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Time is right for Floyd Mayweather to hang up the gloves

Floyd Mayweather says he's done with boxing after his fight with Andre Berto, and it may indeed be the right time for him to leave the sport -- for himself and for boxing.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Floyd Mayweather fights on Saturday night. You may have heard about it. Or it may have snuck up on you, if you're a more casual fan. Four months after obliterating every box office record known to the boxing world with his fight against Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather is taking more of a leisurely stroll into what is supposedly his retirement bout, pitting himself against Andre Berto on Showtime pay-per-view.

There has been no real hype or promotion for the bout beyond the very basics. Some TV spots, lots of them on Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions shows. The standard Showtime All Access coverage. Media days and a press conference. But this is a fight that wasn't even officially announced until August 4, just five weeks before fight night. The fight had been rumored for weeks beforehand, but there certainly has been no promotional blitz.

That's curious, since, again, this is allegedly the last fight that Mayweather, 38, will ever have. It's his 49th bout, and thus far he is a perfect 48-0, with only the occasional night of actual competition over his 19-year professional career. You can count the number of times he's been truly tested on one hand.

Mayweather has been boxing's biggest star in the last few years, after sort of sharing that claim with Manny Pacquiao in from 2009-12. After beating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather went from excellent boxer to actual superstar, buoyed by the creation of the "Money Mayweather" character via the inaugural edition of HBO's acclaimed "24/7" series.

Now, eight years later, he's finishing up a record-setting contract with CBS Sports and Showtime, his sixth fight in three years, something many were skeptical he would actually meet when the deal was announced. Though his two biggest A-side pay-per-view performances have come with Showtime (the Canelo Alvarez fight in 2013 and the Pacquiao fight this year), his other three fights since leaving HBO have not exactly been massive successes, and unless there is a surprise amount of interest in seeing Floyd pit-a-pat his way into the sunset, this fight with Berto doesn't figure to be a million seller, either.

Eight years of Floyd Mayweather: Superstar might be all that boxing really needs or can handle. Mayweather has never been the most likable fighter, but then there are a lot of great fighters and legends who were not exactly the most likable people outside the ring. Boxing is a cruel sport with a history of cruel combatants. Mayweather has been a lightning rod for controversy over many years, and in a time where the sport is sort of trying to regroup with new ideas, expanded television presence, and crisp, clean presentation, Floyd's act may be on its last legs.

Don't mistake what I'm saying here. Floyd Mayweather could stick around and fight for however long he wants and be a star. He's got star quality, for good and bad reasons. He's a sensational talent inside the ring, a technician with no real peer even at his advanced age. Mayweather has been among the sport's best pound-for-pound fighters for 17 years now. He was a fast riser whose skill just was not going to be denied, and with all credit to the man himself, his work ethic and dedication has made his staying power possible. There have been a lot of great talents who let other things get in their way. Mayweather's had a lot of things that could have served as catalysts for a quick decline -- multiple legal issues, jail time, tons of bad press. But he never showed up for a fight less than 100% focused and in shape, or if he did, it never showed.

Floyd Mayweather, Diego Corrales


From Roberto Apodaca to Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather has been a true professional inside the ring. Rarely rattled, he's gone from 130 to 154 pounds without losing much other than punching power, which was to be expected. He's made up for that, and age taking some of his speed, by always staying on top of his game. Mayweather's ring IQ is second to none. On the occasions that an opponent does have a good game plan, he takes it away, and seems to already be prepared for plans B and C, too. Before most of his opponents have known what happened, the fight was out of their hands, and Floyd was in control.

But as great as he still is between the bells, we've come to the point that his image may do boxing more harm than good. For a sport that is trying to move forward and escape its decades long slide into mainstream irrelevance, a star fighter who attracts the amount of negative attention Mayweather does may not be the best face.

Haymon's PBC series has been the biggest move in boxing this year, getting regular slots on NBC, CBS, ESPN, Spike, FOX Sports 1, and BounceTV. It's a massive spread, thus far paid-for as a sort of audition for what boxing can add to these networks. For the most part, things have gone fairly well. There have had to be some tweaks -- those silly Hans Zimmer entrances just seemed forced, for instance -- but the idea is clear. Haymon is trying to present boxing as a notable sporting event again, something that should grab the attention of the common fan, something sort of refined and respectable. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to your personal taste, and I can't say as though I don't prefer my boxing with a bit of a nasty edge. I do. But if that's where the sport's top power broker wants to go, does Mayweather's persona really fit anymore?

The fact is, Floyd Mayweather's act has grown stale, and increasingly transparent. He wants to be seen as humble and charitable and matured, but he also wants to keep his own nasty edge, and be the boastful "love to hate" celebrity figure. It's gotten tougher and tougher to keep up either façade as time has gone by. He's gotten older, and more of his sincerely troubling aspects have become more apparent. His current media feud with UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, for instance, has made neither party look particularly good, but for someone as calculating inside the ring as Mayweather, you would expect he would know better than to get into a war of words with an increasingly popular star female athlete like Rousey. He can't come out of it well, even if she doesn't, either.

Instinct is a key factor in the decisions most of us make, though, and it's where Floyd excels in the ring, he is often left looking petty and phony outside of it. During his time with CBS/Showtime, he has attempted to carefully rehabilitate his image, coming out of a prison stint in 2012 for another domestic violence charge. Beyond just the "All Access" features which have largely been less about fights than about Floyd Mayweather, there was "30 Days in May," a stylish and well-crafted puff piece mislabeled as a documentary, with Floyd serving as executive producer, pleading his case as a misunderstood innocent and victim. There have been stomach-turning sit-down interviews with fellow egomaniac Jim Gray, meant to float the idea that Mayweather has "grown up," to market him in a different manner, something he can sell, but not for too long, because something else always happens.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Manny Pacquiao Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Mayweather's time in the ring has not come and gone. He is still the best boxer in the world, will almost certainly look like that again on Saturday night, and could stick around a few more fights and probably dominate further. Whether or not he retires on Saturday is sort of irrelevant. It's coming sooner rather than later, and if Mayweather feels that 49-0 is good enough, then so be it. The clock that's ticking louder is the one counting down the time Mayweather has left as the viable face of the sport; if not for himself, then for the good of boxing.

There needs to be a cycle to these things, and boxing needs new top stars. The time of Mayweather and Pacquiao is ending, and since Mayweather isn't going to be losing to anyone unless he does something foolish like fight as a middleweight, maybe this is as good a time to go out as any. If the sport is really going to give itself a makeover, the biggest change needs to be at the top, in the ring. It's hard to imagine Floyd Mayweather fighting on anything less than a $75 HD pay-per-view again, and it's hard to imagine anyone he might fight actually giving him any sort of compelling challenge. He's got nothing more to prove, and there's no one really coming for his throne. The interest in Mayweather just isn't what it used to be. If anything, that's the one area where he's shown the most wear and tear. He can't keep up the act the way that he used to, when he was really at the peak of his stardom.

19 years. 49 fights.

Or maybe 50.

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