By Jason Keidel
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The paradoxes in pro athletes are amply archived, though Floyd Mayweather Jr. has taken it to a surreal stratosphere.
Mayweather talks about his rugged rearing in Grand Rapids while flaunting a fleet of Rolls-Royces inside his cavernous mansion planted in the Nevada desert. He talks about "cleaning up" his sport while his family's rap sheet is so long it could be printed on "Mayweather" letterhead. And Floyd Jr. is no stranger to the courtroom, juggling up to six cases at the moment, including a domestic violence charge.
Mayweather was especially violent on a bizarre Saturday night, knocking out Victor Ortiz in the fourth round in Las Vegas (Where else?). Ortiz, in what can only be branded a brain cramp, intentionally head-butted Mayweather, hugged him, kissed him, backed off, and got knocked out. Referee Joe Cortez separated the two fighters, and then an odd sequence occurred: Cortez and Ortiz seemed to forget they were in the middle of a fight. Mayweather didn't forget, dropping the defenseless Ortiz with a left-right combination.
Victor Ortiz is a decent fighter with a daunting past. His mother abandoned him when he was just 7-years-old, and his father followed suit when Victor was 10, leaving the youngster and his brother to fend for themselves in a tattered trailer in Kansas. So with this hideous history as a backdrop, the chasm between the good guy and bad guy entering this fight was well defined. But the gap between good and great boxer was equally defined, and Mayweather was clearly out of Ortiz's class, no matter how it all went down.
HBO's "24/7" series, which chronicles two fighters before they fight each other, framed Mayweather as a case study in family dysfunction, highlighted by a near-fistfight with his father. He talks about his team as a family affair, yet his uncle (Roger, who happens to be his trainer) had to stop Junior from trading blows with Senior.
Mayweather has said on several occasions that he's better than Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Perhaps you must be a fight fan to realize how disrespectful (and laughable) that is. And while histrionics are as much a part of boxing as Everlast gloves, ropes, and a square, canvas ring, Mayweather should know to stop short of shortchanging the icons who made his considerable paydays possible. Mayweather will make well over $25 million for making quick work of Ortiz.
Like many men who can't think about anything but themselves, Mayweather is surrounded by a large entourage: a horde of pilot fish sucking from the rich shark. In one of the more charming moments leading up to the bout, Mayweather halted his many profane monologues long enough to clasp a stack of $100 bills to his ear in a faux phone chat, after he just scored a bucket of cash betting on an NFL preseason game.
Gambling is one of "Money" Mayweather's hobbies, though he won't take the one risk we require – a fight with Manny Pacquiao, whom many (including yours truly) consider the best fighter on Earth. Pacquiao is Mayweather's weight, age, and is possibly more famous. The fight would probably smash all pay-per-view records.
Each man would earn at least $50 million from fighting each other. Pacquiao and his promoter, Bob Arum, have stalked Mayweather and his promoter (Golden Boy) in an attempt to arrange the one fight the world would still pay to watch. Mayweather is hiding behind the claim that Pacquiao is taking steroids, making myriad testing demands that stretch miles beyond what any sanctioning boxing body requires. Pacquiao has agreed to just about all of them, yet there's no fight.
In fairness, Mayweather is a beautiful boxer whose maddening mixture of defense, hand speed, and power has pummeled most of his 42 pro foes. But his excesses are so grotesque, his hubris so gratuitous, that he makes it hard for anyone with a sense of self and boxing history to root for him.
Some of Mayweather's apologists suggest it's a racial thing, that those of us who don't buy his act aren't hard-wired into a select culture of elite athletes.
Gibberish. Some of us know the difference between fly and fool. Mayweather didn't invent the invective, or the trash talking perfected by Ali and many others before "Pretty Boy" Floyd was born. Ali's humor was clean, original, funny, and "The Greatest" was a genius at invading the id and ego of his enemy.
Mayweather is just rude, crude, and, if he doesn't fight Manny Pacquiao, a coward.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
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