Floyd Mayweather Jr. went out just as expected – on top and leaving boxing fans yearning for more.
Andre Berto wasn’t expected to give him much trouble, and he didn’t. Mayweather served notice in the opening minute of his fight with Berto that it would be an easy night and it was, with Mayweather winning all 12 rounds on one ringside scorecard.
Another yawner of a win. Another $32 million to buy a few more exotic cars and gas up the private jet.
Now he heads into retirement, or so he says. Mayweather has been insistent he will fight no more, no matter the lure of a rematch with Manny Pacquiao or another fight with Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez.
“You gotta know when to go. I’ve had a great career,” Mayweather said. “I’m leaving with all my faculties. I feel like I’m smart and sharp.”
Was he the best ever as he contends? No, largely because he didn’t fight often enough, refused to fight anywhere but at home, and hand-picked opponents when he thought they were most vulnerable.
What Mayweather can lay claim to is being one of the greatest defensive fighters ever, in the conversation certainly with the late Willie Pep.
That was evident against Berto, just as it was against Pacquiao in May. Mayweather dominated with his defense and ring smarts, just as he did so many times in a pro career where he fought 49 times and won 49 times.
“It was difficult to fight him,” Berto said. “He was really, really slippery.”
Mayweather is certainly the richest fighter ever, that’s for sure. He sold an estimated $750 million in pay-per-views in his last five fights alone, and made more than $220 million in his megafight with Pacquiao.
But if Mayweather’s career is indeed over at the age of 38 as he insists, he leaves a conflicted legacy in a sport he toiled for 19 years.
Mayweather rarely took a chance, and didn’t care about giving boxing fans the action they craved. He was content to win and keep banking millions of dollars and while it was not crowd pleasing, it’s hard to argue with the results.
Yes, fans bought his fights in record numbers. But often they did it simply with the hope of seeing Mayweather get beat. The Pacquiao fight especially left a sour taste for many because Mayweather dominated with his defense.
Hit and don’t get hit back. It’s a dream scenario for every fighter, and Mayweather was a master of the strategy even if fans were left screaming for more.
This actually may be a good time for Mayweather to go. He seems done inventing personas to sell, and his fight with Berto was so anti-climactic that Mayweather barely seemed interested in promoting it.
There’s also the fact that Mayweather seems genuinely troubled by the idea he might suffer health issues if he continues to fight. He talked often in the last few years about getting out of boxing before his brains got scrambled, and it’s hard to blame him for wanting to enjoy the fruits of his labor with his mind intact.
But it’s the rare fighter who goes out one fight too early instead of one fight too late. Mayweather doesn’t have to look too far to understand that, with his uncle Roger Mayweather and father Floyd Sr. both paying the price for their time in the ring.
Besides, did you know he’s rich, very rich?
“I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish,” Mayweather said. “I don’t know no one in boxing who made close to $800 million.”
The knock on Mayweather in his final fight, at least, was that he chose an opponent who had almost no chance of beating him. Berto was brought in so Mayweather could make a payday, win his final fight and join Rocky Marciano on the list of retired champions with perfect marks of 49-0.
And Berto played the part, chasing after Mayweather while throwing amateurish haymakers that had no chance of landing.
At the end of the fight, the crowd of 13,395 was on its feet at the MGM Grand arena, where Mayweather fought exclusively the last eight years of his career. Often Mayweather is booed late in fights but they cheered, seeming to appreciate both the fighter and the fact an era in boxing was ending.
No, Mayweather will not be able to lay claim to being the best ever. That’s a subjective title anyway, not easily debated across eras.
But he beat everyone who stepped in the ring with him. He found a way to get immensely rich while doing it.
In a remarkable career that stretched over nearly two decades, Mayweather was awfully good in his own way.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.