Saturday, December 03, 2022  |



Mayweather brings on the disdain himself


Floyd Mayweather Jr. likes to point out that he never reads articles about him and that most of them are negative.

The former pound-for-pound king said on a conference call Tuesday that success breeds jealousy, one reason he isn't well liked by many people. A reporter on the call turned it into a racial thing, implying that white America doesn't appreciate “a successful black man.”

Well, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are both wealthy and black and they might be the two most-beloved athletes of any color over the past few decades.

No, it's not money and it's not race. It's Floyd.

Even casual boxing fans can admire Mayweather's ability. No one disputes that he's one of the best fighters of his generation. And, obviously, there are those who like him. I've heard more than one person say they find him amusing.

Others would like to see Juan Manuel Marquez knock him out cold on Sept. 19 simply to shut his mouth. The anti-Floyd emails I’ve received and countless postings on message boards make that obvious.

People will embrace sports icons if they carry themselves with class and humility, which certainly describes Jordan and Woods. They are more likely to reject those who say objectionable things and are overly brash.

Mayweather once referred to a multi-million-dollar contract offer from HBO as “slave wages.” He called the television network’s boxing announcers racist, claiming they haven’t praised him because he’s black. He hurt good people over something that wasn’t true.

These are the kinds of statements that breed contempt.

And, unlike Jordan and Woods, Mayweather rubs his success in the fans' faces. He lets people know how rich he is — whether it's true or not — every chance he gets. In a time of raging unemployment and considerable suffering, his very nickname — “Money” — isn't amusing, it's insensitive.

Muhammad Ali rubbed a lot of people the wrong way because of his bravado but got away with it in the end because it was clear that it was mostly an act, a marketing tool patterned after professional wrestler Gorgeous George.

Mayweather also has marketing in mind. He has said, in so many words, that he doesn’t care whether they love him or hate him as long as they watch him. However, he's not as good at it as Ali was. Ali's shtick was entertaining; Mayweather's shtick is sometimes like finger nails on a chalkboard.

Maybe that's appealing to some people. To many, it's not.

Don't interpret this as a condemnation of Mayweather as a person. That's not the intent. Rather, it's about there being a price to pay in terms of perception when you say or do certain things.

Mayweather says he regularly makes donations and does charity work, for which he should be applauded. And, to be perfectly honest, he has been friendly and respectful toward me the handful of times I've interacted with him.

He even seems to catch himself slipping into a destructive mode on occasion. For example, he was particularly mean-spirited during the first Mayweather-Marquez news conference, even toward co-promoter and former opponent Oscar De La Hoya. At the next one, he said openly that he wanted to be more positive.

That seems to reveal a self-critical side to him that might mean he's capable of being more like Jordan and Woods. Or Sugar Ray Leonard.

Mayweather has been compared to Leonard in some ways — the speed, the unusual skills — but is profoundly different in other ways. Leonard was in the mold of Jordan and Woods. He was as charming as he was talented and his smile lit up an arena.

Leonard could be cocky in the ring; just ask Roberto Duran. Outside it, though, he was and remains graceful and humble. One could argue that he would make a terrific role model for any young fighter under the glare of cynical writers and fans, which could include Mayweather.

Everyone loves Sugar Ray. Is that so horrible, Floyd?

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]