The facts, first of all. Floyd Mayweather junior was born in 1977, in Michigan. His dad, Floyd senior, was a boxer, as were his two uncles, Rodger and Jeff. Trained by Rodger and his dad, he won golden gloves championships in 1993, then 1996, and then won bronze at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. Upon entering the professional ranks, he’s won the WBC super featherweight title, the WBC lightweight title, the WBC light welterweight title, IBF welterweight title, WBC welterweight title, WBC light middleweight title, and the WBA light middleweight title. He’s won all of his 43 fights, been named The Rings fighter of the year twice, and become the most well paid sportsman on earth. He’s called pretty boy because he never gets hit. Money because he makes so much of it.
Next, the controversy. A coward who ducks his biggest rival. A man who brings his sport into disrepute, due to his embodying of the chaotic and wild away from it. A man who has recently been jailed due to domestic abuse. A man who has a huge entourage and boasts of his $100,000 NFL bets.
Now, the mastery. The greatest boxer who’s ever lived. A man who has never particularly looked troubled in a professional boxing ring. A man who came from a deprived childhood with an alleged drug addict/drug dealer for a father and mother to become a fighter who elevates his profession into an art form.
So who is the real Floyd Mayweather?
In truth he’s all these things; a contradictory man who embodies all that’s good and bad about the sport. But Mayweather is now a 35-year-old man. His grace and elegance weren’t quite so elegant against Miguel Cotto, the tough Puerto Rican blooding Mayweather’s face. He still won easily, but he was far from his imperious best. He then headed off to start his jail term, during which he attempted to secure an early release. Apparently Floyd can’t drink tap water, and he was becoming dehydrated.
Faced with this sudden realisation of his own fallibility, coupled with being away from the lackeys and the money, it’s not hard to imagine that Mayweather reflected on his place in the history of the sport.
Deep down, is Mayweather really a man motivated purely by money, and the financial rewards of the sport? A man, who is obsessed with money, and only that, wouldn’t keep himself in perfect shape, training all hours of the day and going on dusk and dawn runs. He wouldn’t be so obviously upset and hurt from perceived slights from Larry Merchant and HBO. He wants to be the best, and for others to recognise it.
As such, the next 12-18 months are key both to Mayweather’s legacy and the sport as a whole. Sergio Martinez and Timothy Bradley, fresh off a big victory, would prove stern tests and push Mayweather. Saul Alvarez, the Mexican next big thing, is keen to test himself as well, and while he may perhaps be outclasses, the idea of the young Turk attempting to upset the odds would be certain to be a major draw.
But it is surely Manny Pacquiao who Mayweather must aim for. While the Filipino’s star is on the wane within serious boxing circles, due to his loss to Bradley and his extremely dubious victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, this is the fight the casual boxing fan wants to see.
And the casual fan is what matters, or should matter, to the sport as a whole. Boxing is a sport that has lost creditability and interest in the mainstream press, and thus the general public. Meanwhile, UFC and its cage fighting brethren are rapidly encroaching in on boxing’s vacated place in the mainstream.
It’s easy to be flippant about Mayweather’s partnership with Curtis ’50 cent’ Jackson, who has branched into boxing promotion. But it was apparent that his old promoters, Golden Boy, could never work with Manny Pacquio promoter, Bob Arum, for whatever reason. Perhaps the clean slate that the rapper can bring to the negation table can finally see a fight, which would have the potential to be one of the highest grossing, and most highly viewed sporting events in our lifetimes, thus drawing the spotlight firmly back to boxing.
So who is the real Floyd Mayweather?
Perhaps giving his sport the necessary shot in the arm whilst also facing a man many consider to be capable of defeating him will secure his greatness. Contradictions and all.