I can read your mind. Ready? O.K., clear your thoughts. Oh yes, oh yes, I’m getting something… you hate Floyd Mayweather.
I’ll be honest, I can’t actually read your mind, but I’m feeling pretty good about my guess. To know Floyd Mayweather is to hate Floyd Mayweather. He’s egotistical, dismissive, materialistic, a wannabe gangster, a loudmouth punk who talks smack that he has no intention of backing up, a man who was convicted of beating the mother of his children over an iPhone and then asked to be allowed to serve his sentence from home because he didn’t like the food and workout options in jail. He’s like Lindsay Lohan, but only frustratingly successful.
And here’s the worst part: there’s no one happier that you hate Floyd Mayweather than Floyd Mayweather himself. It’s the only reason you and more than a million others will plunk down your hard-earned cash tonight to watch him fight a guy you’ve never heard of from a town more famous for its garlic than its boxers. Stylistically, Floyd is, well, dull. He’s a defense-first fighter; a guy who never takes the risk required to go for a knockout even when it’s right in front of him. Not only that: he religiously avoids fighters who have any chance to beat him. We all remember what happened to the desperately anticipated showdown between him and Manny Pacquiao, a fight that would have been the biggest in boxing history. Instead, he chooses to fight guys who are as carefully selected as the enthusiastic reviewers in an infomercial. It’s a remarkable story when you think about it: how an undersized boxer whose uneventful matches with hopelessly overmatched opponents somehow became the biggest thing in sports entertainment. It’s as if a documentary on how cheeses are made consistently beat the latest 3D action thriller at the box office.
And, yet, you tune in. You hope against hope that one of those handpicked opponents making a fraction of Floyd's record-setting payday will, somehow, land a crushing blow to his well-concealed jaw. You hope that you will get to watch his knees buckle, his legs stumble, his arms flail about, as he tumbles into the ropes and falls, glassy-eyed, to the floor. You hope that you will watch the referee count to 10 as Floyd bobbles during a failed effort to stand, fall into the ref’s waiting arms, and begin streaming tears as the reality of what happens slowly sinks into his scrambled brain. You hope that you will see his beloved perfect record suffer its first blemish. You do this because you hate Floyd Mayweather. We all do. But it never happens.
There’s no question that Floyd Mayweather has never been as vulnerable as he is tonight. He has been in a period of sustained decline for years punctuated by last year’s trip to the pokey, a stopover that has never been kind to fighters. He seems increasingly focused on his career as a promoter of other fighters. He finds himself increasingly embroiled in twitter slap fights with former friends like 50 Cent. And he just signed the largest contract in sports history with Showtime. He is old, slowing down, coming off a long break in activity, and he has little left to fight for. Surely, he is primed for an upset.
Yes, he is, but his carefully chosen foe tonight, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, is unlikely to be able to exploit those weaknesses. Guerrero is a much smaller man and he brings a questionable heart to the ring with him (he once pleaded to have a fight stopped against a little known opponent after an accidental clash of heads). Guerrero “earned” this fight by squeaking past a guy named Andre Berto – a man whose physique looks as if it was designed by Vince McMahon and who fights with a corresponding level of authenticity. Guerrero likes to fight at a distance, which is the worst possible style against a shell defense like Mayweather’s. Contrary to Mayweather’s favorite saying, there is a blueprint to beat Floyd Mayweather. It was nearly executed by Jose Luis Castillo a decade ago, and it involves getting in close and bullying Mayweather, smothering him with punches, making him pay for every mistake. Guerrero has never shown the ability to do anything like that.
Could Guerrero win? Absolutely. For all the reasons I listed above, Floyd is as vulnerable as he’s ever been, and Guerrero does have a decent punch. But Floyd knows all this better than anyone else, and he picked Guerrero over a number of more dangerous opponents for exactly that reason. If Guerrero does pull the upset tonight, it says very little about Guerrero’s ability and an awful lot about Floyd’s decline. The chance of Guerrero becoming a great champion is effectively non-existent.
To repeat: tonight is a non-event. A fading champion with a dull style against a carefully chosen opponent with severely limited upside. For the privilege of watching this, you will need to plunk down a pay per view record $69.99. And you will, because that’s how much you hate Floyd Mayweather.