Commentary: Has the media helped push Mayweather into retirement?
The prevailing storyline this week is less about the competitive nature, or lack thereof, between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Berto’s Sept. 12 showdown and more about whether Saturday will be the very last time we see Mayweather compete in a boxing ring.
Ever since he inked his six-fight, 30-month deal with Showtime/CBS in February 2013 that was lauded as the “richest individual athlete deal in all of sports,” Mayweather has said that he would be retiring once he completed his contractual obligations.
As of this week, we have reached the 30-month mark since Mayweather signed the record-breaking contract and he’s on the cusp of fulfilling his final fight with a much-maligned showdown with Berto. If he wins, he will end his career with a 49-0 record, a lot more money than most people will ever see in 12 lifetimes and all of his faculties intact.
However, the story of the boxer is one that suggests that he never really knows when to walk away because boxing is the only thing that individual has done for over half of his time on earth. With Mayweather likely to end his career tied with Rocky Marciano’s undefeated record and still at the top of his game, the inquiries about him having a final fight to put him at 50-0 in what would likely be a huge one-fight deal have been persistent.
So much so, in fact, that Mayweather seems to be growing increasingly annoyed by the inquiries.
“Are you just getting into the Floyd Mayweather business?” Mayweather shot back during a recent conference call when a writer asked if he’d consider facing previous Mayweather victims, Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, after they tangle on Nov. 21. “You should know what I’ve done to Canelo, Pacquiao, and Cotto. So I’m through with them, why would I fight them in my 50th fight?”
The questions lobbed at Mayweather were often deferred to Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe as the fighter formally known as “Pretty Boy” preferred not to address those questions any longer.
“Like I’ve said and Floyd has said a number of times, this will be his last fight,” Ellerbe said in a much less abrasive tone. “Why can’t a man go out when he’s had an illustrious career, accomplished everything that he needs to accomplish and be done? And he’s done it his way.”
Could it be that the boxing media has assisted in forcing Mayweather’s hand to retire? Although it might sound silly, the reality is that Mayweather has always been in the business of proving people wrong. There was a satisfaction Mayweather took when he handily beat Manny Pacquiao in the richest fight in boxing history this past May. After years of jockeying between the two camps, Mayweather proved what he said all along even though everyone doubted him.
In a way, this fight with Berto might be indicative of Mayweather’s thought process. When Mayweather casually suggested that his next fight would be against either Andre Berto or Karim Mayfield during a media day for Adrien Broner and Shawn Porter, the boxing media present (this one included) scoffed at the thought. But as time progressed, the idea of Berto getting the call over some more qualified names started to materialize into a reality. By the time it was announced, it appeared Mayweather simply wanted to call our bluff.
When RingTV.com asked Mayweather if he made the decision to face Berto on the same day the media laughed at him, Mayweather paused for a moment and said “That’s just who we chose” while a big smile was stretched across Ellerbe’s face. Ellerbe was also asked if Mayweather selected Berto in spite of what the media said and Ellerbe dodged the inquiry with a deftness of a Mayweather shoulder roll and responded “I’m always five steps ahead (of what Mayweather decides). That’s my job.”
Maybe Mayweather, who responded in a manner that suggests, “I can do what I want, when I want and you can’t stop me,” trolled the public. Which leads us to this retirement ordeal.
Mayweather has never wavered from the idea that his 49th fight would be his last. But the more we push him to extend his career, the harder he’ll respond to the contrary. And now, because a vast majority of the boxing public not named Berto or Virgil Hunter see the end of this fight as a foregone conclusion, the questions have less to do about the fight and more about who he’ll take on for his 50th right.
We just don’t want to believe that Floyd Mayweather can walk away from the thing he likes most: Money.
But if you really pay attention to how Mayweather has been acting, it looks like he’s truly exhausted with his day job. Although Showtime’s All Access is made to entertain, the manner in which Mayweather addresses wanting to spend time with his kids during the show is far more believable than any canned response he has offered. If you’ve been around Mayweather, you can see the exhaustion in his eyes. If he’s acting, he should seriously consider a career in Hollywood after he hangs the gloves up. You can feel that his 38-year-old body has reached its peak and he appears to have finally settled into the fact that he doesn’t need to do this anymore.
Surely, it helps that he raked in over $200 million in one night against Pacquiao. But this circus that follows him has become arduous for Mayweather.
“I just want to be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it,” Mayweather told RingTV.com. “I like to be able to get up, get on my private jet and travel the world whenever I feel like it. I like spending time with my kids and not have to get ready for a fight.”
Could Mayweather be at his most sincere as his career winds down? The selection of Berto seems to be a decision just to fulfill an obligation more than anything else. He doesn’t seem concerned with the pay-per-view sales or how many people come out to his fight. He allowed the media to film his sparring session for the first time that appeared to be more of an “Oh well, I may as well pull the curtain back because the show is over” than a method to promote the fight.
Not to mention that a majority of the press he receives is negative (some of it by his own hand, of course). Whether he’s trading barbs with Ronda Rousey, buying an insanely expensive car or fending off those who will never accept his checkered past, Mayweather’s only wins come in the ring and in his bank account. The public opinion no longer matters. As a matter of fact, it all falls on deaf ears.
To compound things, his uncle’s failing health and his children reaching their young adult years are things that have factored into his decision. It’s not like he needs the money or the accolades. Frankly, he’s never cared about what anyone has said about his boxing career. He believes he’s the best ever and a 50th fight won’t do anything to aid his proclamation.
He keeps telling us and we refuse to listen.
Only time will tell if Mayweather is right again.