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HOW GREAT WAS MAYWEATHER? THAT'S A DEBATE FOR ANOTHER GENERATION

By Paul Magno | February 09, 2018
HOW GREAT WAS MAYWEATHER? THAT'S A DEBATE FOR ANOTHER GENERATION

As long as comfortable white men and industry stooges control the boxing media, there’s never going to be a fair assessment of Floyd Mayweather and his professional legacy. 

One can feel the anger and angst when discussing the subject. To read some of the criticisms laid out by the boxing press and fans on social media, Mayweather has single-handedly ruined the sport. And this odd rush to rage is even made odder in the face of the reality that Mayweather was better for the black and white (or green) bottom line than any other fighter of his generation. 

In the present tense, Mayweather will never get a fair shake from these people. No matter who he fought, when he fought-- it was never the “right” fight. One can roll out a laundry list of more than a decade’s worth of opponents ranked in the top five (or higher), but it was never enough. The one big one he “needed” was always the one critics insisted he’d never have the guts to meet-- unless he did, and then the goal posts would be moved back a bit more.

Mayweather deniers desperately clutch on to Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams as two flesh and blood examples of Mayweather’s devious, cherry-picking ways. Why didn’t he fight them? Why did he duck their challenges? They clutch at these two names so desperately because the plethora of “why didn’t he fight so and so” laments had been whittled down to just those two names by the time Mayweather retired. 

The case for a Margarito fight is ridiculous given the circumstances at the time the fight was “supposed” to be made and a true litmus test of whether a Mayweather critic is an honest critic or just one with some personal hang-up or strange axe to grind. To ask a man who had just bought out his contract from his promoter (and had possible legal action still pending because of the break-up) to go right back and do business with that promoter? Absurd. Plus, is there any real boxing person out there with even half a doubt as to how a Mayweather-Margarito bout would’ve played out? 

And, as for Paul Williams, well, there wasn’t exactly a path being beaten to his door. Nobody of note was willing to fight the guy-- except a 22-year-old Canelo Alvarez, who, for another set of reasons to be explored in another article, doesn’t get any credit for it.

But what about Mayweather waiting until 2010 to fight Shane Mosley? What about him waiting until 2012 to fight Miguel Cotto? And, most of all, what about him waiting until 2015 to fight Manny Pacquiao?

Mosley was coming off a KO of fearsome beast Margarito, who was at the height of his hype, and was only thought to be rickety with old age AFTER the loss to Mayweather.  

Cotto was signed as an opponent just weeks after leaving Top Rank promotions, Mayweather’s old promoter, and would go on, post-Mayweather, to score, arguably, the biggest win of his career by destroying Sergio Martinez at 160. 

And, as for Pacquiao, well, the Filipino icon WAS past his prime. But, guess what-- so was Mayweather. It’s not like Mayweather was living in a hyperbaric chamber or in suspended animation while waiting on opponents to grow old. By the time he fought Pacquiao, specifically, he was slower, less sharp, and his legs were significantly heavier. 

Was there some thought of risk vs. reward in opponent selection? Of course there was, but to single Mayweather out for scorn is to tip one’s hand that maybe an agenda is driving one’s disdain. If we want to go and judge other fighters by the same standards the critics use to judge Mayweather, then we should call just about everyone on the carpet, especially in this modern era. There’s not a single fighter who hasn’t been built upon the name value of opponents past their expiration date and not a single promoter who doesn’t use risk vs. reward in selecting opponents for their stars. Mayweather was doing nothing that isn’t common industry practice.

So. here comes the bitter pill to swallow.

Mayweather is the target of scorn and derision, not because of what he did, but because of who he is. And, no, it’s not about his silly “Money” persona or the serious history of violence against women in his past. 

Mayweather takes the flak that he does because of classism and because of the deap-seated racism that exists in the boxing media and within much of the fanbase. And even though this negative energy may mostly be at the subconscious level for the majority of the serial antagonists, it’s the motor that drives the derision.

To see a fighter remove himself from the traditional indentured servitude business model of the sport produces a visceral negative reaction in many fight fans, who are traditionalists at heart. Boxing, even deep into the 21st century, is still a sport where the comfortable pay for the privilege of watching the poor and disenfranchised battle. Pay scales have changed, but not much else has changed. Fighters are to be “handled” by old guard bossmen for fear that, if left to their own devices, they would take their loot and scurry off, like runaway slaves, without allowing themselves to be sacrificed at the altar for public amusement. 

And, unlike a guy like Andre Ward, who angered traditionalists by simply maintaining his quiet dignity in the face of an undignified business, Mayweather flaunted his success. Mayweather thumbed his nose at the critics and relished in showcasing the wealth that came from being one’s own man. And, ultimately, he BEAT the business.

For the same reason Muhammad Ali caught flak for his nerve to be his own man, Mayweather caught flak for having the nerve to be his own BUSINESS man. Those lambasting Mayweather now would’ve been lambasting Ali back in the day, motored by the very same inner drive, even if they couldn’t really put their finger on the true source behind their disdain. 

Boxing will forgive murderers, rapists, and con men of all shapes and forms, but it will never forgive those who ruin the illusion of how the business really works or those who threaten its power structure. 

Mayweather is a reality check for those comfortable men who see boxing as one step up from cockfighting-- and they will never forgive him for it. 

Maybe, in another generation or two, we’ll be above this ball of classism and racism manifest as sport fandom and the sport’s authorities and experts may be able to fairly assess the proper legacy of Floyd Mayweather. But not now.

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