Timothy is an artist & writer, currently living in California. He holds an MFA from Columbia University.
The Unresolved Legacy of Floyd Mayweather
There was a time not so long ago when the most revered and supposed "baddest" men and women on the planet wore 10oz gloves, danced and circled each other without the fear of being kicked, elbowed, taken down or choked out. These were our most celebrated fighters and our standard-bearers of toughness—the champions of boxing. Some of them were true athletic geniuses, modern-day duelists, who mastered the art of an often beautiful, but one-dimensional sport. Those were indeed the days.
I grew up in an America that was inundated with pop culture fighting, without a true understanding of what actual fighting was. Our collective perception was limited to Daniel Larusso's crane kick and Rocky Balboa's left hook, while most of us hadn't heard the name Gracie, or the words Muay Thai just yet. A real fight, whether on tv or in the yard, was almost exclusively with one's fists, unless someone took a karate class and learned to kick somewhat effectively. A proper takedown, which could be learned in Judo or Wrestling, along with an accompanying submission, would eventually be embraced by the public, at a premium.
It would seemingly take ages before we had a chance to see which styles, strategies, and methods provided the greatest recipes for victory in physical combat. Over the years, MMA has provided us with that microscope, as a complete package, on a consistent and global scale. While most would agree that the art of boxing still provides the most effective set of tools for general striking, it should be noted that "tool" is the keyword here, in providing just one element...among many.
In the Fall of 2017, the world sat on the edge of its seat, for the biggest "fight" of the year. An undefeated legend of pugilism, considered possibly the greatest defensive boxer of all time, would compete against one of the most explosive and exciting Mixed Martial Artists in the UFC. The only problem? The MMA champion, now competing in a completely different game, could use only his fists like a tiger challenged to fight without the use of his teeth or claws. The American boxer won the boxing match, of course, and it took long enough, eventually stopping the Irishman, whose stamina was questionable, to begin with, in the 10th round.
There was a verbal agreement between the two men, that there would be two fights, with the first match in the boxing ring, of course sticking to official boxing rules, while the rematch would take place in the octagon, the home of the UFC, allowing for the multitude of tools available to a mixed martial arts fighter. It seemed to be a fair agreement at the time, is that the two combatants regularly performed in two different sports entirely, that they should trade-off in each of their competitive arenas.
The appropriate rematch, as promised, has sadly not taken place, and the issue has been dismissed by the boxer, who chose instead to engage in another boxing match, against a young Japanese Kickboxer, who normally weighs in at around 130 lbs. For the record, the smaller Kickboxer was not allowed to kick, and the bout lasted one round; "easy work" as some would say, but perhaps at the cost of the American's reputation and clout.
Floyd Mayweather was inarguably brilliant throughout his career, and not just as a businessman. Even if you criticized his ring tactics, or his opponent selection (particularly when he fought certain fighters), most recognize that his shell defense, counterpunch timing, and overall awareness were all second to none. Mayweather has always been a tenacious competitor, facing and defeating all comers (eventually), and he’s perhaps the most accomplished athlete the U.S. has produced. He’s certainly the proudest. An Olympic silver medalist as a young man and now undefeated in fifty professional bouts (on paper), Floyd would often rematch the boxers who gave him the most trouble, winning handily, and removing all questions of his dominance (see the first Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana bouts).
Mayweather has beaten every man he’s faced in the boxing ring, but the biggest challenge facing him now is greater than any opponent, and will forever follow his name as a competitor, for better or worse. Unlike his fellow champion boxers Ricardo Mayorga (0-3 in MMA), and the great James Toney (0-1 in MMA), who famously lost to Randy Couture by submission in under one minute, Floyd has chosen to hide away from the challenge, so far.
Floyd could easily change the course of history, and perhaps gain a greater legacy than any of his predecessors, if he finds himself mastering new tools. He doesn't even need to win, to gain the admiration that he believes he already deserves, by simply stepping into the octagon. Outside of boxing, in any MMA gym, or any martial arts environment, the name Floyd Mayweather is both respected, for his vast achievements in the art of one-dimensional striking, yet also derided for what he's recently done with it. There are some who consider him a coward, which is too harsh, and there are some who consider him simply a savvy businessman, who correctly chose the path of least resistance. There's of course nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it's not the same path that a fighter, by its true definition, would take to chase greatness.
Boxing, as a product, is on its last legs, despite the immortal impact of the art itself. In the eyes of the common fan, the dimming spotlight of the sport will soon be a thing of the past, as time moves on and we embrace the multidimensional aspects of MMA. We’ll watch Juan Manuel Marquez knockout Pacquiao, and Mickey Ward duels Artuo Gatti on YouTube, as glorious memories of wars gone by, while the important live events and drama of the day will be reserved for the MMA fighters The world has already chosen its favorite. In the next few years, Floyd has a choice to make of his own, before sparring becomes too difficult, and learning new tricks is no longer an option for an aging athlete. Fortunately for him, the choice is easy money, likely breaking all previous PPV sales, but most importantly...it comes with instant honor and a universal respect in all corners, regardless of the outcome.
Go pick a fight, Floyd. A real one.