
Things didn’t work out that way, though, and so the public is given a less than challenging opponent and a price tag to boot. That, my friends, is not good PR. Does Floyd even care, though? For years we’ve been told the man doesn’t give a damn about the fans. We’re going to learn if that’s true or not in the next few weeks. Because blowback of this sort won’t go unnoticed, even by the insulated Mayweather. We’ll see now with his public statements and appearances how this is affecting him, if at all. If he appears at all troubled by the reaction to Mayweather vs Berto, then the world will at least know he isn’t totally removed from the impact of public opinion.
If he keeps acting like Floyd, though…
It’s been said that years ago Floyd decided he didn’t want to be the kind of all-American sports hero Bob Arum had in mind. That sort of thing was for Ray Leonard, not for him. And so, the story goes, Floyd became a hip hop champion for a hip hop era, an in-your-face endorsement of copious wealth, flash and a hedonistic lifestyle.
If the story is true, it paid off mightily for the man called Money, until now. For everything there truly is a season and the seasons are changing for Floyd. Flash and bling on the street is being interpreted as flash and bling in the ring, something that may be of value to a certain set, but that generally betrays a lack of depth and substance.
And, let’s face it, Floyd’s career lacks depth. This may not be entirely his fault, of course. For instance, he can’t be blamed for Oscar De La Hoya senselessly and stubbornly easing up on his jab in the second half of their fight when it had been giving Floyd real problems. Or for Manny Pacquiao trying to fight him with one good shoulder. Yet “Money” Mayweather’s lack of a Rocky Marciano foil, combined with his eagerness to remove money from wallets, is now coming back to haunt him.
Floyd may earn boatloads of cash for his next fight, but he’s lost a whole lot of respect for his choice of opponent. The nagging question, however, is this: does it even matter to the man? — Sean Crose