Closing Thought on 2007: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and the State of American Boxing

By Christopher Roche, Brickcityboxing. com: I am convinced that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. might represent everything that is hurting American boxing. Many of Mayweather’s fights are boring, and he could care less about the fans. There is no doubt that Mayweather blew a golden opportunity to rally American fans in his fight against Ricky Hatton. Even though Hatton lost the bout, the story of the evening was the Hatton fan base and not the check left hook..

Floyd has undeniable skill and talent, but Floyd became a star in 2007 because of Oscar De La Hoya and Hatton and not the opposite. In the leads up to the De La Hoya bout and the Hatton bout, did Floyd embrace his fans once during any of the press conferences or the “24/7” footage? Did Floyd have ANY fans to embrace other than his paid entourage?

I was saddened at the lack of ticket buyers who yelled for Mayweather in either bout. Against De La Hoya, it is possible to overlook the lack of Mayweather supporters, as Oscar is a Matinee idol and media darling in the USA. However, against Hatton, Mayweather should have packed the house. Hatton’s fan base resides an Ocean, two mountain ranges and a desert away; yet, Hatton’s fans dominated the night. Where are the Mayweather fans? Please stand up.

Against Hatton, Mayweather made a last ditch effort to galvanize the American fans. He tried to counteract Hatton’s patriotic UK fans by entering the ring at the MGM to “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. Of course, he blundered because that song is actually an anti-war anthem, which voices disillusionment from the Vietnam War era. Consider some of the lyrics: “I got in a little hometown jam/And so they put a rifle in my hands/Sent me off to Vietnam/To go and kill the yellow man.” If Floyd had any say in that song choice, then his ignorance was on full display. Further, in the Hatton bout, that is the first time I ever heard the “Star Spangled Banner” booed on US soil, which can be partially attributed to Floyd’s lack of a fan base and its inability to drown out the Hatton fans.

Because of their box office appeal, De La Hoya and Hatton made the fights compelling against Floyd. In a somewhat disappointing bout, Floyd barely beat an aging De La Hoya via split-decision. Against Hatton, Floyd showed flashes of brilliance, especially in the final three rounds, but I would be remiss not to mention the 14 breaks that Joe Cortez administered in the first round alone on December 8. As if that was not enough, Mr. Cortez warned Hatton twice in the first three minutes, and he set the tone for another disastrous night for USA boxing officials, complete with a questionable point deduction later in the fight.

The piling on of Cortez is still occurring, as the ESPN crew (plus Roy Jones, Jr.) recently hammered Mr. Cortez’s efforts on December 28, during their “Friday Night Fights” premiere broadcast for 2008. Despite the “over officiousness” (ESPN’s label), it was Hatton who brought the fight to Mayweather. Hatton forced the action and sold the tickets, not Floyd.

Before the Hatton bout, Floyd attempted to market himself on “Dancing with the Stars”. What we saw was Mayweather pout like a spoiled brat at his partner, and he threatened to walk off the set. In “24/7”, we saw an impetuous imp throw his cash around in front of the camera and act like a modern day Al Capone. Does Mayweather not realize that two fists full of hundreds and a few diamond rings is not a King’s Bounty? What message is he sending to our youth? Is it any wonder the American public has little interest in Floyd, other than to see him lose?

I am concerned about the state of American Boxing. Globally, boxing is doing very well, but outside of Oscar De La Hoya, America does not have any box office blockbusters. Wladimir Klitschko, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Joe Calzaghe, and John Duddy would outdraw any American boxer, even in a fight held in America. I had high hopes for Jermain Taylor, but his momentum was ruined by a series of boring fights, and by the time Kelly Pavlik stopped him, most of the boxing public was anti-Taylor. I have high hopes for Kelly Pavlik, but despite the strong showing from his Youngstown faithful in his win over Taylor, there were many empty seats and little mainstream interest in the bout.

There are several ways for fighters to win admiration from the fans. Fans often root along nationalistic lines, which puts American fighters at a disadvantage because Americans usually identify with their ancestry. Fans also root for the consummate professional who will take on all comers and provide excitement while winning most of the time, think Arturo Gatti.

Fans sometimes identify so strongly with a fighter, they feel as if they know him personally. Hatton comes to mind, and he even joked that most of his fans probably do know him! A far cry from most American fighters.

Occasionally fighters come along who transcend boxing, and they become legendary figures, i.e., Muhammad Ali. There are many methods to gain popularity with the fans, but American boxers are not winning over the fans like their international counterparts. Floyd had his chance to win us over, but he blew it by acting so arrogant and apathetic toward the ticket buying public.

I grew up as a fan of Roger “The Black Mamba” Mayweather, and I initially liked Floyd because of his last name. Roger stood and fought, and like many other fighters in his era, such as: Buddy McGirt, Frank Tate, Bobby Czyz, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler, Roger took on the best. He did not always win, but he never avoided anyone. Further, Roger’s fights were exciting. Whether he was fighting Freddie Pendelton, Livingstone Bramble, Pernell Whitaker, Vinny Pazienza, Kostya Tszyu or Julio Cesar Chavez, Roger came to duke it out, and I enjoyed the “Mexican Assassin” bit. With Roger, there was never any doubt that the fans would get their money’s worth, and the fans responded. I miss Roger, but I am not sure I will miss Floyd.

Article posted on 30.12.2007

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