Game of Shadows: The Aftermath of the Mayweather super-fight
By Tyson Bruce
As the decision was announced, the result a near formality, my thoughts instantly switched from the brilliance of Floyd Mayweather’s performance, to the lonely landscape of what could possibly lay ahead for him and for boxing
Photo: USA Today
The build up to this fight far exceeded my wildest expectations- there was a plethora of mainstream attention, record-breaking ticket sales, and the wild hoopla of celebrity flash contrasted by the nationalism of Mexican pride. In many respects the attention paid to this fight was something of a surprise, with PTI guys, the symbol of mainstream sports fluff, even idiotically dubbing it the last prize fight American fan’s would pay to see. It was a surprise because the match pitted an all time great champion against an obviously interesting and talented but very raw young fighter. Plus, almost every boxing journalist of sound mind predicted the fight virtually exactly as it happened.
However, ‘Canelo’ has magnetism about him that can’t really be understood in any logical terms—he is just one of those rare athletes that seems to be born for fame and adoration, carrying the banner of a nation that is filled with strife and searching for a hero whose glory they can vicariously share and take pride in. Why exactly remains something of a mystery—is it his good looks or red hair, or the humble every man quality? Take that into account, and then compare it with Mayweather, who evokes many things, but none of which are love, respect, or pride. At least not from the average American fan. Instead Mayweather achieved his obnoxious wealth and fame from becoming a poster boy for the modern condition of material obsession and tabloid controversy. This fight was basically De La Hoya vs. Mayweather in reverse, with young fighter being the humble good guy and the old guy being the flashy villain. Much like that fight, the sales pitch appeared to out-weigh the substance of clash. That said it appears to be the only dynamic that galvanizes the mainstream media and fan to pay attention to boxing.
The fight turned out to be Canelo’s worst nightmare, as he spent the much of the night chasing a phantom, and slowly watching his dreams of greatness crumbling before him. It was eerily similar to so many of Mayweather’s fights. And like the majority of his recent fights, it also left something to be desired. People who are knowledgeable about the skill and nuances of the fight game understand that what Mayweather did was incredible, but I can almost guarantee that your average simple-minded sports fan was left equal parts confused and outraged by the lack of promised violence and action. I fall somewhere in middle, at least in terms of reaction. I was amazed and humbled by Floyd’s skills, but disappointed by the fact that the hype yet again overshadowed the actual fight. I would have loved to have seen Mayweather have too dig deep as Sugar Ray Leonard did against Thomas Hearns, or get up off the floor and keeping fighting like Ali did against Joe Frazier. Alas, it was not to be, as Alvarez is just not a fighter of that ilk—or at least not yet.
Although it must be said, that one would have never have reached this perspective from watching the Showtime telecast of the fight, which showered him with praise throughout the fight and culminated with the always-inadequate Jim Grey performing symbolic fellatio on Mayweather by asking him the most redundant and self-gratifying questions possible. It made me miss Larry Merchant who, ironically, was basically forced out at rival network HBO for asking Mayweather tough questions. Larry Merchant would have addressed the fact that although Mayweather doesn’t need money anymore and constantly states that he fights for the fans and to bring entertainment to the ring failed to reach beyond himself and go for knockout when he had Alvarez basically rendered useless by the end of the fight. In all likelihood Mayweather would not have cared it slightest because he is just not that kind of fighter, and at best, it would have led to snarky generational confrontation like what occurred after the Victor Ortiz fight. Ultimately, I guess the joke is on us because Mayweather has 41.5 million reasons not give a hoot about our contempt, but it still would have been nice to at least hear someone ask.
Something that Mayweather and especially his benefactors at Showtime should be worried about is the lack of remaining opponents for him. As big of a star as Mayweather and his team would like you to believe he is, the majority of there sales pitch hinges on finding opponents that they can dupe the public into believing have a chance to kick his ass. Saul Alvarez was kind of the last of the Mohicans in that regard, and is truly hard to believe them finding four more guys with more than a “Guerrero’s chance” to beat him. Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia was very impressive in his upset victory over the big punching Lucas Mattysee, but if you believe he has any better chance than Alavrez you are sadly misguided. Boxing’s cold war between Golden Boy (and by extension Mayweather) against Top Rank prevent matches with basically all remaining top welterweights, including Manny Pacquaio, Timothy Bradley, Mike Alvarado, and Brandon Rios. It should be noted that although all of these guys are thrilling fighters to watch, none of them stand a snowballs chance in hell of even coming close to beating Floyd. The only kind of dynamic fight out there would involve Mayweather making a quantum leap up to middleweight and fighting a terrifying puncher like Gennady Golvkin. This would be asking a lot of Floyd, who is already a pretty small welterweight, and goes against his career history of taking big risks purely to enhance his legacy.
In an article by Erik Raskin in Grantland, he mused about how a Canelo victory might be better for the long-term health of boxing, as it would provide a transitional torch-passing moment from the old guard to the new. After all it was only when Mayweather beat De La Hoya that truly became star in his own right. This was a thesis I strongly agreed with, because short of the emergence of an American heavyweight, boxing’s version of the lost buffalo, it’s hard to conceive of a believable star in the absence of Floyd Mayweather. This is not to say that boxing is dying because there is an abundance of great fighters and match-ups that the mainstream fans are unaware because Sport’s Center isn’t spoon-feeding it to them. However, when Mayweather retires boxing will, at least in the eyes of the casual sports fan, enter into something akin to the dark ages while promoters and networks struggle to find the next banner carrier.