Here’s a tale of two friends. Both men are sports journalists and both attended the Floyd Mayweather-Marco Maidana fight Saturday in Las Vegas.
One friend had a ticket to the biggest fight of the year, and he reveled in the pomp that surrounded an event he had on his bucket list. The other friend, a man who has covered the fight game for 20 years, saw the bout for what it was: overblown hype.
The overblown hype has changed my second friend’s perspective on boxing.
He harbors no ill-intentions toward Money Mayweather. He has always seen Pretty Boy Floyd, his public excesses notwithstanding, as a talented fighter whose quick fists have made him extraordinarily rich.
My friend still marvels at Mayweather’s fists and craftsmanship inside the ring. He knows those quick fists drive pay-per-view traffic faster than a Ferrari, and they allow Mayweather to make money rain wherever he and his entourage travel.
But my friend, the veteran boxing writer, looks at what he does as a steward of the game. For that reason, he voiced his disdain for all of the madness that made up Mayweather’s persona. To him, Mayweather has contributed to making the sport about as relevant as pro wrestling.
In boxing, nobody wants to fight a somebody, but everybody wants to fight a nobody. The unbeaten Mayweather has proven as much in steering clear of getting into the squared circle against Manny Pacquiao, the lone somebody who matters.
“Unless Mayweather fights Pacquiao next,” my friend told me, “I’m not attending or covering another one of his fights. He’s defrauding fans and dishonoring the sport by not taking the fight that the fans want to see.”
For the past four or five years, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao has been the only fight on people’s radar. Yet each time the two men seem oh-so close to signing to fight, something happens that sends them into the ring with someone else.
But both men have run out of somebody elses. At 37, Mayweather sure has. He can’t keep scheduling men like Maidana, a decent fighter who couldn’t pack the MGM Grand without Mayweather’s name headlining the card.
Yet for his next fight, Mayweather is looking for either Amir Khan, Miguel Cotto or another bum of the month, and he’s given not a hint that PacMan might be next in line, which is what troubles sports fans who still care about boxing.
The number of sports fans who fit into this “they-care category” continues to dwindle. They can remain patient only so long for “The Fight of the New Millennium” before they realize what my friend the sportswriter does: Mayweather and PacMan will never meet.
And if they don’t fight soon, Mayweather can’t expect to keep packing arenas for bouts against men like Maidana. After all, watching a championship fight, even when the champion is as skilled as Money Mayweather, isn’t on every person’s bucket list.
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(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)