By Carlos Garcia Severich: Is boxing a deer in headlights, are we at the dawn of a new era or at the twilight of its existence. The sport we all have learned to love and accept regardless of the mistreatment of its most devoted fans has seen the star of Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. cruise into retirement with his unblemished record of 49-0.
It is said a sport is as reflection of its fans and superstars but where does it leave us on the post Mayweather era. Looking back in Boxing’s rich history many names come to our heads Ali, Liston, Louis, Robinson, Johnson, Dempsey among others but what they all have in common is the legacy they left behind.
During ancient times the greatest of them all had one goal in common, to achieve immortality and it is said such feat is fulfilled when your name resonates throughout time and survives the biggest foe of them all, to be forgotten. A man is given a name and is up to him to make something out of it. In the case of Floyd, he never shied away from controversy, his ultimate goal was not to be great but to be the best but when it comes to the fans is he overlooked, under appreciated or the product of an enfeebled state of the sport?
Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan a young Floyd was born to a fighting family where boxing was not just a tradition but rather was part of his DNA. Coming from a broken family, drugs and violence were a common denominator in his upbringing. Floyd Jr had to learn at an early age to fight not only on the ring but fight the temptation of the streets and at time just staying alive. Boxing was an outlet and the squared circle gave him a chance to bond with his father and learn the family craft which one day will take him to the top. Hustling was part of his family’s way of surviving and the lessons learned outside of the ring shaped him to become one of the most prominent, disciplined talents this country has seen. All of his early hardships from having both his parents not being around left him in a vulnerable position but boxing and his determination gave him a chance to make something out of himself. Floyd went onto wining the Golden Gloves competition on several occasions shattering records and wining Olympic bronze during his days as an amateur.
Known as Pretty Boy for his defensive prowess, Floyd became a professional prizefighter and he took the world by storm. Sharp punches, exquisite foot work, feline like reflexes mixed with his bravado and even sharper comments to add to his repertoire he quickly became a polarizing figure in the sport of boxing. His crowning moment came on the name of Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez whom at the time had only one loss on his record and was the lineal super featherweight champion the man who beat the man of the division. Pretty Boy had a name on his list and he dispatched of Genaro with ease making him the man to beat. His first title win was followed by several crowning moments in the names of Castillo, Gatti, Judah, Baldomir but his coming of age moment came with one of his most important victories of his career against Oscar “Golden Boy” De la Hoya.
Now fighting out of Las Vegas, “Pretty Boy” became Floyd “Money” Mayweather. He went from the promising talent to a multi divisional champion and most importantly the biggest star of the sport. He was known for his antics and greater than life ego, people would tune in to his fights just to see him lose but he never gave them the satisfaction. His fame kept getting bigger but to his delight his bank account was getting larger shattering PPV records and keeping an undefeated record. Soon he became America’s bad boy loved by many and hated by some more. A brief retirement stint saw him come back to dispatch of several champions and build his claim as the best of his time. He kept on winning inside the ring, known for being a cerebral tactician never taking chances and calculating every move inside the squared circle. Outside of the ring his personal life was getting out of control, several allegations of domestic abuse damaged his already poor public perception and on a series of unfaithful events led to his eventual conviction. The celebrated yet controversial champion was facing his biggest bout but the outcome was out his control. Sentenced to serve time the calculative former champion saw his accolades didn’t make him any different from any other offenders.
Away from his family and in solitary confinement, the flamboyant Floyd saw his life change and when it was time to come out the brash, sometimes tasteless Floyd came out a different man. Floyd needed to make amends and surely he did, he reunited and reconciled with his father and together plotted to take back the boxing crown. A more mature, seasoned individual the public witnessed a major transformation on his demeanor. This new iteration of Floyd had a different approach from promoting his fights to the way he treated other fighters. The new Floyd had his business hat on and understood how to play the game and just like when he is against the ropes he was always in control. A new six fights contract and a record number guaranteed purse for his upcoming bouts marked the perfect frame to paint his final work of art and seal his legacy.
By the time, there was still one scalp missing from his trophy case the all action eight division champion Manny Pacquiao. Like Jake LaMotta once wondered how he didn’t get diabetes after fighting Sugar Ray so many times, Floyd was still missing the sugar to his tea. It takes two to tango and all the greats had their dance partners to name a few Hagler vs Hearns, Duran vs Leonard Ali vs Frazier among others. Dubbed “the Fight of the Century” after many failed attempts and against all odds Manny and Floyd finally agreed to meet in the ring and fight not only for welterweight supremacy but also for the bragging rights to be called the best fighter of our time. The promotional machine behind this fight reached heights never seen before, the guarantee purse and projected revenue of this magical night had nothing to envy any sporting events in the past, present and even the future.
There was something on the air, it was not just another Mayweather fight or a Cinco de Mayo celebration it was the night the world came to a hold and expected the new St Valentine’s Day Massacre, The Thrilla in Manilla or the Fight Heard around the World. Expectations were high but when expectations meet reality the world witnessed a boxing clinic where Floyd schooled and made and action fighter like Pacquiao look just ordinary. If Mayweather is involved there will always be controversy and the when the dust finally settled we saw an alleged shoulder injury from the Pacquiao camp and many weeks later an even more bizarre turn of events Floyd was involved in the use of an unauthorized IV before the fight.
Floyd Mayweather Jr’s career came to an end this past weekend and in yet another formidable display of ring generalship where his opponent was left in despair like a deer in headlights. The health of the sport is not in question but one more time the fans paid for an event and where left with yet another exhibition. Floyd’s claim to be the best ever could have been just a promotional tool or maybe he truly believes it. If you are in the sport of inflicting pain and you don’t believe in your abilities, then you are on the wrong sport and might want to do something else. We can’t blame Floyd for being vocal about his believes of being the best and not only he talked the talked but he walked the walk. Many years from now maybe the public perception of his legacy will change and we will warm up to the idea of him being one of the best to ever do it. He fought everyone available at his time, the opposition was never game and he stood up and faced challengers, new comers and established champions. By far not the most action packed fighter but he was laser like accurate and it was a pleasure to witness his mastery of the art of boxing and his marketing genius transformed him from a troubled youth in the streets of Grand Rapid to a how to go from rag to riches and become one of the most celebrated figures in sports. His will is testament dreams do come through, talent is nothing without hard work and dedication. I can only remember him for his feats inside the ring as the creator will judge him for his wrongdoings and mistakes on his personal life. Boxing is in the midst of its best year in decades and the vacuum power left by Floyd’s departure will open the door to new talents and a new fight for boxing super stardom will begin.