Floyd Mayweather Jr. is not a man who does things halfway.
When he spends money, he spends thousands. When he disses opponents, he does so at full volume. When he makes headlines, they’re typically not of the small-typeface variety.
That said, however, when fans, observers or potential foes look at all that excess and assume that Mayweather is less about substance in the ring than out-of-ring style, they make a tactical error.
Love him or loathe him, the guy’s been a champion in five weight classes for a reason. And even at age 37, when nearly every prominent foe on his career victims list has disappeared, he’s considered the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter by no less an authority than the self-professed “Bible of Boxing.”
In large part, it’s because he’s got the ego to continue to prepare like a 20-something.
While many guys still fighting at his age are doing so with bigger bellies to buoy lighter wallets, he’s clearly not allowed fame and fortune to impact the way he looks or performs on fight nights.
Lots of guys make money and lose desire. Mayweather has made more money than any, yet he shows no legitimate signs of being any less hungry today than he was one, five or even 10 years ago. And while he may not be “The Best Ever” in anyone’s eyes but his own, even the biggest cynic must concede that he makes a better case for it after 18 years in the ring than any other star in 2014’s boxing sky.
That very same ego appears to be at play with his next career move, too.
When Mayweather informally announced a Sept. 13 rematch with Marcos Maidana to a hopelessly overmatched BET Awards interviewee on Monday night, he did so not just to create a buzz that has sent the boxing media scurrying, but also to patch any perceived legacy holes as he begins his final career lap.
Lest anyone forget, Mayweather and Maidana got together for 12 combative rounds two months ago in Las Vegas. While the ultimate verdict was a majority one in Mayweather’s favor, the post-fight vibe was that “El Chino” had at least pushed him as close to a loss as all but one of 44 previous foils.
Presumably, this was on Mayweather’s mind when he green-lighted go-round No. 2.
Though he was awarded just a split decision against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 and a majority win over Canelo Alvarez last year, it was an initial encounter with Jose Luis Castillo in April 2002 that still elicits cries of “robbery” when Mayweather breaks into one of his signature “hard work/dedication” rants.
Castillo’s persistence and aggression created big issues down the stretch for a then 27-0 “Pretty Boy,” so much so that Harold Lederman’s HBO scorecard saw the Mexican incumbent as a 115-111 winner—in sharp contrast to the official tallies of 116-111, 115-111 and 115-111 in the other direction.
“Not the fight we saw,” blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley said. “Definitely not.”
Still, when given a chance to take a dubious victory over a difficult foe and quickly bolt to other willing quarry, Mayweather neither debated Lederman’s perception nor ridiculed Lampley’s critique.
“If he wants a rematch,” he said simply, while looking Castillo’s way, “we can do it again.”
Eight months later, they did. And while the same man won, the perceptions of many—including Lederman, whose card went from 115-111 one way to 115-113 the other—changed.
Not only was Mayweather a persona, they discovered, he was also a fighter.
Fast-forward a dozen years, and by agreeing to again meet a similarly persistent and aggressive (not to mention bigger and stronger) Maidana, the celebrity—now known as “Money”—is showing precisely the same sort of legacy-guarding mettle at 37 that he did with Castillo at 25.
He could have waited two months for a gifted but less menacing Amir Khan, or plucked a fresh catch from Golden Boy’s stable of high-profile wannabes at 140. But just like in 2002, he decided the best way to silence the doubters was to face their uncrowned champion head-on once again.
Come September, don’t be surprised if the result backs up the bravado again, too.
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