On Floyd Mayweather and Perfection
By Hans Olson
With their 46-14 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers earned their 13th win this year, 3 wins away from regular season perfection. 3 more in the playoffs, and they could be the first NFL team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to complete an entire NFL season without a loss.
In 2007, the New England Patriots nearly did what the Green Bay Packers are trying to do here in 2011. That year, the Pats went 16-0 in the regular season, rolling through the playoffs to the Super Bowl only to be upset by the New York Giants.
It’s hard to forget a team like the 2007 Patriots though, just as it will be hard to forget a team like this year’s Green Bay Packers—regardless of how their season ultimately turns out. It’s easier however, to remember a team like the 1972 Miami Dolphins; for whenever an NFL team starts to creep their way towards perfection, their name is brought up. Less often remembered are teams such as the 1976 Oakland Raiders, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, or the 1998 Minnesota Vikings—all teams that ended their regular seasons with 1 loss.
We are obsessed with perfection.
Does a loss matter? Inherently, no. In football, you have many opportunities to make the playoffs, and as the New York Giants did in that 2007 season, they found a way in and eventually earned the right to play in the Super Bowl.
In boxing, however…it’s different.
All the fans, writers, and observers that are so quick to point out that many of the greats indeed lost, often times are the same people in this modern age who write off any fighter after their first career defeat. Don’t think so? Just ask how hard it was for a guy like Amir Khan to work his way back to where he was Saturday night after being knocked cold by Breidis Prescott in 2008—and where Saturday’s controversial loss to Lamont Peterson puts him in his career. Ask David Lemieux, who will have a hard time staying relevant in the immediate future in the minds of boxing fans after his decision loss to Joachim Alcine Saturday night, his 2nd loss in a row. It’s not fair, but in boxing…the fans ultimately dictate how a fighter’s career is perceived.
Even though I don’t agree, the vast majority of people I spoke to after Saturday have essentially written off David Lemieux. So too, I’m hearing the “I told you so’s” when relating to Khan/Peterson.
I hope Lemieux can prove them wrong. Khan too.
Losing, for a boxer is debilitating. Financially, psychologically…it’s the toughest thing for any fighter to overcome. Speaking to Marco Antonio Rubio last week, I asked him about this. “It’s very tough always, to lose,” said Marco. “I think that the fight and the loss that had the greatest effect on me personally and my career, was Kelly Pavlik. Probably the worst point of my career. That fight probably had the greatest effect on me personally within my boxing career as far as my capabilities and my focus on boxing.”
Not every fighter has the mental strength of a Marco Antonio Rubio to battle back in the ways that he has. He eventually overcame that defeat and worked his way into mandatory challenger status by beating the aforementioned David Lemieux (who was undefeated when they fought in April). “Now where I’m at—my conditioning, how I feel…think I’m capable of winning and knocking out the champions that they throw at me.”
It takes a long, long time for fighters to recover from a loss.
It’s unfortunate the pressure that fans and the media place upon the importance of being perfect.
We are obsessed with perfection.
Floyd Mayweather is perfect. In 42 professional fights, he has 42 victories.
Floyd Mayweather has remained at the top of his game for many years, his talent being leaps and bounds beyond any other fighter in boxing. His personality is over the top, he is loved and hated. He is wanted and adored. He is vilified and despised.
As long as he’s perfect, he will be relevant.
As long as he fights, he will be perfect. For now.
Unfairly though, Floyd Mayweather is often judged by the fighters he hasn’t fought, or the potential losses he never had. Even in perfection, Floyd Mayweather is judged. Even if the best fighter in the world is perfect, many “experts” write off his many achievements. It’s sad, that even in being perfect…it’s not good enough.
We are more than obsessed with perfection.
We are obsessed with our own imperfections.
When I was in elementary school, I remember a particular book assignment. It could have been Grade 3, maybe Grade 4…but it was a long time ago. The book was called “Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days.” It was about a kid who, in his desire to strive for perfection in day to day life, reads a “how-to” book on achieving perfection. The book instructs him to do ridiculous things that range from the wearing of broccoli around his neck in school, to only being able to drink weak tea whilst doing literally nothing for 24 hours. Predictably, as kids books typically hold a moral…the kid realized that it’s impossible to be perfect.
You take the bad with the good. Nobody is perfect.
For Floyd Mayweather, when a first loss inevitably comes…there will be those who will at that point ignore all of his accomplishments—for at this moment, Floyd’s legacy hinges on his having been perfect.
This can be partly contributed to Floyd himself, who does hold his perfect record as a symbol of pride; a cut-and-dry factual statement that is hard to argue with. It’s also however contributed to what we described earlier…of our sporting culture’s obsession with winning, and winning each and every time. Floyd HAS to be perfect. He knows this. Much like the character in “Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days,” Floyd does the ridiculous things asked of him to maintain this. He’ll go up in weight to challenge the likes of Oscar De La Hoya. He’ll come out of action after nearly 2 years to fight the number 2 pound for pound fighter at the time, as he did against Juan Manuel Marquez. He’ll fight younger challengers like Victor Ortiz…hot off a career defining victory as Ortiz was after having beaten Andre Berto months prior.
But where the book’s character eventually concedes and realizes nobody can be perfect, Floyd hasn’t conceded. The biggest challenges of his career, either Manny Pacquiao or Sergio Martinez…are out there. Floyd has repeatedly called out Pacman to sign the contract on May 5. If Pacquiao’s team doesn’t step up, I’d love for Floyd to forget about the public’s idea of perfection and face Sergio Martinez. It’s a fight he could lose. Nobody is perfect, but win, lose, or draw…a fight with “Maravilla” would cement the legacy of Floyd that many fans refuse to embrace. Heck, I think Floyd can beat Sergio Martinez, but we don’t know for sure.
What Floyd has going for him is his ability to always back it up. He knows that if he doesn’t, many will write him off.
Again, does this stem from our obsession with perfection, or our own lack of esteem in our own lives?
Fighters like Floyd Mayweather are a rarity. He would be great in any era. Would he be perfect in any era? That’s hard to say.
In 1997, Built to Spill released a record called “Perfect from Now On.” On the opening track, Doug Martsch crooned “where will you spend eternity?”
Doug’s lyrical answer to his own question is what Floyd Mayweather long ago decided.
“I’m gonna be perfect from now on.”
If only all of us could…
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached @[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson