Steve Janoski returns to Bad Left Hook with his thoughts on Saturday night's Floyd Mayweather vs Robert Guerrero fight in Las Vegas.
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Mention to the average sports fan that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is fighting this weekend, and their first question will be, "Oh, really? Against who?"
After your reply, the light will drain from their eyes and they will say, "Who's Robert Guerrero?" You will explain that too - a 30-year old Californian who's had some tough fights but is nothing really special.
Then they will ask the one you knew was coming.
"What about that Pacquaio dude? Weren't they supposed to fight or something?"
And then it will be up to you, the boxing fan, to explain why the two never fought, and why, instead, the "best boxer of our generation" is once again climbing into the ring for a bout that he's nearly guaranteed to win against a man nobody particularly wants to see him fight. You, dear boxing fan, are Floyd Mayweather's apologist - even if you don't like him.
I have bounced back and forth over the years when ruminating upon whether or not Floyd Mayweather's fighter's heart exists. Is it ever really fair to question such a thing in a man who fights for a living, especially when he's fought some impressive bouts against some great fighters? After all, as the saying goes, if you're close enough to kill the bull, you're close enough to be gored as well.
But even I - a Mayweather admirer - can't dispute that he's always taken the safest path, and fights men only when he's positive he can win. He went after De La Hoya and Mosley after they were clearly past their primes, and Ricky Hatton once he realized the Englishman's massive flaws would surely preclude him from winning. And then there was Marquez, the smaller, shorter-armed boxer whose love of battle, Mayweather knew, would force him into the role of aggressor that he is never comfortable with. And so it has been since Mayweather left light-welterweight.
I thought he was breaking this ugly streak when he picked the physically talented Victor Ortiz and the skillful veteran Miguel Cotto as opponents for his annual battles, but it was not to be - he's back to his old habits, and this Guerrero fight is a Sharmba Mitchell-esque sham, little more than a tune-up even for a 36-year-old, visibly declining Mayweather.
Don't get me wrong - it's his prerogative to do these things and pick these fights. It's his cheek feeling the blow of a leather-clad fist, his body absorbing the punishment, and (as Mayweather is so keen on telling us) his wallet that fattens further.
And it's hard to argue with that record. 43 fights, 43 victories, and he's rarely even tested. Entire YouTube videos are made showing the clean punches he's taken, and there's not much material for the amateur Spielbergs to work with. The ancient warrior Sun Tzu would say that Mayweather is, in fact, running his career perfectly; it was, after all, the great general who said, "The skillful fighter puts himself into a position that makes defeat impossible."
Tzu wrote another maxim, however, that may prove a harder lesson for his modern counterpart to understand: if you win all the time and make it look easy, don't expect the same plaudits.
"His victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom, nor credit for courage," wrote Tzu of the man who struggles too little. And, if you're like Mayweather, and you've also become known for a decade-long habit of cherry-picking, you can't bitch when history records you as something less than the coveted "Greatest Of All Time."
Sure, fighting any and all comers is hardly necessary to become a champion in this alphabet-title world, and seeking out young talent and destroying it is not a prerequisite for a man who's made very clear he's only looking to pad his bank account...but it is necessary to be recognized as a legend.
On Saturday night, Robert Guerrero, who is a very good man but a very flawed boxer, will become the forty-fourth fighter to lose to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Few will be shocked, fewer will be awed. But when the boxing annals of this era are recorded, Mayweather will not be remembered like Marquez the Warrior, who took on all comers, or Pacquaio the Daring, who leapt weight classes to war with bigger men. He will be Mayweather the Cautious. Mayweather the Tentative. He will be "The One Who Would Not Take Chances."
Now, in the autumn of his career, that lack of respect will bother him, even as he blusters about with his talk of money and wealth being the only things that matter. But his path is already chosen, and when his flock of leaching yes-men moves on and he retires to a life of having to repeatedly explain why he never fought Pacquaio or Martinez or Alvarez, he will have no one left to blame but the face that gazes back at him in the mirror.