Boxing: Mayweather, the showmen who leaves them wanting more

Presently, there is no hotter commodity in boxing than Floyd Mayweather. Fresh off a crushing victory over Shane Mosley I can no longer summon an obstacle which bears scrutiny to the now overwhelming argument that Floyd Mayweather deserves to take a place among the sport’s all time greats. Mayweather’s name can sit snugly among the Ali, Armstrong and Leonard’s as one of the finest prizefighters ever seen. In fact, the only thing which could be more commercially desirable than the Pretty Boy right now…is a retired Pretty Boy.

So the widespread rejection of Mayweather’s suggestion he may disappear from the stage on which he performs so beautifully for perhaps another two years is short-sighted. Borne out of a fear that the dazzling multi-weight champion may yet desert the sport he has illuminated and specifically jilt Manny Pacquaio his would be nemesis. But lest we forget, the millions of dollars he could earn from this fight, and there can be little doubt the fight would surpass box-office records, will not necessarily ensure Mayweather’s participation. On the ‘crime’ of walking away from box-office smashes; Mayweather has previous.

Fans needn’t go back far to remember the supposed inevitability of his rematch with the Golden Boy himself, Oscar DeLaHoya, which promised to secure Mayweather another enormous purse for tackling an opponent he’d already overcome and one who would be older and further removed from his prime on fight night. Back then fans assumed the retirement talk would prove to be just that, talk. The theory being the amount of money at stake who prove to enticing for the self-proclaimed Money Mayweather. His ‘love of the green would keep him keen’, as it were.

It didn’t. Mayweather demonstrated a rationality few believed him capable of. They mistook his showmanship and ostentation for greed. His protestations of greatness as the ramblings of a deluded and shallow intellect. Mayweather has greater depths than those observers realise. Brittle hands and nagging injuries encouraged him to rest. True, the sabbatical carried risk. A fighter who relies on reflex and speed as the foundation of his style risks much by deserting his craft after his 30th birthday but Mayweather is no ordinary talent or athlete. He understood his body, having spent two decades tuning it, honing its every movement, its muscle memory, training, disciplining and polishing every sinew and reflex to maximum effect. He knew to continue would be to risk far more than a big payday. The significance of his perfect record too precious to throw away by fighting with broken tools, the Mayweather aura – so key to his effectiveness within the ring – couldn’t be compromised.

He returned renewed and though admittedly lacking class in reneging on the contracted weight for the Juan Manuel Marquez clash, he reasserted his authority as the leading man in the Hollywood end of the boxing business and further underlined it by defeating veteran Sugar Shane Mosley, himself a multi-weight champion. Now  on the cusp of the richest and most seminal fight of this new century he is suggesting he may once more step back from the footlights. This isn’t to dismiss the notion it is merely another strategic utterance designed to increase the clamour for the fight or make the Filipino more malleable in the contractual negotiations – because heaven help us we haven’t got to glove weight, ring size, venue or officials yet never mind the blood test charade – but those who disregard the very real potential of Mayweather taking a second career sabbatical lack the clarity of vision Mayweather has already demonstrated.

And they have short memories too.

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