Floyd Mayweather – The Persona Vs. The Fighter

07.12.07 - By Matthew Hurley: At the final press conference before Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton step into the ring on Saturday night the two fighters received markedly different receptions from the crowd. After a rather sedate podium stand by both men they stood face to face and a shoving match ensued..

Hatton, who has found the proverbial ‘good guy’ white hat atop his head as opposed to Mayweather’s villainous black hat during the pre-fight build up, has laughed off the “Pretty Boy’s” taunts in the months leading up to the fight. He’s become the perfect foil for Mayweather’s increasingly irksome bad boy persona and, as it did for his fight against Oscar De La Hoya, the HBO series 24/7 has alienated Mayweather from many boxing fans even further.

It is to Floyd’s great credit, however, that once inside the ring that thuggish braggadocio melts away into a cool, calm technically brilliant boxer. It would be foolhardy to ever truly take to heart what Floyd says when he’s in the guise of his alter ego. Although he will thump his chest and claim that he’ll “knock out that midget” to anyone who will listen when he’s trying to get a rise out of the crowd, the more candid mind of the fighter resolves to “box, box, box.” He may enjoy riling up Hatton’s legion of fans, and it must be said that the boos that accompanied his entrance into the press conference came from all the Hatton fanatics who have overrun the city of Las Vegas during fight week. It is estimated that there will be nearly 30,000 British fans screaming for Mayweather’s blood come this weekend and it has been quite a while since Floyd found himself to be the crowd favorite. That might bruise his ego a little, but it does nothing to deter the fighter once he steps through the ropes.

Mayweather has also found support lacking among other fighters. It seems he has done an exemplary job of isolating himself from his fistic brethren as more and more boxers from the elite level to up-and-comers to local club fighters are tossing their support into the Hatton camp. The latest fighter to acknowledge that he has no love for Floyd and hopes that Hatton will emerge victorious is telling because he himself was as polarizing a figure in his time as Mayweather is today.

“I just want the best man to win,” Mike Tyson told the media. “And that means Ricky Hatton. He’s a great kid. I don’t like Floyd Mayweather.”

As for the shoving that went on before Floyd and Ricky were separated Hatton told reporters that, “He leaned on me a little bit but I just leaned back. He isn’t pushing me. When I leaned back on him he said, ‘don’t touch me.’ I gave him a little bit of a stare and then I smiled at him. If he’s annoyed at that wait till the bell rings.”

Mayweather probably was annoyed by that. In fact it is obvious that Ricky has become something of a thorn in Floyd’s side during the build up to the fight and most of that annoyance comes from his deep rooted belief that Hatton isn’t even on his level as a fighter. The booing by Hatton’s fans only brings out that preening bad boy in his psyche but the fact that many people who once thought this bout would be a mismatch are now scratching their heads wondering if the “midget” can pull off the upset is something Floyd didn’t expect.

But like a Pavlovian dog, once the bell rings on Saturday night and Floyd Mayweather turns into what he is, the most gifted boxer in the game, Ricky Hatton may be in for a lesson that other fighters on Floyd’s resume have learned – the fighter and the persona are two very different things. And the fighter has been unbeatable, sometimes untouchable, in thirty-eight professional fights. Hatton’s been able to stand his ground with the Mayweather persona, it remains to be seen if he can hang with Mayweather the fighter.

Article posted on 08.12.2007

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