"No physical activity is so vain as boxing. A man gets into the ring to attract admiration. In no sport, therefore, can you be more humiliated."
-Norman Mailer from The Fight
I'm beginning to nurse the suspicion that Floyd "Money" Mayweather just might surprise everybody and place cashing-in off a super fight against Manny Pacquiao second behind something more important to him: his life after boxing.
It's that fight, more than any he's ever fought in the ring, I think he's been preparing for his entire life.
Mayweather's sized up the situation and done his own private calculations regarding the price and value of what he can earn against the risks and there's not nearly enough in the pot. More to the point, there's everything to lose.
Mayweather's entire life has been calibrated to achieve what he has while mitigating the risks from anything eroding or stealing it. As much as he's been a genius at this, he's worked harder at it than anyone else too. They used to say the same thing about Bobby Fischer; nobody ever had more talent and worked harder. The results speak for themselves.
I don't think any amount of money offered to Mayweather is nearly enough for him to risk what his life would be with a loss and risk forever being dealt from the bottom of the deck by history.
There are scores to settle here. Floyd has made more enemies than friends.
But I think it comes down to something a little more basic: Floyd lives in Vegas. He knows the house always wins.
If Floyd steps away, he gets to forever be the one dealing to us.
Floyd knows what we all know: there are any number of great heavyweights who came before and after Marciano that could have beat Rocky.
But they didn't. Sure they might have. But they didn't.
It never happened.
Marciano exercised the golden rule and walked away on top.
Nobody ended Rocky's career. Marciano himself never ended his own career. Like all great stories, Marciano's legacy never ended, it stopped. We get to fill in the rest. That's wrapping paper you'll never tear off.
Where did Rocky learn such a useful lesson? From his hero Joe Louis. And Rocky had the humility to know that if a fighter like Joe Louis was incapable of pulling it off, Rocky's chances were even worse.
That shine on Marciano's career with the zero is the shine Mayweather can hold not just against us if we try to tear him down, he can use it for the rest of his life after his boxing career is done.
Floyd knows enough about boxing to know there's no darker sport where an athlete's life is concerned. He's taking pointers from the right source where Marciano is concerned.
On the otherside of the coin from Marciano, there are few examples of the risks against Pacquiao, namely the careers of Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., and, most notably, Joe Frazier.
Let's start with Tyson's career:
The abilities of Mike Tyson leading up to Michael Spinks, pitted against the highlight reel of any heavyweight whoever lived, would lead nearly anyone to favor Tyson in a fight. Is this unreasonable? Is this misguided? I'm not so sure.
Suddenly, on the basis of that career, great heavyweights of history look too slow, too awkward, not nearly substantive to withstand anything as nightmarish as Tyson with a score to settle. If Ali was dropped by Frazier, isn't the young Tyson a much faster, harder-hitting version?
But then a different Tyson showed up. He was meaner, but the meanness was really just a bait-and-switch for what wasn't there anymore. This stand-in assured us the new version was even better than the old. And, even more incredibly, he was.
But only in our imagination. Not in reality.
When Douglas removed our little fantasy of the stand-in Tyson, we assumed the stand-in was always playing the lead-role in Tyson's career and we'd just been duped and never realized it.
But he wasn't. But it's hard to convince ourselves he wasn't. We have so much evidence he was at the scene of the crime!
Floyd Mayweather has always greatly admired Mike Tyson. They've spent time around each other and Tyson frequently mentions Floyd Mayweather.
One thing that caught my eye when I interviewed Tyson last year, he invariably touched on the perception of Floyd Mayweather more than any specific fight or accomplishment.
This is key to understanding Mayweather. Mayweather's been calling the shots on his career for a while now and he seems to be doing better with it than Arum was ever able to do.
Mayweather's learned enough from the career of Tyson to never allow a stand-in to play the lead-role in his career.
It's always the Floyd we expect each and every time we see him.
Against Mosley in the second round, that almost evaporated. The biggest electricity Floyd has ever created in his life was the moment he took Mosley's righthand.
This is not an accident.
Boxing's ultimate ace was nearly thrown out of the casino.
I think he's learned from it.
Are you tuning in for Roy Jones Jr.'s tune-up fight in December? Are you excited about him making another title run?
Has it been fun watching him put the cherry on top of his Hall of Fame career the last several years?
How's his reputation and legacy doing these days?
It's one of the saddest stories going considering what happened and what's happening to Jones Jr.
How much control do you think Jones Jr. personally wields on that front?
Was he just a freakish athlete with a glass chin that never had a chance to be exposed?
He's broke? That's sad. I thought he was doing everything right by avoiding the Bob Arums and Don Kings of the world. I mean, that's what he told us.
He always promised he'd never end up like all the other fighters who stayed on for far too long.
Oh well. Bernard Hopkins lied to his mother about retiring and the sky hasn't fallen on him just yet.
I don't mean to come off as snide as I am about this, but I'm genuinely disturbed by this man's story. I promised myself I'd savor this phase, that I always knew this would come because of what a jerk he was to everybody he ever dealt with. But I can't, which is even more annoying. He makes you care about him despite himself and his awful personality.
Roy Jones Jr. had more ability than Floyd ever had (and don't get me wrong, Floyd would be in my top four all time in terms of ability). I wouldn't say he had more ability by leaps and bounds. But I would say Roy Jones Jr. had gears as a boxer that no boxer in history ever had except him. I'd say Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a far more complete fighter than Roy Jones Jr, but Floyd was never capable of the things Roy could do. And, to his credit, he knew it.
And just look where it got Roy Jones Jr. I can't wait for December and I bet you can't either.
Floyd isn't nearly this dumb.
Did you know that Joe Frazier was the favorite going into his fight against George Foreman?
Does that surprise you?
Did you know that George Foreman himself confessed that his knees were shaking uncontrollably when the two stood face-to-face receiving instructions from the referee just prior to the match starting?
But Frazier was a world champion who'd racked up a record of 29-0 going into that fight. He'd just knocked Ali to the ground and handed "The Greatest" his first loss. What couldn't Frazier accomplish?
Well, for starters, on January 22, 1973, he couldn't stay on his feet for all of two minutes without George Foreman's fist dropping him.
Would you ever look at Frazier's legacy the same way? Would you ever in your life have Frazier be a favorite against Foreman or Lennox Lewis or a Klitschko? Somehow I doubt it.
And what about after the second knockdown he endured from Foreman, taking a knee and collapsing? Or the third time Foreman laid him flat on his back?
Something tells me there's a decent chance that somewhere between the fourth, fifth, and sixth knockdowns in that fight you may have formed a new opinion about how Frazier would have stacked up to other heavyweight greats.
I think that first knockdown did the trick though. He was never the same in history's eyes. Yeah, he's a great fighter and champion, tough as nails, and he has those epic fights against Ali. But had he quit just before that first Foreman fight, try to imagine where his place would be in boxing history...
Now imagine Pacquiao playing the role of Foreman to Mayweather's Frazier (I would predict against it, but it's very possible). I mean, if Mosley can reach Mayweather's chin you have to think Pacquiao has a decent shot. Then what?
Mayweather has to take this possibility a lot more seriously than you do. I don't see any dollar amount buying his way out of what it's capable of costing him. He knows it and he's smart enough not to push his chips forward. He can't afford to lose it and he's smart enough to act accordingly.