For all his odious self-aggrandisement, his ostensible ducking of credible foes and history of domestic violence, there is the panacea of inconceivable fistic speed, astute ring generalship and her
For all his odious self-aggrandisement, his ostensible ducking of credible foes and history of domestic violence, there is the panacea of inconceivable fistic speed, astute ring generalship and hermetic defence which leaves the casual boxing fan mesmerised. Together these attributes codify only one man. He is referenced under the proliferate nom de guerres “Pretty Boy Floyd”, “Money” or the gaudily catchy “Money May.” But, anoint him as you pleasefor in the eyes of the mainstream consensus he is the cornerstone of the somewhat marginalised practice of 21st century Boxing.
His name is Floyd Joy Mayweather Jr.
For the last decade his sharp reflexes have installed him as the self-proclaimed “cash cow” of the pugilistic preserve, with triumphs over other giants of the landscape such as Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto amongst others, underscoring his superiority. But there is a complication on the horizon, incessantly tracking him is an adversary that no man can conquer.
The Pretty Boy is no longer a boy, but rather a man encroaching upon the weathered landmark of 36. With the legs stiffening and the agility deteriorating it is often at this latter thirties juncture that the elusiveness that fuels many fighters’ success begins to ebb as newfound vulnerability sets in. Could it be that the predatory Father Time has his crosshairs locked onto the seemingly untouchable Mayweather?
If Floyd harbours any apprehensions about the longevity of his reign at the top of the sport, it is in no way marked. In recent months, Floyd has committed to and endorsed a staggering $200 million (£131.1 million) contract with American TV broadcaster Showtime, as he deserts his traditional outlet of HBO which has served him faithfully throughout his distinguished career. As ever, the acuteness of Floyd’s ring smarts is only equalled by the ruthlessness of his business acumen.
But it is not the lucrative nature of the contract that has fight freaks salivating. Rather, it is the tantalising promises that underpin this unfamiliar alliance. Six fights in thirty months is the gemstone of this new deal, tethering Mayweather to a period of activity not undertaken since he was an emergent upstart of the ring in his mid-twenties. The competitive possibilities are enough to blitz one’s imagination, as an aging and deteriorating Floyd endeavours to consecrate his standing in the sport against youthful bucks Saul Alvarez and Timothy Bradley, and perhaps (just perhaps) his perennial pound-for-pound nemesis Manny Pacquiao.
Rather than settle for a peaceful expiration of his career, Mayweather has plumped for a fiery and bellicose final act of a memorable narrative. For this he should be commended, but has he bitten off more than an old-timer can chew?
As in any discipline, the past proves instructive when contemplating the future. On reflection, if there is one man that Mayweather’s current station in boxing mirrors, it is the position of the iconic Roy Jones Jr. circa 2004.
For those of you who are not familiar with Roy, he was the consummate showman of nineties boxing, a touch more cavalier in the ring than Floyd, but nonetheless reliant on lightening reactions and blurring hand speed to render his greatness. Tantamount to Floyd he was unbeaten (barring a maligned disqualification loss) which evoked an air of impregnability, and tantamount to Floyd he oozed egotism. Unlike Floyd he even had the sufficient audacity to release two hip-hop tracks in which he crowed over his pugilistic accomplishments.
It is worth noting that the music video for his song “Y’all must a forgot” featured Roy accompanied by a throng of gratuitous bikini-clad femmes and an opulent speedboat that bespoke his sheer narcissism at the time.
To quote some Mayweather parlance, the fella was “so dam’ flashy.”
The parallels are eerily apparent in their bloated self-regard but also in their masochistic work ethics and abundant natural talent. Fascinatingly, Jones Jr was also dogged by the same barbs as Mayweather with many discrediting his selective and circumspect choice of opponent throughout his career. However, the question remaining is will their respective demises correspond?
It was the spring of 2004. Jones’ eminence in the sport was at its zenith after ascending the weight categories from Middleweight to Heavyweight to hoist aloft the most coveted prize in the game. In outclassing Latin-American John Ruiz to assume the mantle of heavyweight champion of the world Roy had exhibited a fighting prowess that transcended size; he became the first mortal middleweight to achieve this feat in 106 years.
In watching him, you would become party to a transfixed audience who were adamant that this throughbred from Pensacola, Florida, was too slick to be hit, and too masterly to be tested. He had an over-ripe Mike Tyson and destitute Evander Holyfield baying to fight him; it would have been the icing on the cake of a most delectable career. But he dismissed those contests and elected to author his final heroic sorties in his natural habitat at Light-Heavyweight.
In stripping his body of that heavyweight bulk, his once sinuous movements seemed sluggish and anaemic as he narrowly defeated Antonio Tarver in defence of the light-heavyweight championship. Popular consensus decreed that it was an off night; a more settled Jones at his weight would no doubt pulverise Tarver given a second chance. Why would this not occur? Roy was Superman, titanic and imperturbable; he had been this way for the last decade.
In the second round of the rematch, Roy Jones Jr was hit with a counter hook that he could no longer evade; he fell flat before rising groggily and stumbling meekly into the ropes. The collective jaw of the boxing fraternity fell agape, and the impregnable Jones they had come to revere was dead, denigrated by the sobering images of his bleary eyes and fitful legs as he succumbed to Tarver.
Jones was 35 at the time of his humbling; since then he has been defeated a further six times against mediocre opposition and knocked insensible on three of those occasions. He continues to fight in satellite circus shows in Eastern-Europe at the age of 44. Needless to say his legacy did not receive the gilded denouement it warranted.
Will the same befall Mayweather? The mere supposition of it seems as preposterous as it did in Jones’ era. Cotto managed to connect more frequently with Floyd in his last outing but it will be a glib man that declares this empirical evidence of decline. I’m an imaginative person, but I am not sure I possess the capacity to envisage the all-swaggering, proud technician that Floyd is, in a heap on the canvas. It would be the most visceral and unthinkable of scenes after years spent inflicting that same fate on his adversaries.
But Floyd is his own man: his defence is more impenetrable, his style more conservative and his ring command more strategic. All that the paradigms of the past can relay is that seldom do fighters leave the ring at the summit of their lustre. Mayweather’s new contract sets out to burnish a boxing resume fit to enter the sport’s lore for ever after. He aims to disprove the cliché of the aged boxer who got greedy in his pursuit of fortune. Whatever the outcome of this home stretch, boxing fandom can be assured that the next thirty months will be seminal in forging our enduring images of Mayweather the boxer.
He must heed the cruel lessons of the past.
On May 4th Floyd will face-off against the game but limited Robert Guerrero in the first of his six farewell fights. He is expected to win comfortably. But look carefully and look closely for there is more to see, gradually robbing his stamina, sabotaging his movements and deadening his reflexes will be a more intangible competitor.
Father Time will be stalking Floyd just as he did Roy.