I’ve long admired the career of Floyd Mayweather Jnr inside of the ring. From ‘Pretty Boy’, to ‘Money’, to ‘TBE’, the 41-year-old’s personas have accurately reflected where he has seen himself within a long professional career of 21 years.
He has adapted, overcome, and succeeded in every challenge that he’s accepted, amounting a 50-0 boxing record and claiming world titles in five different weight classes. The history books will forever tell us that Floyd fought who he wanted, when he wanted, to suit him; whatever side of the Mayweather fence you sit on, that debate will always underpin his struggle to be considered in many’s all-time pound-for-pound top 10.
Last year’s crossover fight between Mayweather and Conor McGregor was hard to watch. It was hard to write about, hard to accept, but most importantly, it was hard to ignore. Just a fortnight before the first ‘Supremacy’ bout between Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, we were distracted from the purest of contests; sucked into the charade which engulfed Las Vegas and a wide spectrum of fight fans.
The fight played out exactly how, us boxing fans, expected it to. Floyd played with Conor like a cat would a mouse, offering him chances to escape, yet clawing him back to inflict further punishment, further embarrassment. This being said, the numbers don’t lie. Floyd reportedly made $300 million from the fight, while McGregor was expected to earn around $100 million, truly staggering numbers in what was effectively an exhibition contest.
However, let’s look to the future. December, more precisely. Manny Pacquiao came out last week claiming that there is a plan in place for Mayweather and himself to meet on Cinco de Mayo 2019. First, the pair must negate their own challenges in the form of Adrien Broner, and an empty December 31 date for Mayweather.
On the face of it, this news is exciting. Whatever opinion you hold of Mayweather, seeing him in the ring again gives the entirety of the boxing community something to cling onto: “I’d love to see him remain unbeaten”. “I’d love to see him lose”. “I’d love to see him dropped”. For me, this time feels a bit different. This time the question is: “Will anyone be sucked in, again?”
Mayweather vs McGregor was an easy sell. It was timed to perfection in an attempt to take the shine off Canelo-GGG, as well as offer a lengthy build up during the traditional summer break that boxing endures. It was different enough to force those that didn’t care, into caring.
This December, however, is a little different. December 1: Wilder vs Fury/Stevenson vs Gvozdyk; December 8: Lomachenko vs Pedraza; December 15: Canelo vs Fielding; December 22: Warrington vs Frampton/Dillian Whyte vs TBA. Happy? With a stacked schedule, there is nothing riding on a Floyd return. If it happens, it happens, but for the first time in his career, Mayweather may be seen as an afterthought.
With the upheaval of TV rights and streaming deals a huge topic in the sport right now, perhaps the model of par-per-view has moved on from the Floyd years. Maybe he got too greedy, maybe he hit a ceiling; the future has appeared overnight.
The problem for Floyd is that he has to be the main man to warrant another come back. He needs to be front page news as well as back page, he needs to be the star of the show, the week, the month, but now, there is a chance the sport has finally moved on.
A return to the ring in Tokyo on December 31 (if true) would fly under the radar easier than you’d think - another crossover fight with Khabib? No thanks. A Cinco de Mayo rematch with Pacquiao (still dependant on a Pacquiao win against Broner) would be in danger of a similar fate; we’d assume that Canelo wouldn’t pass up on fighting on this date as he begins his $365 deal with DAZN.
We’ve said it time and time again: “the sport has moved past the Mayweather years”, yet we have always been sucked back in. Now, in this purple patch of boxing where the biggest fights are getting made, maybe, just maybe, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We, as boxing fans, can start looking forward, instead of backwards.
If the money is right, Mayweather will return. However, this is sure to be his toughest sell to date.