It's Floyd Mayweather's show and he's going to do what he wants

Kevin Iole
Boxing

LAS VEGAS – Andre Berto has done nothing to earn a championship fight, let alone a crack at the man who is boxing's biggest star in what will purportedly be his final fight.

None of that matters much to Floyd Mayweather, though, who on Tuesday confirmed via social media one of the worst-kept secrets in sports: He'll meet Berto on Sept. 12 at the MGM Grand Garden in a pay-per-view bout distributed by Showtime.

Mayweather's six-fight contract with Showtime expires after the Berto fight, and he insists that he's planning to retire upon its conclusion. If he wins, as expected, Mayweather would be 49-0. With a swank new arena opening on the Las Vegas Strip in April, speculation has been rampant that Mayweather would love to be the opening act in the new building.

Floyd Mayweather poses for a picture during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. (Getty)
Floyd Mayweather poses for a picture during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. (Getty)

But Mayweather says the Berto fight will be it, new arena or not, 50-0 or not. So he'll spend the next seven weeks pushing the pay-per-view on a bout that no one has asked for. And then later, if he changes his mind, he can fight once more in the new arena.

Berto began his career 27-0 and won a version of the welterweight title in the process. But he was coddled at every step along the way and had the benefit of favorable matchmaking, which helped him to not only win a world title, but to become a wealthy man in the process.

Since 2011, though, he's just 3-3 in his last six bouts, though even at his best, he hasn't reminded anyone of Sugar Ray Seales, let alone Sugar Ray Leonard.

It's going to be offensive to the hardcore boxing fans, but Berto's qualifications, or lack thereof, don't really matter.

Given that Mayweather says it's his final fight, there will undoubtedly be all sorts of tributes to him from Showtime and CBS. It will be more like a celebration of Mayweather's brilliant career than a sporting event.

If the best possible fight was sought, Berto would need a ticket to get in. Keith Thurman is one of boxing's most exciting young fighters. He is unbeaten, holds a welterweight championship, and is managed by Al Haymon, the same man who directs Mayweather's career. That fight should have been easy to make.

But Mayweather was never interested in fighting Thurman. At an impromptu meeting with reporters at his gym on June 17, Mayweather said he'd narrowed his next opponent down to either Berto or Karim Mayfield. He said he thought Thurman should face 2012 Olympian Errol Spence Jr. next.

How he settled on Berto is anybody's guess. And no one can reasonably argue that Berto did anything to earn this bout, unless you consider victories over unheralded Steve Upsher Chambers and Josesito Lopez in his last two fights as earning a match with the greatest fighter of his time.

Still, a fight with Berto can't be any worse than the May 2 fight with Manny Pacquiao that shattered the pay-per-view record when it sold 4.4 million. For all of his faults, Berto is an offensive fighter who always comes to fight.

He's easy to hit and the next time he slips a punch might be the first, but his bouts are generally good television. And so he'll put pressure on Mayweather and get counter-punched countless times.

Now that the announcement has been made, there will be a lot of complaining about the choice of Berto as the opponent. The beauty of pay-per-view, though, is that nobody is forced to buy it.

Andre Berto (C) celebrates after knocking out Josesito Lopez in March. (Getty)
Andre Berto (C) celebrates after knocking out Josesito Lopez in March. (Getty)

The group of fans who demand the two most worthy contenders to fight for a title probably aren't going to plunk down the money to buy this one.

But the much larger group who are fans of Mayweather won't care that it is Berto instead of, oh, Thurman or Shawn Porter or any one of a number other possible opponents. They're buying to see 'Money May' and everything that goes with that. It's not sports so much to them, as it is sports entertainment.

They want to see the pomp and the rappers and the movie stars and the big-time athletes who inevitably descend upon Las Vegas for a Mayweather fight. And they want to see Mayweather do his thing and wind up his career 49-0.

Historians will look askance at it, but even in that regard, there can be no question that Mayweather has cemented a spot in the International Boxing Hall of Fame with what he's done to this point. Regardless of whether he fights Floyd the Barber or King Kong in his final fight, and regardless of whether he wins or loses, he's going to the Hall of Fame the moment he's eligible.

That's a fact. And another fact is that Mayweather doesn't really care about the opinion of the boxing writers or the boxing historians.

In a sport where so many who are praised so lavishly are penniless, homeless and brain damaged in their retirement years, Mayweather is going to retire as rich as any athlete who ever lived and with his faculties intact.

So, outrage or not, the Berto fight is a go and then Mayweather says he's calling it quits. The odds of Mayweather losing to Berto are about as long as the odds that UFC star Ronda Rousey would lose to a Brazilian former accountant, so it's a good bet he'll be 49-0 and have to decide if he wants to do it one more time to make it a perfect 50-0.

It's his career and he's handled it his way. It's been unconventional, to say the least, but no one can say it hasn't turned out better than even the most cockeyed optimist could possibly have hoped when he turned pro after the 1996 Olympics.

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