Painfully efficient, cold, calculated, elusive, and unforgiving; Deep Blue, a machine built by IBM in the early nineties, came onto the scene and suddenly made masters of the game of chess appear ordinary and vulnerable. Gary Kasparov, a renown chess master known for his aggressive and dynamic play, fell victim to Deep Blue’s strategic dismantling in 1996. Kasparov’s aggression was simply no match for the machine’s lack of emotion and relentless calculations.
Right around that same time, boxing’s version of Deep Blue would emerge from the ’96 Olympic Games and begin the dismantlement of all who faced him in the professional ranks. Now, at 48-0, with nary a scratch on his face to indicate his place atop boxing’s hierarchy, Floyd Mayweather has cemented his legacy, but what will his legacy be? With his performance last night, the utter disassembling of boxing’s fighter of the decade with little to no drama for the casual observer to latch on to, I ask, is Floyd Mayweather simply too good to be considered great?
Is the laser-sharp counterpunching, the fortress defense, and the perfect timing simply no longer fun to watch? These attributes have been Floyd’s signature on the sport of boxing for nearly 20 years and his digital to everyone else’s analog. However, it would appear that after last nights showing, the casual observer and even some purists are craving a return to roots. Last night Mayweather did what he usually does- He calculated, analyzed, and dismantled and opponent know for his hellish, storm-like aggression. Make no mistake, Manny Pacquiao was not off of his game.
This was the same buzz saw Manny that defeated the likes of Eric Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto, and the great Shane Mosely. However in the ring last night, Manny wore an expression the world had yet to see on his face, an expression familiar however to those who have followed boxing for the last 10 years. It has appeared on the faces of nearly all who have opposed Floyd Mayweather in the ring. It was the face of defeat, and it began to surface early in the fight.
Pacquiao has been defeated before, but never eluded and solved the way he was on May 2nd. It was for boxing purists, an amazing and career defining performance by Floyd Mayweather. Amazing because those in the know, know what a special fighter Manny Pacquiao is. Amazing because to make Pacquiao appear ordinary is truly mind boggling. The problem however, is that purists have little influence over the hearts and minds of the casual boxing observer, and ultimately a fighters legacy is defined in the court of public opinion. It’s the vulnerable champions, with their risk taking and dare I say, losses, that the people cling to. In recent fights with Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley, Manny was effective, potent, dangerous, and at times reckless; and the fans loved him for it even in defeat. Floyd, as a professional, has never tasted defeat, it’s the machine like qualities he possesses that have made him virtually unbeatable by boxing’s elite.
To the casual observer, watching Mayweather fight is akin to watching Kasparov face off against Deep Blue in a chess match. Fans hoping for the spectacular find it negated by the machine’s calculations and conservative efficiency that wins round after round, but never engages in an exciting exchange, and never risks the ultimate outcome for the sake of glory. To those who are not students of the sport of boxing, Floyd Mayweather will never be the best ever. And even for those who are, and who know that technically he is; he isn’t. Perhaps Floyd Mayweather is simply too good to be great.