COMMENTARY | Every great craftsman, whether in the art studio or in the boxing ring, wants recognition for his work and acknowledgement of the effort it took to work his way to the top. For various reasons-some involving his own exaggerated self-promotion-Floyd Mayweather will always be in the boxing purgatory reserved for great fighters who somehow ran afoul of the narrative-setting media.
Even when forced into praising the five-division world champ, every bit of media faint praise is buried in a mound of "yeah, buts," "if onlys," and "but he never wills."
"There is an under appreciation of him, and I don't quite get it," said Stephen Espinoza, head of Showtime Sports, after Mayweather's shutout of Robert Guerrero. "When he wins convincingly, people revise history and say he didn't fight a good opponent...He can't win for winning."
Not a new phenomenon at all, full credit for a quality win hasn't been part of typical Mayweather fight coverage since he broke free from Top Rank Promotions and began working for himself. Every guy he fights is not as good as the next guy, who he surely won't fight, who, in turn, also becomes a bum when Mayweather gets around to fighting him.
Reading most media reports would lead one to believe that Mayweather has been busy for the last eight years fighting hobos and Foot Locker assistant managers for his eight-figure paydays. The unbiased truth, though, tells a different story.
In his last nine fights, seven of Mayweather's opponents have been legitimate top five ranked fighters at the time the fight was signed. Meanwhile, the other two (Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez) were highly ranked veteran fighters from other divisions, moving up to challenge him. Five of Mayweather's last nine opponents were actually guys he was accused of ducking at one point or another.
Overall, Mayweather is a five-division champ and has a dazzling 21-0 record in world title fights with a 19-0 record against current, former, or future world champs. Even in a day and age where title belts have become increasingly easy to find, these are tremendous accomplishments.
From the business end of things, Mayweather has done a great deal to keep boxing in the mainstream and the American fight scene afloat. At a time when the country can't seem to produce a bankable boxing star, Mayweather has been key in keeping the sport at least somewhat relevant in the mind of the general sports fan.
One would think that Mayweather, even with his very real personality flaws outside the ring, would at the very least get a fair shake as an athlete from those who owe a great chunk of their website and newspaper readership to Mayweather coverage. Instead, though, all available tools are used to bury the man's professional career and damage his legacy.
The fiction is still stronger than the fact when it comes to Mayweather coverage. He is always ducking so and so, always afraid to risk his undefeated record, always picking on lesser fighters. When cornered, the critics are often at a loss to justify these talking points. Who, exactly, did he duck? Which top fighters did he willingly pass over?
Mayweather's list of never met challenges is shockingly small for a fighter at the top of the sport for the better part of fifteen years-and the couple of names legitimately on that list belong to hated former promoter Bob Arum, who once pledged that he'd never put a penny in Mayweather's pocket.
So, given the increasing difficulty in disparaging his resume, some have taken to putting fantasy roadblocks between Mayweather and the recognition he deserves. Fight Andre Ward, fight Gennady Golovkin, fight Sergio Martinez-and then he'll get the respect. Forget the move up to junior middleweight, real respect, they insist, can only be achieved at middleweight and super middleweight.
And even if he loaded his trunks with rocks to make a catchweight Ward fight, would there be any way the critics would NOT attack him for taking the safe route by fighting a weight-drained shell of a super middleweight champ? While we're at it, why not demand that Mayweather fight Wladimir Klitschko?
None of this is about finding worthy opposition for Mayweather and it's not about forcing Mayweather to prove his all-time greatness, either. It's about the critics putting more and more unrealistic, insurmountable obstacles in front of him and then sitting back to shake their head in derision when he fails to meet those impossible demands.
It's not his domestic abuse record that prevents Mayweather from getting a fair shake in the media-many great fighters have, unfortunately, traveled that same road. It's not even about his overall level of opposition-lesser fighters with lesser records have been regarded as "legends" after retirement.
Mayweather lost the right to fair treatment by not showing fake deference to an often vindictive media. He has had the audacity to publicly challenge their coverage of him and question their basic knowledge of the sport. These sins are unforgivable.
For many who put pen to paper, Mayweather has been a major buzzkill. These scribes have a fatalistic, romantic notion of what a fighter should be-a brave soldier at the mercy of the world, putting all his buried ferocity and angst into bloody ring battles that ultimately end in tough luck stories worthy of fake outrage from these same writers.
Mayweather is his own boss, both in business and in the way he allows others to treat him. He will make you wait to speak to him, sometimes for hours. Sometimes, he'll not deem you worthy of his presence at all. Unlike most every other fighter, he's not beholden to a promoter, publicist, or manager. He makes it painfully obvious that you are on his dime when you come to cover him.
Of course, none of these things should matter to a fair-minded writer. But what usually happens is that, somewhere along the way, there seems to be a subconscious (or conscious) push to "put the guy in his place."
And that's when a truly inspiring American success story becomes something significantly less. It's a shame, really.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. 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.
Sources: The New York Times, Boxrec
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