‘Money’ Mayweather will return if the pay is fair

Michael Thompson, Deputy Sports Editor

Two weeks ago, in what may be deemed the final fight of his professional career, Floyd Mayweather Jr. danced and jabbed his way to an unexciting, dominant victory over an outmatched Andre Berto. It was more of a sparring match than a prizefight against a former titlist who is well past his prime. The bout was intended to act as a celebratory final moment for Mayweather. If one believes Mayweather’s statements of retirement then a 19 year, 49-0 career is over for good. If that is the case, he did not go out with a memorable bang, but instead an underwhelming, $32 million whimper.

For Mayweather, his disappointing finale is a microcosm of his time in the spotlight: an abundance of talent and prowess in the ring juxtaposed with disappointments, allegations and disturbing behavior outside of it.

From the moment he first laced his boots, wrapped his hands and put on his gloves, Mayweather was a blue chipper. With blinding hand speed, inhuman reflexes and a nearly impenetrable defense, Mayweather immediately convinced experts of his potential.

It may be hard for some to believe that in the not so distant past, not only was Floyd Mayweather liked by a large share of boxing fans, but he was also respected and even deserved sympathy. With his father in prison, Mayweather learned the sport from his uncle, Roger Mayweather. An impressive amateur record and three Golden Gloves titles led to an appearance in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In the semi-finals, Mayweather lost a fight many believe he dominated and would have to settle for a bronze medal, which garnered him sympathy from the American public.

Fast-forward two decades and the narrative has flipped. Who would feel bad if Floyd, who has gone from reverence to revile so abruptly, was robbed of a decision today? This is primarily his own doing. As he racked up impressive wins, his arrogance began to overtake his original persona — a confident but humble fighter. By the time he fought Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, at the time the most lucrative fight in the boxing’s history, Mayweather had cemented himself as the cash cow of combat sports and coined himself a new nickname: “Money.”

Mayweather’s legal issues date back to 2002, and have become more prominent through the years. It became much easier to root against Mayweather as his wins in court seemed to be more difficult than his wins in in the ring. In 2011, he pled guilty to misdemeanor battery in a case involving his former girlfriend Josie Harris. In a long legal battle that included accusations of death threats and robbery, Mayweather was sentenced to 90 days in jail. It was a short sentence, but one that only facilitated more criticism against Mayweather as a womanizer and abuser.

While always a fighter known for abundances of expressive confidence and bravado, Floyd’s metamorphosis into a trash-talking, culture-mocking, bill-burning polarizer alienated him from a large majority of the boxing world and the sports world at large. His skills were and still are undeniable, but as he continued to rack up wins and dollars, fans were no longer paying to see him fight, they were doing so to see him lose.

Now, to the disappointment of fans and critics alike, Mayweather is allegedly riding off into a multimillion dollar sunset undefeated and tied with Rocky Marciano for most wins without a loss in a career. Are we, the public, really too blind to see what is happening in front of us? Next year, MGM and AEG will be opening a new, state-of-the-art arena. If there is one fighter in the world who would be perfect to christen it, it’s Mayweather. Since 2007, Mayweather’s last 12 fights have taken place at the current MGM Grand Arena. “Money” claims he’s ready to settle down and spend time with his children, but if his track record is reliable, the cash business will come first.

Mayweather retired briefly from boxing after defeating De La Hoya, before returning to cash in on another large payday against then undefeated Englishman Ricky Hatton — fool them once, shame on you. After his victory, Mayweather again announced he was retiring. Mayweather stayed away for almost 2 years before the dollar signs once again became irresistible against Juan Manuel Marquez. Fool them twice, shame on them, but three times?

That sentiment is being reflected in the pay-per-view numbers for Floyd’s supposed swan song. Estimates from various sources place the number of buys between 400,000 and 550,000, a far cry from the over 5 million orders placed for Mayweather-Pacquiao. The public has spoken; no one believes Floyd Mayweather is done, or else more would have tuned into his final fight.

Analyzing the life and career of Floyd Mayweather is no small task. On one side, one must analyze his boxing career critically, an undefeated record, but a controversial one. Many accused Mayweather of expertly picking mismatched opponents or waiting until dangerous ones are past their prime. Would Manny Pacquiao have knocked him out in 2010? We’ll never know.

One must also weigh Mayweather’s actions outside of the ring when determining his legacy. His brashness has been compared to Muhammad Ali. Both had their share of legal trouble — Ali was jailed and stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to serve in Vietnam. Time has been kind to Ali’s prison time, but the same can’t be said for Mayweather.

Accusations of domestic violence will always remain a black mark on an already polarizing career. Floyd Mayweather is, without question, the greatest boxer of our era, but at what cost? What will he be remembered for? The jury is still out, but one thing is for sure; “Money” will rise again, if the pay is fair.

Email Michael Thompson at [email protected].