Do you remember where you were on May 2nd? I was in Philadelphia, standing awkwardly in the apartment of an MMA trainer and his friends, of whom I was not one. After running around the city desperately, attempting to bribe waitresses and altogether failing miserably, we finally found a place to watch the fight. Five years too late, Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Manny Pacquiao in front of a sold-out MGM Grand arena and a record shattering millions of viewers on Pay-Per-View.
To the general public, this fight was a colossal flop. It seemed like the public paid Floyd over a quarter-billion dollars to make fools out of them and a certain Filipino south-paw. But that may be because for most of the world, it was their first time watching Floyd. For those familiar, we saw Floyd do what he always did; box We saw a defensive genius put on a clinic for one of the highest-paced, creative punchers in history.
The only problem, this wasn’t the fight people wanted to see. People want to see hard punching blood-baths, like they see in Rocky movies. Floyd was instantly villified as a coward. Defense and winning on the scorecards isn’t the way boxing should be. America punished him by not watching his last fight against Andre Berto, restricting his purse to a lowly eight figures and keeping his career earnings short of the billion dollar mark. Womp Womp.
In one year, the world saw two of Floyd’s biggest criticisms, his style and his choice in opponents. Now that boxing is heading into a post-Floyd era, how will it respond?
Boxing Without Floyd
Floyd’s departure creates a vacuum and the question rises, who will be the next big fighter? Will Manny make a return to the top after rehabbing his “injured” shoulder? What about Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia, undefeated six-toed welterweight from Philly? Adrien Broner, successor to Floyd’s most-hated-boxer title? What about Deontay Wilder, the first American heavy weight in a long time? (The answer to all of those is no. Danny cherry picks opponents. AB isn’t actually good enough. Deontay will never beat Klitschko).
The darling of the boxing world is the same fighter I’m going to watch this weekend: Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin. Triple G is a hard punching Kazakh middleweight with the disposition that the public is looking for, he’s a fighter. He’s here to put on a “big drama show,” and he continually reminds us that he is not here to dance, he is not here to play a game, but he’s here to fight. And the stats back it up. He has a knockout percentage of 90.9%, the highest in the history of his weight division, KO-ing 30 of his 33 professional opponents.
This weekend GGG fights David Lemieux, another hard puncher with a KO percentage of 89%. The fight is sure to be an exciting one and universally predicted to be a short one, ending with one of these men on the floor.
Premier Boxing Championship is promoter Al Haymon’s Quixotic attempt to bring boxing back into the forefront of network television and the public eye. PBC is trying to circumvent the political nature of setting up fights by having a stronger political party internally. Having enough good fighters under Haymon and PBC means that the world gets a steady stream of quality competition and good fights.
In addition, one of Floyd’s old nemeses, Oscar De la Hoya, founder of Golden Boy promotions, has also taken on a policy of putting together the best fights with the best fighters. De la Hoya believes that taking on the most exciting fight should also be the most professionally beneficial. His idea is simple: the best fighters should fight the best fighters.
I’ve been the beneficiary of many such great fights this year. Not the least of which was Matthysse v. Provodnikov, a veritable war between two warriors. So what’s the problem with that? What’s wrong with more exciting fight styles? What’s wrong with more exciting match-ups? Well, nothing… if you’re the fan, or the press, or the promoters.
It does, however, take it’s toll on the fighters. In a way, this attitude preys on the inherent machismo of fighters and uses them to create the most glorious spectacles. After his loss to Matthysse, Provodnikov instagrammed a photo of his urine, which was almost black with blood. In Matthysse’s most recent loss to Viktor Postol, he quit after being temporarily blinded. Gabriel Rosado, pictured above with GGG lost that fight due to a broken orbital bone and a lacerated pupil. All three of the fighters mentioned above (Matthysse, Provodnikov, Rosado) entered into great fights and fought with great courage, but their health is jeopardized with injuries and their careers will suffer due to the losses.
Fighting is dangerous, and there is something glorious about marching into war without consideration of the consequences. It’s glorious to wage war, to stand and to fight, to exchange fists until one man’s will bends. This is the nature of fighting; as well it should be. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and yet Floyd showed us that it could be done differently.
You may call him selfish, vain, arrogant or a number of things, but by fighting his defensive style, by building his undefeated win streak, he drew record purses and amassed one of the greatest fortunes that an athlete has ever seen. Floyd did what was best for himself, and in doing so, he protected his face, his mind, and his wallet. He also inadvertently paved the way for other fighters to try to do the same. Why should a fighter have to retire in poverty, or live the rest of his life with debilitating injuries? Why should a fighter have to be pummeled in order to prove himself? Is there still honor in being used by unappreciative masses for a short time then tossed aside?
I think that boxing’s attitude’s will shift; they always have. And these questions are not unique to combat sports. You could easily ask these questions about football players, who get even less recognition and compensation. How much can we ask for from our gladiators? And what can we give them to make it worth their sacrifice?
My gut instincts are no good. I want it all from our warriors. I want them to lay it all out, on the field or in the ring. I want them to fight through injuries and absorb great costs for honor and competition. I want these things because they move me, inspire me, humble me.
I love Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a boxer, but I’m also glad that boxing is moving in a different direction. Democratization with PBC fights. Better competition with guys like Oscar De la Hoya leading the charge. Champions like Golovkin that kill or be killed. I don’t want them to hold back and I can’t make it up to them for what they give to us fans. What I will do is watch. Maybe the best I can do to honor them is bear witness to them, share those brief fleeting moments where they do what makes them great.