The notion that ‘practice makes perfect’ is the second biggest well-intentioned lie that people tell on a regular basis every single day – right behind ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ and just ahead of ‘surely they won’t kill off everyone on Game of Thrones’. Perfection is an ideal; an almost mythical state of existence where one is invulnerable, without any perceivable weakness and devoid of self-doubt.
Floyd Mayweather is the exception to the norm. This isn’t to say that his mastery of the sport of boxing is completely flawless – Marcos Maidana made Mayweather look damn near mortal in their fight last May, although to describe that fight as ‘clean’ would be like calling the end of Breaking Bad ‘somewhat emotional’. However, over the last two decades, Mayweather has won all 48 of his fights, including his recent bout with the great Manny Pacquiao – a degree of perfection that is unparalleled in the modern era of sports.
God made nothing perfect, except for my boxing record.
Floyd Mayweather the boxer is not the same person as ‘Money’ Mayweather the phenomenon. In the ring, Floyd is surgical – every move is calculated and no strikes are wasted. He’s constantly moving, yet there’s always an element of stillness to his stance, one that invites opponents to swing at their peril. Mayweather’s punches are like javelins, able to shoot through the tiniest of gaps. He embarrassed Corrales, humiliated De La Hoya and practically rearranged Gatti’s face. Some might say that Floyd spent Saturday night running away from Pacquiao – others will claim that Floyd was just using his almost alien physical stamina to his advantage. As one commentator summarized, the four virtues of Plato coincidentally correspond to the four qualities of Mayweather’s boxing – wisdom, courage, moderation and justice.
The same could hardly be said about Mayweather’s antics outside the ring. Everything he does is in one way or another a reminder that he is indeed the highest-paid athlete in the world, with over 180 million dollars more entering his bank account after Saturday’s big dance. ‘Money’ Mayweather has deliberately transformed himself into an anti-hero – he sells himself as eccentric, brash and ultimately irrepressible. Boxing has always been a fun-house mirror for society, exaggerating the best and worst in men. Whilst some fighters, such as Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield, were revered for their heart and grit, Mayweather went the other direction – if he couldn’t be loved for his antics and his crowd-silencing style of boxing, then at least he’d be rich and famous. Money is everything to Mayweather, and a dollar can drown out so much else.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Mayweather’s distinctly controversial persona is that he is a man who has built up the reputation of being as surgically brutal to women as he is to his opponents. It is no secret that Mayweather has been accused of seven separate assaults against five different women that led to citation or arrest – the beating of Josie Harris in September 2010, tragically documented by his own 9-year old son’s voluntary statement, would have led to a sentence of 34 years in prison had he not accepted a plea bargain that miraculously reduced that sentence to 2 months. Over the last few years, Mayweather has dealt with media interest in this issue that would have made Bill Clinton proud – when Rachel Nichols pressed him on the Shantel Jackson lawsuit, he simply walked out and cancelled his remaining press commitments; when Katie Couric took up the chance to ask him about the ‘reduced misdemeanor charges’ last month, Mayweather took it as an opportunity to blame the victims and play the innocent card; and when John Barr asked him what message he was trying to send to victims of domestic violence, Mayweather responded by telling the nation to tune in to the fight on the 2nd of May, ‘the fight that you can’t miss’.
Don’t let ‘Money’ make you forget the greatness of Floyd
The fight with Pacquiao should not have been seen as an excuse to ignore Money Mayweather’s various misconducts, but rather an opportunity to appreciate the excellence of Floyd Mayweather’s boxing. As reprehensible as his behaviour outside the ring can seem at times, there is no question that Mayweather is still a rare athlete who, at age 38, may be at the end of the peak of his powers – powers that were partially blessed to him through genetics, but were mostly the result of a unwavering work ethic that has propelled him through all the hardship of his upbringing, which included the death of his mother and the almost decade-long incarceration of his father.
So hate ‘Money’ Mayweather all you want. Criticize his antics and showboat lifestyle. Rightfully berate him for his domestic abuse tendencies. Just don’t let ‘Money’ make you forget the undeniable greatness of Floyd.