COMMENTARY | Yes, whether you care to accept it or not, boxing is a business and that business is based around maximizing profit and minimizing risk. Those with the power and influence to hand-pick the "right" type of opponent, usually do so while making it seem as though they are taking legitimate risks. Those without the leverage to control their own path to glory, take the necessary risks until they do find themselves in a position to select who they get to face.
Matchmaking at the elite level is an art form and a master craft behind the rise and reign of your favorite boxing superstars. At the risk of dashing the macho fantasies of fans and media, boxing's greatest talents all depend on clever matchmaking to a certain extent.
And this brings us, of course, to current pound-for-pound top dog, Floyd Mayweather.
The five-division world champ and reigning king villain of boxing has been blasted by critics for cherry-picking his opposition and for skillfully avoiding his most dangerous challengers ever since he began to separate himself from the boxing pack. In the cutthroat world of big-time professional prizefighting there's an illusion that the sport is all about tough guy posturing and leaping to meet the call of the biggest and bravest challenges, regardless of money considerations.
Unfortunately, though, the business of boxing doesn't really work like that and Mayweather, who has recently begun to pull back the curtains and reveal some of the business decisions made behind the combat, takes the biggest hits for merely speaking the truth about the strategies behind high-end boxing matchmaking.
"See, people fail to realize, this is a business," Mayweather recently told Fighthype's Ben Thompson. "You know, my next fight, I'll be 37 years old. It's not about working harder; it's about working smarter...It's about taking less punishment as you could possibly take for the highest reward...I'm not scared of nobody. I'm not scared of no opponent at all...when I faced Diego Corrales, he was undefeated. When I faced Ricky Hatton, he was undefeated. When I faced Canelo Alvarez, he was undefeated...there's certain opponents that I'm looking for."
Fighters like Mayweather and, yes, even Manny Pacquiao hand-pick the right opponents because they can and because their respective teams stand to make so much more money over the long haul by protecting their money-makers. Ideally, the cash cows line themselves up to face solid draws on the downside of a stellar career and/or those who are fatally flawed in certain key areas. Dominant victories over the likes of Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez, Brandon Rios, and Shane Mosley are designed to be dominant victories while adding the illusion of a big conquest to the superstar's resume.
So, while guys like Marcos Maidana and Ruslan Provodnikov, who are entertaining fighters, but not quite main stage draws, can't afford to be selective with their choice of opposition, guys like Mayweather and Pacquiaio can (and do) exercise their right to fight on their own terms. And, make no mistake about it, if Maidana and Provodnikov ever cross over to elite-level drawing power, their opponent selection will reflect the caution involved in staying on top for as long as possible.
Boxing tends to be romanticized by its fans and media, who stubbornly insist that fighters need to live a macho gladiator lifestyle and exist well beyond the mundane world of business and economics. But in a profession where every fight could be the last and even the longest of careers rarely take a fighter past forty years of age, it's ridiculous to overlook the fact that a good part of boxing, just like every other job, is about the money. Floyd Mayweather is merely speaking the truth about the true nature of matchmaking at the elite level. Whether one chooses to accept it, though, is another thing altogether.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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