Should Floyd Mayweather feel like he has something to prove?
The polarizing nature of Floyd Mayweather’s personality guarantees that he will always have detractors. While Mayweather does have a legion of fans and an entourage that dwarfs the size of most hamlets, others are drawn to him through vehemence.
Hating Mayweather is often grounded in irrationality, but not always.
For many, the fact that Mayweather (44-0, 26 KO) didn’t fight Manny Pacquiao at the height of their respective careers is unforgivable. Both men are certainly at fault for failed negotiations, even with the fight now verging on complete irrelevancy after Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Pacquiao out cold.
On a more symbolic level, the inability to make Mayweather-Pacquiao points to a larger issue with the middle and later parts of Mayweather's career: There’s an argument that he hasn’t always faced the best possible opponents at the most opportune moments.
This claim is somewhat tenuous.
Of course, the unmade Pacquiao fight is one of the greatest missed opportunities in the sport’s history, and this is a cloud that will—and should—always be attached to Mayweather and Pacquiao’s respective legacies.
But what about the fact that Mayweather recently announced he will fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 14 in the biggest fight that can be made in all of boxing? Does this atone for whiffing on a history-making bout against Pacquiao?
Other than negotiating a catch weight of 152 pounds for his bout against Alvarez, as reported by ESPN, the negotiations for Mayweather-Alvarez appear to have unfolded with shocking ease and cordiality. Perhaps the weight stipulations are a subtle reminder that Mayweather is still “boss” and the sport’s cash cow, even if Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KO), at 22, is a burgeoning star—both inside and outside the ring.
Nevertheless, the point is that the fight got made, and it means that boxing fans are going to be given exactly what they want and deserve.
The criticism of Mayweather’s opposition has undoubtedly been magnified—and perhaps blown out of proportion—by not fighting Pacquiao. Mayweather is a five-division champion who has a 21-0 record in title fights and is 19-0 against former or current world champions, according to Boxrec Encyclopedia. Some of this skepticism has to do with Mayweather defeating once-great fighters like Shane Mosley, for instance, instead of pursuing matchups with more prime contemporaries.
The debate about Mayweather’s level of opposition can and will be carried out ad nauseam.
The reality, however, is that those who hate Mayweather or scoff at some of his opponents aren’t going to change their minds. Mayweather’s polarizing nature—both inside and outside the ring—is an odd testament to his character, and he is a rare public figure who can inspire passion and disgust from anyone who cares about boxing.
Another reality is that all Mayweather can do is control his opponent selection going forward.
Mayweather started his six-figure fight deal with Showtime well, winning a lopsided decision over Robert Guerrero in a fight that seemed inevitable. Guerrero was almost unanimously lauded as a fine opponent for Mayweather to start off with, and Money was sublime in schooling “The Ghost” for 12 rounds.
With five fights left on his contract, fighting Alvarez next is admirable and a pleasant surprise. Mayweather’s defense was on point against Guerrero, and his overall sharpness suggests that the signs of decline he exhibited against Miguel Cotto were perhaps overstated.
Will fighting Canelo Alvarez silence Mayweather's critics?
By fighting a rising Alvarez, Mayweather is giving a young, strong champion the chance to unseat him. This is certainly in line with boxing’s rich passing of the torch tradition, even if Mayweather will be the clear favorite. But this fight takes on added legitimacy and danger because of the way Alvarez looked in out-boxing Austin Trout to unify junior middleweight titles. The way Alvarez made Trout miss was surprising, and this suggests that he is carefully honing his overall craft.
Alvarez’s noticeable fight-to-fight improvement raises the already astronomical stakes of this bout.
Both fighters are massive draws, and Mayweather-Alvarez should generate gargantuan pay-per-view numbers. And really, why would Mayweather want to change how he’s viewed? If anything, he makes that much more money because of viewers who hate him paying to watch a fight on the off chance he’ll lose.
So go ahead and blame Mayweather for not fighting Pacquiao (or the other way around, depending on where your allegiances lie). If the perception is that no one other than Pacquiao posed Mayweather an actual threat for several years, that isn’t Floyd’s fault.
Mayweather is working towards correcting the Pacquiao blunder by fighting Alvarez, even if it isn’t a conscious motive. But it’s now time to take a step back, enjoy (or hate) Mayweather one fight at a time and relish what could be a spectacular finish to a remarkable career.