Who's hot? Who's not?
Watching last week's Victor Ortiz-Floyd Mayweather press conferences and some of the follow-up interviews, I wondered: Where is my boy, "Money"? Where is that impish rascal with the million-dollar smile and unbending belief in himself?
If he's not always willing to trade blows in the ring, he's always ready to trade barbs with cantankerous folks like Larry Merchant and Brian Kenny. This go-round, there was no exuberance. No hyperinflated self-confidence. The old Mayweather would have believed the ridiculous astronomical promotional videos Golden Boy designed to introduce the former pound-for-pound champion.
Instead, this Mayweather was busy filling out coloring books with his kids.
As Richard Schaeffer gleefully extolled the juicy matchup in September, sounding like a Bond villain describing his new weapons, Mayweather was more focused on being a father than mugging for the cameras. He sat at the podium with three of his children, an attentive dad helping his kids get comfortable during an intimidating situation in front of a big crowd.
The old Mayweather would have been rolling his eyes at everything Ortiz was saying. He would have been grinning broadly. He would have at least been paying attention. Seemed like every time Ortiz fired a verbal missile, the reaction shot showed Mayweather preoccupied with paternal duties.
It has been a while since Mayweather went through the whole whirlwind media tour, and he's only gotten more controversial since then.
At the first press conference in New York, Mayweather appeared as though he had just stumbled out of bed, listless and groggy. He half-heartedly rambled through a series of topics, from how he never said Pacquiao was on steroids, to how it was weird how Pac became so good even though no one had heard of him before 2000, while Mayweather was anointed a teenage star.
He even mumbled some acknowledgements of Victor Ortiz. Are you kidding me? The old Mayweather would have dubbed Ortiz as "a guy with one win over a club fighter." Instead, he praised Ortiz' dramatic upset of Andre Berto, and might have even called them both "young warriors."
If he ever said he was going to beat Ortiz, it wasn't emphatic, clever or demeaning. Mayweather has his most exciting, worthy opponent in years and he's acting like he has to justify himself. "Twenty-two knockouts in 29 fights"—yeah, we know Mayweather. Now tell us how you're going to humiliate Ortiz. Come on, how many have tried and failed?
The post-conference interview Mayweather had with Brian Kenny fell far short of expectations. This was the worst rematch since Corrales-Castillo III. Mayweather and Kenny have sparred many rounds in the past, engaging in extremely entertaining battles of wits. Kenny challenges Mayweather's selection of opponents. Mayweather vehemently defends himself and dismisses Kenny's boxing knowledge.
This time around, while one combatant (Kenny) was well-armed with questions about Pacquiao and Mayweather's legal woes, the man in the hot seat was not prepared for another lively verbal exchange. He was subdued, mellow, reflective, mumbling stock responses in less than enthusiastic fashion. We can only imagine the mental burden on Mayweather right now in terms of his legal situation. But I think we did see evidence of a massive weight on his shoulders.
In Los Angeles on Day 2 of the press tour, Mayweather showed some signs of life. Ortiz tried to get a little physical with Mayweather during their staredown. A devilish smirk crossed Mayweather's face. He later delivered the sound byte of the week, "Yes, Manny Pacquiao. You're next."
A flash of the old bravado. It was direct. It was delivered unwaveringly. Mayweather has a mild stutter at times, especially when on the defensive. It was nowhere to be heard. In this brief moment, the competitive fire was in his eyes. Then it was more props to Ortiz and back to his seat.
When Mayweather steps in the ring on September 17th, it will have been a little over 16 months since his last fight. At 34 years old, the wunderkind is not getting any younger. Every athlete loses a step, and for a fighter who depends so much on speed and reflexes, Mayweather is particularly vulnerable and he has to know that. He has consistently mocked and derided his foes, but he has never taken anyone lightly. He obviously knows what Ortiz is capable of and the dangers that he presents.
Mayweather was present in physical form last week, but the flamboyant and devious Money May persona is still on that year-long layoff. Is it the burden of Floyd's outside the ring troubles? The pressure and expectations of his next test? Self-doubt?
I have no idea, but if I had to guess, self-doubt would be the most unlikely scenario. This newfound humility may be on account of being named in multiple lawsuits and two pending criminal cases. That kind of thing will do that to a man.
When you're in trouble, it's probably smart to be on your best behavior. The petulant, wealth-flaunting, egomaniac that sometimes rears its head as Mayweather's public persona doesn't get him very far in the court of public opinion.
Still, logic be darned. I want the old Mayweather back. I want contentious interviews. Defiant proclamations. Brazen confidence. Can you imagine four weeks of this downtrodden mope on 24/7?
Apparently, it's mo' problems, less "Money". And it's a shame.
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