The new "it" fight in boxing appears to be Floyd Mayweather vs Canelo Alvarez, but Mayweather doesn't sound like he's itching to get to that fight, either with a tentative (if seemingly unlikely) September return or, well, any time soon.
Mayweather (44-0, 26 KO) pulled out a familiar argument:
"I'm not going to choose one particular opponent because if I was to fight Canelo and beat Canelo they're going to come up [with another opponent]. Not too long ago they was talking about Pacquiao. He got two losses and now they're talking about Canelo. I think the Canelo fight with Trout was a lot closer than what they had it but if me and Canelo were to fight and he took a loss they'd come up with another opponent. So they're going to keep making opponents. This is not going to stop."
He's right: It's not going to stop. That's what being No. 1 is about, particularly if you want to constantly crow about being No. 1, which Floyd does, and he's earned that. He's a living legend, a Hall of Famer still winning with ease over good opponents. He's No. 1. He knows it. He says it all the time.
But it seems to me that Floyd doesn't particularly like the pressure of being No. 1, at least not in the sense that people are going to want to see him face the guy they think is the biggest threat to him. That's what championship sports are about. People want to see the fighters or the teams or the players they think are the best at that moment go at it. They want to find out, for themselves, with clear evidence, who the best really is.
Canelo Alvarez has built up that sort of hype. He's got a huge following. He's worth his own money, and draws his own crowds. No, he's not the No. 2 fighter in the sport right now, but he is the guy near Floyd's weight that people most want to see him face.
The Pacquiao quote above is what we're dealing with again. Floyd takes a look at the Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez fights last year, and says, "See? I told you Pacquiao can't beat me, and now we all know that." That doesn't mean people were wrong to want to see the two best fighters in the sport for a good, long while face off. And it doesn't mean they shouldn't have. And it certainly doesn't mean that Floyd Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao.
Floyd knows all of this, but let's be really honest: What's the last time Floyd fought someone that everyone thought he should fight? Oscar? Maybe Hatton? This is not "hating" or saying that Mayweather doesn't have good wins since then, over Marquez, Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Miguel Cotto, and Robert Guerrero.
But there was a sizable portion of the audience that felt Floyd hand-picked those fights. Mayweather, in a roundabout, perhaps accidental way, is saying that yes, he did, and does hand-pick opponents, when he says that he's earned the right to do what he wants. That's fine, he can believe and logically so that he's earned the right to go out on his terms. That does not, however, put him or those fights above criticism. All were credible. None were what people wanted to see.
The No. 1 man in any venture always has a target on his back. All the competitors will want a shot at him, or want to overtake him, or whatever, and in the sports world, observers and media will want to see the best take on someone that they feel has a shot. Maybe the public is wrong that Canelo is the best option for Floyd, or that he's a threat to Mayweather. But that's not what Floyd is saying.
I believe there's a big part of Mayweather that just doesn't want to do what anyone else says he should do. Who are we to tell him what he should do? And there's some truth to that. I don't have any business actually deciding who Mayweather fights next. I'm not him, I don't promote or manage him, and my input basically comes down to whether or not I click "BUY" on my cable box. I always do, and I always will. So will a lot of people.
Still, he's never going to escape the familiar, tired criticisms of his matchmaking process if he makes so clear that he doesn't care what anyone wants. Like all fighters, he says he does it for the fans, when he's not furrowing his brow and saying he does it for himself and his family.
There's no ultimate point to this. Mayweather will continue to do as he pleases, and he will continue to be criticized when he doesn't fight the guys that the audience wants to see the most. Lucky for him, it's a fickle, somewhat gullible fan base that will be convinced that maybe this guy or that guy has a shot, whether it's who they wanted two months prior or not.
Floyd will be fine, whether he fights Canelo or not. "At the end of the day," he'll make money, live his life the way he wants, and go down in history as probably the best fighter of his generation. That doesn't mean, however, that the criticism or the skepticism is unwarranted. With his own words, he makes himself sound like a man who wants the title of being the best, but not so much what goes along with that title.