(Main photo credit: Esther Lin, Showtime)
You hear that sound? It’s deafening isn’t it?
Silence so golden it can almost be cut with a cynical knife, except the extreme irony of this is that one would expect this to be the moment where the clamor ranks at its highest and the fervor uncontrollably loud.
This Saturday the boxing world as we once knew it will shift once again as the pound for pound king, and undisputed welterweight champion, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, steps into the ring for what he says is the last time.
For the sake or this story, let’s speak about life as if he is out the sports picture as an athlete.
The world was a different place with a Floyd Mayweather fight on the horizon. Haters and general boxing fans waited anxiously to start the banter about how he ducks opponents, focuses on a flashy lifestyle to sell fights and is extremely arrogant. It is no different than the folklore of the Mike Tyson era where he housed lions and pigeons equally on his estate and partied in mansions from Connecticut to Las Vegas.
Floyd fans celebrated the excuse to book a trip to Las Vegas every May and September and the cottage industries that ballooned for Mayweather fight week party and travel packages soared. Indeed, Floyd Mayweather’s name actually translated into “Money” for many outside of the true TMT/Mayweather Promotions circle. A Mayweather fight basically evolved into a self-contained economy sprouting from Las Vegas and blossoming across the country.
However, as we approach this last and final hurrah for the world’s most elusive and dedicated current pugilist we must ask ourselves- why are we not AS interested as we once were?
The hype train began to die down during and after his fight with Manny Pacquiao. People complied with the exorbitant amounts of money demanded to watch the fight in person or via pay-per-view. The fight the world thought would never happen was actually being made and people who weren’t even boxing fans showed up or tuned in just to be apart of the social media water cooler fodder that would occur before, during and after the bout.
(Photo credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)
However you saw the fight, the fact remains that Mayweather won as he always wins: with strategy, defense and accuracy. Was it flashy? No, but Floyd is only flashy to your senses if you know boxing and as Roger Mayweather famously said about the majority of the boxing spectators, “you don’t know sh*t about boxing.”
So the pop culture protesting began and the disappointment set in for those who are fans of bruisers, not combat sports strategists and technicians. Those who are fans of Mayweather as a boxer, and not as an epicurean, knew what they would witness that night and went to bed comfortable in what they always have known about Mayweather; he's consistent and he wins through a long-used and successful formula.
Perhaps that fateful day when Floyd Mayweather purchased his freedom from Bob Arum and Top Rank for $750,000 in 2006, after his fight against Zab Judah, he understood something we all didn’t. I think he knew his fights would be deemed boring on a pop culture scale and to attain iconic status he would have to compensate for it in another area while developing a new persona and brand.
I’m sure living in Las Vegas precludes one from assuming anything about your life is boring and Mayweather realized that, proving this over and over on the grandest scale. He would eschew major angst away from his brand and focus people's attention on his bling. Thus, "Money" was born.
Christopher Walken played Leonardo Di Caprio’s depressed and financially broken father in the movie "Catch Me If You Can" and his character stated, "the reason the Yankees win is because people are too busy looking at the pinstripes.” If this estimation is true then we’ve just witnessed the greatest show on earth; step aside Barnum & Bailey, there's a new sheriff in town.
But are the same fans who were enamored enough to elevate Mayweather to his desired iconic status not as captivated when he meets Andre Berto this Saturday for his final ring appearance? One cannot put the onus on Berto because his career spells gamer. He shows up ready, and aside from the Soto Karass fight, has never ever been KO’d.
I believe that the world is now finished with the Mayweather circus and so he is living within it. With domestic violence allegations and convictions along with the deteriorating health of his former chief trainer and uncle, Roger Mayweather, the youngest of a boxing dynasty might be just as ready to stop entertaining as we seem to be tired of watching. Need proof? According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, some 2,100 tickets to his fight Saturday are still available. Can't remember that happening since Floyd dropped the "Pretty Boy" moniker and switched to "Money."
More than likely Mayweather will take a victory lap on Saturday as his victory is assumed by most to be guaranteed barring a magic trick from Berto. However, the marriage between Mayweather and his fans has quelled and we will need to wait for the PPV numbers and gate receipts to see how much so. Another tell tale sign will be the post fight interview in the ring and press conference. Will he be respected as an undefeated champion, celebrated as one of the greatest boxers of all time or jeered as "The Running Man," the title bestowed upon him post-Pacquiao?
Regardless of the outcome, one thing is for certain. We will all miss “Money." He changed the game of boxing both as a sport and a business, and the vacuum now created with his pending absence will exist as boxing decides who will step up and fans determine who will be the next star we'll all be following.
(Photo credit: Idris Erba, Mayweather Promotions)