We like our boxers punch drunk, impoverished, and ugly. That’s why we hate Floyd Mayweather.
He left boxing on his terms instead of ours.
Unlike, say, Joe Louis, hounded by the IRS into taking an ill-advised fight with Rocky Marciano (and later to abase himself by competing on game shows, acting on professional wrestling, and greeting gamblers at Caesar’s Palace), which ensured that the last image of the Brown Bomber in boxing gloves showed him through the ropes and looking up at the lights; or a strangely mustachioed Mike Tyson, who, after quitting on the stool against a big, plodding Irishman of the likes he dispatched with alacrity 15 years earlier, exited Washington, DC’s MCI Center to fans pelting him with debris; or Muhammad Ali, or at least a shell of Muhammad Ali, who played punching bag to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas because no self-respecting commission sanctioned the 1981 fight in the states.
Floyd Mayweather’s retirement Saturday night elicited more cheers than his fight, a boring, one-sided affair that opponent Andre Berto likened to a track meet. In other words, it played out pretty much like Pretty Boy Floyd’s fights always do. We paid for them. Floyd surely didn’t.
The Guardian complained before the fight that “Berto isn’t remotely close to being in Mayweather’s league” (Who is?). Business Insider said the match “left a bad taste in the mouth of the boxing world” (Who cares?). Even Oscar De La Hoya tweeted, “I’m sure glad I decided for Disney movies with my kids tonight” (Who won?).
It would be different if Mayweather exited the sport on a stretcher, speaking with a slur or stutter, looking like a ghoulish plastic surgeon got to him, or wondering why his promoter lives in a mansion and he still lives in the projects. Fans would praise him as a warrior or tell stories of his courage. Instead, people will complain that the man who beat Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Genaro Hernandez, Angel Manfredy, Juan Manuel Marquez, Jose Luis Castillo, and Zab Judah ducked and dodged great fighters. He just ducked and dodged punches, which frustrates foes and fans but surely does not relegate him to coward status.
Fans prefer great fights (Gatti-Ward, Corrales-Castillo, Vazquez-Marquez) to great fighters. The big battles, unfortunately, all too often leave the combatants less than themselves (Super featherweight Davey Browne Jr. lost his life the night before Mayweather won his fight). Floyd Mayweather remains, for better and worse, Floyd Mayweather. He’s arrogant, treats women inhumanely, and exhibits a vicious materialism. Alas, the Marquess of Queensberry gave these guys rules, not manners.
Floyd’s a boxer, and as any viewing of Raging Bull teaches, occasionally the people who subject themselves to brutality subject those around them to indignities. To feign enlightenment by condemning Mayweather as a boxer because of his activities outside the ropes means to show ignorance of the travails of Carlos Monzon, Sonny Liston, Dwight Muhammed Qawi, and so many other elite fighters. If you want gentlemen, try croquet.
Like many great fighters, Floyd Mayweather left behind a legacy in the ring. Unlike every great fighter, Floyd Mayweather takes hundreds of millions of dollars, his faculties, and his looks with him.
Cheer that no boxer defeated him. Cheer louder that boxing did not defeat him.