When Floyd Mayweather steps into the ring on September 12th to face Andre Berto it will end a storied career that started a month shy of 19 years ago.
Like his uncle and former head trainer, Roger Mayweather, his career started and will end in Las Vegas. More importantly, it will be for the right reasons.
If you listen to the silence underneath the fervor for Floyd’s head on a platter by those who feel he cherry picks opponents and over-hypes his accomplishments, then you really know what’s going on.
You see, under that fervor and within that silence lies Roger Mayweather and the difficult truth that boxing does not love back those who adore it to its core: the athletes.
The former popular truism in pugilism was that a real boxer stays center ring, slugging it out until one man falls to the canvas. It is this new generation that the youngest Mayweather has raised who now believe that fighting smart is just as akin to fighting risky image wise and the payouts plus usable brain retention are a lot more profitable.
However, stalwart boxers like Roger Mayweather did not fight or become promotable through that way of thinking and he, along with countless others, delivered and received real physical punishment for that decision.
Floyd Mayweather cites this as his primary reason for retiring from the sport of boxing, while his health is in tact and his bank account is overflowing. Never before in his fighting family (Mayweather senior, along with his other uncle Jeff Mayweather, who was the IBO World Super Featherweight Champion) have riches rained from heaven like it has for “Money.”
Neither have the lack of losses or the self-promoted notoriety, but that was a gift gleaned from observing the elder men go through all the pitfalls boxing has clichéd.
Recently, Mayweather told our friends at Fighthype.com that his decision to end his career early had to do with watching his uncle’s mental health deteriorate over time. It is an intimate conversation within one of Mayweather’s vehicles where he spills on how his uncle now forgets who he is and even phantom walked 20 miles home from the gym on the day he fought Pacquiao.
Mayweather sounds more fearful of suffering memory loss like his uncle than losing to Andre Berto. It harkens back to his clamoring for respect to his health back when people were itching to see a Pacquiao matchup. Olympic testing requirements he wanted aside, his real concern was for his ability to suffer severe damage from a supposed juiced fighter.
After the outcome of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, all that was proven was that Mayweather is still a technical genius and Pacquiao tried his best to conceal an injury.
In football the ire of the public has been sparked regarding the issue of traumatic brain injury (TBI) also known as intracranial injury. The suicide of Junior Seau and the deaths or immobilization of countless others have been attributed to severe head trauma from football’s caustic athleticism.
Although high profile cases like Muhammad Ali, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease (although never directly connected to boxing), are known, its rare to see a movement rallied around boxing head trauma reform because it is by definition the head trauma business.
But if boxing wants to see high profile fights they have to expect that this generation’s fighter will perform for only a fraction of time of what yesteryear’s fighters did because these athletes see how it benefited Floyd Mayweather.
He has popularized the want now to be a Super champion that picks his own opponents, generates the highest purses and viewership and walks away physically unscathed. If the fans boo so what; the purists will applaud your consistent technical and athletic ability. And sometimes they'll tune-in to see that fighter lose, a "heel" tactic effectively used by the smartest including Floyd, but originated by the WWE.
There is a new brand of fighter that in part has been shaped by Mayweather’s decision to call it quits at the 49th mark.
September 28th, 1992 was Roger Mayweather’s 49th fight at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. His opponent was Fidel Avendano, a fierce Mexican fighter that never won a title. Roger Mayweather lost in a unanimous decision and was also knocked down in the 5th round.
Roger Mayweather retired a respectable 59-13, won titles and is now battling illness. How long do we continue to lambast the younger Mayweather for wanting to avoid the same path because of his flashy message delivery and when do we start shedding light on the fact that the great athletes are in pain and no one cares when the squared circle’s lights are off?
Maybe it's time to truly respect Floyd for his brilliance as a fighter that clearly understands the fight game.