Mayweather’s next bout: Floyd Mayweather Andre Berto
Published: August 5, 2015
Mayweather’s next bout: Floyd Mayweather Andre Berto, If anyone spots my eyeballs, grab them for me. I do believe they rolled out of my skull when Floyd Mayweather announced Tuesday he was fighting Andre Berto on 12 September at the MGM Grand.
Even for boxing, a sport which, for all its inimitable thrills, still offers up cringeworthy matchups with alarming frequency, this is bad.
That it had been rumored for weeks and that Berto has reportedly been in training for more than a month doesn’t make the formal announcement any less shocking. The abyss is gazing right back.
Years ago Berto held a version of the welterweight title, but he’s 3-3 in his last six bouts, no longer a name or a threat. Two summers ago he was knocked out by a gatekeeper named Jesús Soto Karass. Berto failed that test, suffering a torn shoulder tendon in the process, and has done nothing in the 25 months since to indicate he belongs in the same sentence with a fighter of Mayweather’s caliber. The MGM Grand sports book, which installed Mayweather as a 50-1 favorite, longer odds than Buster Douglas’s 42-1 price against Mike Tyson, seems to agree.
Mayweather, even at 38, is a fistic surgeon and the finest prizefighter on the planet. He’s undefeated in 48 paying fights and has been a world champion for nearly all his adult life, capturing titles across five weight divisions. The bottom line is he’s a difficult fighter to match.
But it’s not as if there were no credible opponents available. Forget Gennady Golovkin, the heavy-handed Kazakh one division up and Mayweather’s only plausible challenger for pound-for-pound supremacy. Keith Thurman or Timothy Bradley each hold welterweight belts, and would have made for entertaining unification bouts.
An even more obvious choice would have been Amir Khan, who has twice essentially put his career on hold in pursuit of a fight with Mayweather that would do massive business on both sides of the pond, and who once again has been left at the altar. The reported concerns over Khan being weakened by his observation of Ramadan are moot: had the Bolton puncher had the nod two weeks ago that Berto seems to have had since June, he could have fit in an eight-week training camp ahead of 12 September.
In no other sport would this be tolerated, let alone a matter of routine. Imagine if when Germany defeated Brazil to advance to last year’s World Cup final, it was announced they’d decided to play Australia for the world championship at Berlin’s Olympiastadion instead of Argentina at the Maracanã. People would have rioted in the streets. Not boxing’s browbeaten but devoted fans, at least 300,000 of whom are sure to plunk down $75 for a fight no less one-sided than Death Star v Alderaan.
Yet no one’s done more to exploit boxing’s lack of centralized authority and perpetual place on the brink more to his benefit than Mayweather. Ever since he bought out his contract from Bob Arum for the princely sum of $750,000 in 2007, he’s made all the right moves to become the highest earning athlete on the planet, no less than a miracle given his risk-averse, defensive style that appeals to a subset of aficionados but not a broader public that’s always preferred slugging to boxing.
Mayweather will always be respected for his skill and longevity, even more for his formidable business acumen. In an industry that has conspired to exploit and defraud fighters for as long as anyone can remember, he’s leveraged his success to rewrite the rules for himself. The thirstiest capitalist since Daniel Plainview has been governed only by the accumulation of wealth and the preservation of the zero that represents the engine. After all the whole enterprise is based on more fans paying to watch a cocksure pantomime villain get his comeuppance than watch a slippery technician box his way to a points win.
But not even his most ardent supporters can argue he’s tested his limits in ways consistent with the greatest champions. Sugar Ray Leonard would have fought Manny Pacquiao three times by now. Who can imagine where Mayweather might have pushed himself if he’d lost the first José Luis Castillo fight back in 2001 and not felt the pressure to protect the zero in his loss ledger?
So what does it mean? Mayweather will walk away from boxing a wealthy man with faculties intact, most likely after retiring following the Berto fight, then coming back for a Pacquiao rematch that will be the second biggest pay-per-view ever and nudge him past Rocky Marciano in the record books.
But a habit of skipping over legitimate fights for walkovers like Andre Berto, while perhaps shrewd within a long-term business plan, will further water down a legacy that was already in question, at least in terms of the historical greatness he so passionately self-ascribes. If Mayweather cares at all about how he’s remembered, he’ll find that no fleet of Bugattis and Maybachs will be enough to compensate for what money can’t buy. The Big Boy Mansion will be his Xanadu.
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