By Daniel DeMarco |Copy Editor|
Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s last fight is taking place Saturday, Sept. 12; at least that’s what he says.
But let’s take his word for it and really appreciate this as the last time we’re going to see Mayweather in the boxing ring.
I’m not particularly a fan of Mayweather as a person and I make no excuses for his domestic crimes, but from a sports vantage, he is undoubtedly the best boxer of his generation and, to me, severely underappreciated.
Casual boxing fans have never liked Mayweather; I know because I’ve sat in rooms full of them during his fights listening to their vocal disappointment and futile opinions of him as a boxer.
It’s like sitting with a “film fan” while watching Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001, and listening to them moan and groan about how long and boring it is.
Even dedicated boxing fans are split on Mayweather. It’s a circumstance all too common in human life: people often do not appreciate greatness until it has already passed and gone, if at all.
Mayweather is greatness in the boxing ring; and your last chance to really appreciate it while he’s still around appears to be here.
This issue is people seem to forget what boxing is about.
Most people just want blood and guts; they want back-and-forth all-action brawling or nothing at all. It’s an incredibly shallow view of a sport that has so much to offer.
When a fight is back-and-forth or close, that means things aren’t working out. Fighters are in there to show their superiority to their opponents and win decisively.
Granted, there are some boxers who go in there with the game plan of hard-hitting brawls that most fans demand. Ironic that if more fans took time to know more about the sport, they’d know about the fighters who put on those exciting fights, rather than only watching boxing those less than a half-dozen times a year for the big Pay-Per-View fights.
Most fighters though would rather partake in fights that they dominate and where they come out unscathed.
Boxing is the “Sweet Science”; the name of the game is to hit and not get hit.
Mayweather understands that, and does it better at the highest level than anyone of the 21st century so far.
He has cemented himself amongst the elite defensive, tactical fighters in boxing history. His name can be respectfully discussed with other legendary names such as Pernell Whitaker, Gene Tunney, Ray Leonard, James Corbett, Benny Leonard, and Jack Johnson.
People’s main issue with Mayweather though? They say he is boring.
What they fail to understand is him being “boring” is actually something to appreciate, not loathe.
I will concede that he can be genuinely boring at times with the overuse of clinching, as he did in the Marcos Maidana rematch, but for the most part, people are failing to appreciate his purpose and place in boxing by calling him boring.
They’re missing the point.
His fights are “boring” because he is so superior to his opponents. He makes great fighters look average.
It’s important to remember they’re not average though, he has fought some of the best guys in the world.
The prime example is Mayweather’s most recent fight against Manny Pacquiao.
That fight was hammered for being boring by the public and sports media alike. It was “boring” because Mayweather almost completely controlled the fight, and it wasn’t even close.
He accomplished this against Pacquiao, who is widely considered the second best fighter in the world, yet he made the distance between one and two appear huge; Mayweather is just in another league amongst today’s active boxers.
His sense of distance and timing lets him land his shots with the smallest of openings and make his opponent’s shots miss by inches. His defense is amongst the most solid in history where in the difficult task that his opponent actually lands a shot on him, rarely is it ever clean or a scoring punch.
His ring generalship keeps the fight almost always at the pace he sets where he forces his opponent into his own fight; he takes them out of their game.
And he is so calm and calculated in the ring; there’s almost no wasted motion and he always sticks to the plan in that fragile high pressure environment of a boxing match.
Watching Mayweather fight is a reminder that boxing is an art; he makes it so plain and obvious while still leaving room to further appreciate the subtleties of his work.
And here we are with what he is saying is his final fight.
He’s getting flack because his opponent is Andre Berto, a less-than-stellar opponent in this context where Mayweather had plenty of superior options.
He deserves that flack undoubtedly, but as a boxing historian recently pointed out to me, it’s fairly common for elite fighters to come off of a huge fight with their next being a drastic drop in quality of opponent.
After arguably the biggest fight of all time against Max Schmeling in their 1938 rematch, Joe Louis’ next opponent was John Henry Lewis—far from a memorable opponent on his resume.
After accomplishing one of the biggest upsets in boxing history by conquering the then-invincible George Foreman in 1974, Muhammad Ali next fought journeyman Chuck Wepner.
Even the beloved Manny Pacquiao, who after giving, arguably, the most impressive performance of his career by demolishing the bigger and stronger Miguel Cotto, next fought Joshua Clottey—who was himself coming off a loss to Cotto.
It’s not to excuse Mayweather’s choice of opponent in his final fight, just to provide some context for this unfortunate phenomena.
And perhaps this article is a bit shortsighted, considering Mayweather does have one last fight.
Yes, he’s almost certainly going to win, but you never know. Crazy things can happen in combat sports.
If nothing else, Berto has a puncher’s chance that will always linger. We’ll see what happens.
But going with the likely result, what is Mayweather’s legacy?
As I said, he is a defensive marvel that will long be remembered in boxing history.
He’s one of the best to capture the core essence of boxing—being a master of hitting and not being hit.
He solidified himself as the best boxer of his generation.
Boxing is an unforgiving sport; very few make it out of the other end in good shape, physically and financially. Even when a boxer manages to get out in one of those respects, it tends to be at the sacrifice of the other; Mayweather has beaten the system though coming out barely taking any damage in his career and as the richest boxer of all time.
I think he deserves admiration for that.
He has had an incredible boxing career that has gone underappreciated by many.
Excellence comes in many forms, whether through music, film-making, painting, sports, and many more mediums.
This may be the last chance to enjoy an honest example of excellence while it’s still in front of us, rather than in reflection.
It’s his last fight, it’s not his best fight, but better late than never.