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Floyd Mayweather: Loathing Without Fear in Las Vegas

I woke to watch this morning’s Mayweather v Maidana title bout with the intention of producing a bog standard write-up of the action.  I left social media alone during the fight before scrolling through reams of tweets immediately after.  The vast majority of people I follow are boxing writers, analysts or commentators of varying merit and reputation who, once all of their great minds are combined, generally provide a relatively balanced view of a fight.  Not so with Floyd “Money” Mayweather.

Almost to a tweet, it is possible to determine who is for and who is against from the first 140 characters or less.  The love or hate can manifest itself in a between-the-lines intonation or an in-your-face bias, but personal feelings of the man appear almost impossible to hide.  And for those in any doubt, the lovers are few and far between.

Immediate reaction to the alleged bite in the eighth round is a prime example.  It was ignored, brushed over or met with extreme mirth by the majority.  Some postulated that, through a padded glove, you’d barely feel a bite from teeth encapsulated within a gum-shield.  They could be right, but on the other hand, Tyson managed to remove a portion of Holyfield’s flesh, albeit ungloved, in similar circumstances in the same ring 17 years ago. 

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At time of writing, I’ve seen no 100% conclusive footage of the incident.  But the circumstance and reactions from both is enough for probable cause.  Did Maidana bite him?  Almost certainly.  Did it have any material effect on the fight?  Almost certainly not.  

That being said, even light nibbles in the ring should surely be frowned upon and had other fighters been the perpetrator and victim, the same boxing heads laughing off the incident would be spleen-venting for days to come.  Herein lies the problem with seeking a considered and dispassionate analysis of Floyd’s actions between the ropes.

There are various sources of the antipathy towards Mayweather.  Sadly, and despite what the more self-righteous members of the boxing fraternity will proclaim, a conviction for domestic abuse tends not to be the main driver behind the loathing in Las Vegas every May and September.  Neither is it a naturally defensive style in the ring nor a perceived leading role in denying fans the one fight they have all wanted this century.  Instead it is the persona he, and various television networks, have cultivated for the self-styled TBE.

Within a couple of minutes of any given episode of All Access or 24/7, Floyd makes the top three in the average human’s, Guys I Could Never Be Friends With list.  It is a veritable 25 minute extravaganza of arrogance, misogyny and tasteless profligacy.  Think, the Wolf of Wall Street meets a professional wrestler in character in the middle of a Lil Wayne song.

The fact that it is a reality TV show, surely the most misleadingly-named genre in television, cuts no ice with the majority.  But while a kernel of truth normally lies at the heart of hyperbole, it is hard to believe that Mayweather genuinely lives each day of his life in such non-stop caricature self-indulgence and offensive bombast.

By the same token, not everyone he faces can possibly be the quiet, humble, respectful father/husband/son of the year nominee we are urged to buy into.  Marcos Maidana’s torso is peppered with jailhouse tatts for example.  Does that mean he is actually not the decent guy he comes across as?  Of course not.  But did he end up in the slammer due to a heart of gold and extensive volunteer work in the community?  Equally unlikely.  There is much more grey than black and white in the sweet science.

Of course, boxing needs these televised manufactured dichotomies.  Without the ingrained tribal allegiances inherent in team sports, it struggles to maintain relevance and sell itself otherwise.  Regardless of how outstanding the two athletes in question are, if they are just a couple of regular Joes with a healthy respect for each other, PPV numbers and ticket sales suffer. 

Polemic rivalries and controversy are a must and while Muhammad Ali managed to generate it single-handily back when tweeting was just for birds, today’s largely characterless generation need all the help the media can give them.  That is the true reality that underpins the 21st century fly on the wall documentaries that are now the staple of big fight promotions.  It is a reality that has made Floyd Mayweather a very rich and very unpopular man.

Alleged carnivorous interlude aside, there was little of note in this particular stage of Mayweather’s 18 year unbeaten odyssey in the ring.  Nobody was predicting anything other than a comfortable points victory for the American and that is exactly what transpired.  Only El Chino’s more ardent fans, and the three ringside judges, will argue he deserved more than a couple of rounds.

The Argentine brawler was strangely restrained throughout.  His team will undoubtedly apportion much of the blame for that on an over officious Kenny Bayless (who incidentally refereed Mayweather’s debut back when Ike Quartey was the WBA welterweight champ), and it is true that the referee was far too quick to call break from the outset. 

But a relatively conservative Maidana appeared to be following a pre-determined plan to pick his punches in a more controlled form of the wild, heavy-handed aggression he is famous for.  If the Garcia family really came up with that tactic for a fighter like Marcos against a fighter like Floyd, I would consider revoking Robert Garcia’s 2011 trainer of the year award.

The result of the strategy was Maidana landing almost 100 punches less than the first fight.  On the basis that his sole chance of victory relied on landing one big one, buying less tickets for the raffle was never going to help his cause.  A big right wobbled Floyd at the end of the 3rd but the champ was never in mortal danger and countered to great effect all night long. 

With one KO in seven years, and that the highly controversial ending to the 2011 Victor Ortiz bout, Mayweather appears to have given up on early nights and never looked likely to buck the trend tonight. For that reason he has never been a feared champion in the mould of Tyson or, more recently, Gennady Golovkin.  

Ws and $ are the only goals now and that was number 47 and at least 33 million respectively.  Where the next W and $ will come from is anyone’s guess.  But as sure as night follows day, both will come. Universal respect and appreciation from the boxing world at large? Now that’s a different story altogether…

@BallsOfWrath

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