By Ivan G. Goldman
The debate’s begun about whether Keith Thurman, in light of his somewhat close call against Luis Collazo Saturday in Tampa, is worthy of a shot at Floyd Mayweather. Of course he is. More on Thurman later.
But as I watch this debate rage it strikes me how weary I am of the quarrels, controversies, and speculation that precede every Mayweather contest. What almost always follows all the hoopla is a dull fight that we paid too much to see.
Meanwhile, other worthy fighters who actually care about thrilling the fans get no Sports Illustrated magazine covers, no late-night talk show invitations, no Internet content that goes viral.
Floyd, 48-0, 26 KOs, says his next fight – which is likely to be in September — will be his last. Maybe. Fighters’ retirement announcements are famously wrong. I sat only a few feet from Mayweather when he announced his retirement in 2006, and I think he really meant it at the time.
This was during the press conference following his victory over heavy-hitting, lumbering Carlos Baldomir. He couldn’t touch Floyd, who worked around him as though he were smacking occasionally at the flanks of a clumsy bull. Every uneventful round looked the same.
Some fans booed, others left early. I doubt anyone was thrilled. Afterward Floyd and Larry Merchant exchanged angry words on camera when Larry had the temerity to note the fans’ reactions.
Nine years later, opponents change, but we’re still seeing the same fight.
Mayweather deserves credit as a defensive master, but frankly, I don’t care all that much who the next challenger will be. Here are six fighters I find more fun to watch:
Junior welter Terence Crawford, flyweight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, middleweight Gennady Golovkin, super welter Canelo Alvarez, light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, and Miguel Cotto, who I hesitate to call a middleweight since his next fight is set at 155 pounds.
Thurman and Wladimir Klitschko are also in the category of fighters I’d rather see, but in their cases I don’t feel quite as strongly about it. Obviously the identity of the opponent has much to do with just how promising a particular bout appears to be.
Plenty of U.S. fans would disagree on Klitschko, but I’d rather see a heavyweight wear down his opposition with a spectacular jab than watch a welterweight who’s very hard to hit (which is great) but rarely throws combinations and almost never commits to his punches.
I’m sure there are other names that belong on the worthy fighters list. Some contenders fade out while others blossom under a bushel and it takes awhile to catch on to what they’re doing. It’s a big sport in a big world.
Some Mayweather fans foolishly and endlessly declare that anyone who doesn’t like to watch him doesn’t know anything about boxing, Or words to that effect. These fans fail to notice that prizefighting can include combination punching, knockouts and the determination to make them happen despite the risks. When it’s done right, the offense and defense blend seamlessly.
The singularity of the knockout distinguishes boxing from the other sports. In the NBA when you’re down ten points with 30 seconds on the clock you’re out of luck. In boxing, there’s always a chance. But it’s not all about scoring points.
Back to undefeated Thurman. He’s the real thing. Detractors need to understand that even when a fighter wins all his bouts he still can’t win pretty every time. I doubt Mayweather will fight him anyway. Thurman’s a tough out and has no pay-per-view history, which means the risk and reward factors are unlikely to balance out the way Floyd wants.
But I’ll let others speculate on the winner of the Mayweather Lotto while I watch the schedule with an eye toward worthier contests. Thankfully, there are lots of them.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.