Still in the limelight: Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Brooklyn press conference
Despite a New Year promising health and regeneration, boxing wouldn’t be itself without dredging up the perennial, Sisyphean question of the post-Floyd Mayweather Jr. age from its swampy habitat: Will “Money May” ever step through the ropes of a professional ring again? A firm answer will most likely forever elude us but if Saturday night’s card, headlined by Badou Jack vs. James DeGale, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, was any indication, Mayweather is in no rush to fight again, even as appealing – if apocryphal – eight-figure offers are continually sent his way.
With the limelight squarely on him – this time as a promoter – Mayweather, sporting a red-and-white checkered shirt and faux-tux blazer that made him look more like a bellboy than a Big Kahuna, took up the media room pulpit and began to lecture – the first part of a night-long seminar – a throng of reporters on everything from growing up in a Michigan slum to buying car rims. In short, this was Mayweather in prime form, back in the eye of the promotional hurricane. Against our better judgment, we left our press seats and huddled into the press room, training our click-bait eyes on the bully pulpit, even though, out on the floor, a very good scrap between middleweights Ievgen Khytrov and Immanuwel Aleem was taking place. (By the way, who schedules a press conference in the middle of a televised card?)
Hubris, as the Greeks were well aware, is a terribly progenitive force and Mayweather brandishes his version without exhaustion. Forget that the presser he was helming was for Adrien Broner’s February fight against Adrian Granados – at least that’s what one could glean from the backdrop. Forget that Broner, as garrulous as anyone in the fight racket, was reduced to a mum puppet on the dais. A few journalists tried to re-focus the presser by asking questions specifically about Broner’s preparation and how he planned to conduct himself against Granados – but to little avail. It was clear that on this night, any discussion of boxing, specifically the achievements and dreams of the young fighters under the TMT promotional wheelhouse, would have to be prefaced and justified by episodes from Mayweather’s own life. Remember Arturo Gatti? Oscar De La Hoya? Marcos Maidana, boy, was he a tough puncher, etc. “I’m talented and God-gifted,” Mayweather declared, as if discovering this combination, himself, for the first time. “So I’ve got two things on my side,” he continued. “Most fighters only have one thing.” Then, seeming to realize his tangent needed to relate back to the point of the gathering, Mayweather followed up with a bogus non-sequitur. “And we will see the best of Adrien Broner,” he said, uttering each syllable with a motion of the hand. As Mayweather went on and on with his long-winded soliloquy, the obvious revealed itself, if it wasn’t apparent before. So long as he can command the attention of the press, there won’t be a need to go through the drudgery of another training camp.
For many, the battle waged on Saturday night, between Badou Jack and James DeGale, signaled an early victory for boxing in 2017. DeGale, a lean, athletic fighter, scored an early knockdown, courtesy of a straight left hand, and the first half was fought closer to his herky-jerky pace. Jack, hardly hurt by the early knockdown, grew familiar with DeGale’s pattern of attack as the rounds progressed and eventually began landing strafing right hands and heavy shots to DeGale’s body. In the 12th round, Jack landed an uppercut that sent DeGale tumbling backward onto the canvas. It was a round in which Jack was already winning and, while it wasn’t definitive – DeGale, his face, by then, a splotchy purple, got back up to end the round strongly with one of his customary flurries – it left a vivid impression that Jack did enough to eke out a win.
A draw, however, as two of the judges had it, wasn’t the worst possible outcome. In fact, it was more than appropriate, considering many of the middle rounds were head-scratchers. Give it to DeGale for his activity (even though many of his punches hit only gloves)? Or to Jack for his cleaner but less frequent connects? Such questions are best left to be resolved in a rematch. When the draw was announced, the expectation of a rematch more than compensated for the disappointment in not seeing titles unified.
Say what you will about the relative paltriness of the 168-pound division; its Top 2 fighters entered a boxing ring and that feat alone is a cause for celebration. Add to that the genuine sense of malice that manifested in the ring – DeGale’s cracked front teeth alone are evidence of the violence waged – and Jack-DeGale should be lauded for living up to, and even surpassing some, expectations.
To hear Mayweather, then, decry the outcome and shut down the possibility of a rematch was unfortunate, to say the least, but in line with the fighter-promoter’s longstanding persecution complex. This was nowhere near the level of Tim Bradley-Manny Pacquiao I but it may as well have been for Mayweather, who pulled out all the stops of a fuming social crusader. Another black eye for boxing! Asked in the press room, if he couldn’t just concede that a draw was a respectable decision for a close and competitive fight, Mayweather lashed out, “Fuck no!”
There’s nothing wrong with being angry. He thought his fighter won and he is not alone in that opinion. But to cast the sick pallor of his ego on the rest of us seemed gratuitous, especially considering all his talk about cleaning up boxing and making it a less fractious industry – the usual platitudes. Here was a chance to strengthen boxing and Mayweather, as is his wont, pointed the finger at an age-old boxing scapegoat: Corruption. In this case, completely abstract, imaginary corruption. If Mayweather was serious about his charitable ambitions, he would’ve spent his energy celebrating the merits of the first fight card to be held in New York since August and the fact that his promotional company took a step up in credibility. After all, the night also saw Mayweather protege Gervonta Davis pick up a world junior lightweight title belt by pummeling Jose Pedraza – but you almost forgot that had happened amid Mayweather’s cantankerous din. The old observation stands: There is no sport like boxing that is so predisposed to shooting itself in the foot. “We look in the mirror and we see the enemy,” Don Majeski once said, “and it’s us!”