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Mayweather Jr: Under the Microscope

Floyd Mayweather Jr Manny Pacquiao Miguel CottoBy Dino Marcelino: For the past decade, the most undoubtedly polarizing figure in boxing has been pound-for-pound king, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. Following his systematic destruction of Argentine brawler Marcos Maidana in their September rematch, Mayweather now sits at 47-0.

The general consensus is that Mayweather will indeed retire undefeated, joining Welshman Joe Calzaghe and the legendary Rocky Marciano as one of the few to do so. By comparison, Marciano’s career spanned eight years before he decided to retire at age 32. Mayweather will be 38 in February, and has fought a whole decade longer than Marciano. Based on longevity alone, Mayweather has earned tremendous respect, and a worldwide following that extends outside of the ring. Mayweather refers to himself as “TBE” or “The Best Ever,” although there is one thing standing in the way of some boxing fans making that statement without hesitation. That one thing is a fight with Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao.

Fresh off an impressive performance over formerly unbeaten Chris Algieri, talk of Mayweather-Pacquiao has become a hot topic once again. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether the public demand for the fight is due to their tremendous skills, or due to their disdain for the often brash Mayweather; and love for the humble Pacquiao. What many forget is that Mayweather was not too unlike Pacquiao. Long before the days of posting pictures of million dollar betting slips or videos of private twerk sessions on social media, the boxing public knew a very different Floyd Mayweather.

“Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was the squeaky-clean Olympic bronze medalist with the million-watt smile and charming demeanor. A defensive mastermind, and latest and greatest in a family of prizefighters that included his father, Floyd, Sr., and uncles Roger and Jeff. Under veteran promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank promotions, Mayweather’s image was carefully constructed and protected. He rarely said anything to stir the pot, and was generally very respectful of opponents. Towards the end of his time at Top Rank, this began to change, however. In his PPV debut, Mayweather destroyed warrior Arturo Gatti, after calling him a “C+ fighter.” Then came his bout against former welterweight champion Zab Judah. After beating Judah, and surviving the midfight entourage brawl, Floyd decided to leave Top Rank and venture out on his own.

Now on his own, Mayweather defeated Carlos Baldomir, before taking a shot at Top Rank’s former top gun, Oscar de la Hoya. After meeting, and beating, his fellow Top Rank escapee, Mayweather’s ascent to stardom was almost complete. His win in the record-shattering showdown took his fame to new heights. He dispatched unbeaten English phenom Ricky Hatton in 10 rounds, before announcing his sudden retirement. In due time, he became a crossover star; appearing on Dancing With the Stars as well as having a brief stint in WWE during his time off.

It was during his retirement that Pacquiao emerged as boxing’s new pound-for-pound king, under none other than Floyd’s old boss, Bob Arum. Ever the competitor, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if all the praise being heaped upon the PacMan was making Mayweather green with envy. On the eve of Pacquiao’s own bout with Hatton, Mayweather announced his return to boxing against none other than Pacquiao’s arch-rival, Juan Manuel Marquez. Both known as excellent counter-punchers, Mayweather forced Marquez to be the aggressor, and utilized his superior defensive smarts and speed to outwit and outpoint the Mexican slugger. Mayweather was back in a big way, and it only made sense that he would square off with Pacquiao. Following Mayweather’s win over Marquez, Pacquiao turned in perhaps the most impressive victory of his career via a 12th round TKO of Miguel Cotto. Pacquiao’s thorough domination of the Puerto Rican star put the two on a collision course.

Then came the drama. Drug testing protocols. Needle phobias. Purse splits. Promotional rivalries. Health comes first. Talk to my promoter. Any excuse from both sides you can think of, it probably was used. Again and again, talks started, and quickly fell apart. The endless finger-pointing between camps was the closest form of hand-to-hand combat between the two. It was after the first round of failed negotiations that we saw the final transformation that turned Mayweather from boxing star to superstar.

The “Pretty Boy” was put to bed, and Mayweather came up smelling like new “Money.” For those familiar with professional wrestling, it was almost like watching a heel turn unfold before your very eyes. For all the recent knocks on Mayweather’s intelligence, he’s a smarter man than people think. Although he was already a top draw in boxing, Mayweather devised a strategy to make himself an even richer man. Mayweather knew his defensive style could only be appreciated by true boxing fans. Casual boxing fans are drawn to big punchers, action-packed fights, or in this case, colorful characters. Nothing is more simple in entertainment than the age old battle of good and evil.

“Money” Mayweather is a complete caricature straight out of a WWE script. Perhaps Vince McMahon rubbed off on Mayweather just enough to get him thinking. He throws the average man’s salary onstage at a strip club in a night. He bets six to seven figures routinely on professional sports just for kicks. He posts videos of himself surrounded by beautiful women and expensive cars. Floyd Mayweather has a boatload of cash, and he makes sure you know about it, too.

People love to see villains lose. People pay to see villains lose. It just sweetens the pot that this particular villain happens to be undefeated and, apparently, unbeatable. Mayweather saw this and was smart enough to capitalize on it. For all the bets he puts down, Mayweather’s biggest bet was on himself, and 2014 saw him top Forbes Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the first time.

Boxing legend Evander Holyfield seemed to sum it up best when discussing the two fighters, pointing to their differing public personas:

“Floyd got more to risk than Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s a nice guy anyway. Either way it go, he’s Pacquiao. He’s a good guy.”

Mayweather has gotten himself all the way to the top, but ironically, he has also backed himself into a corner. He’s made the bulk of his money riding on his undefeated streak. The majority of people only know him, or of him, for being an undefeated fighter. He has painted himself as a winning machine, and a villain of epic proportions. Just like with any story, when the villain is defeated, he almost always fades into oblivion. That, more than a potential loss to Pacquiao, is likely Mayweather’s greatest fear.

It’s no surprise that the majority of boxing experts and fans think Mayweather is the favorite to win should the two ever climb into the squared circle together. Despite all the odds being in his favor, it still hasn’t happened, and the public generally blames Mayweather, deservedly or not, for the delay. Whatever the case may be, fans impatiently await for these two once-in-a-generation fighters to dare to be great, in what is sure to be a spectacle for the ages.

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