In a lot of ways, the undisputed awfulness of Mayweather-Berto and the way it’s being received shines a bright light on the even greater awful-er-ness of the boxing media.
The first thing you must know about the world of boxing media is that most people commentating on the sport know virtually nothing about it. Educated by trivia and what they’ve seen on TV, they are fueled, entirely, by prejudice, sponsored agendas, and/or homo-erotic fairy tale narratives of warrior men in battle.
In a world where HBO consultants and staff writers are hired as impartial analysts of HBO’s chief TV rival, Premier Boxing Champions, the concept of fair analysis is borderline comical. Almost everyone with “juice” in the boxing media business is in bed with someone, or they wouldn’t have “juice” in the first place. The few not-bought stragglers with high-profile voices survive as useful idiots or wishy-washy boxing weather vanes, who kinda have an opinion, but not really.
In this type of atmosphere, group-think flourishes and it becomes exceedingly easy to bury a man and his legacy. It also becomes easy to elevate a man beyond what his actual legacy dictates.
So, what we have in this day and age is a public that has been trained to not only distrust the media, but to actually disregard anything said by them– unless it fits into what they thought was right in the first place. Nothing has meaning anymore because nothing carries any weight.
This failure of the media has turned boxing into a Mad Max world of feuding tribal rivalries where any criticism of “your guy” is met with angry resistance, but any half-wit praise aimed at “your side” is accepted as absolute fact.
This assessment is especially apt when it comes to Floyd Mayweather– who, depending on who you ask, is either an absolute fraud, perpetually ducking out on his toughest challenges or an untouchable icon worthy of all-time greatness.
The brouhaha surrounding last week’s announcement of a September 12 bout between Mayweather and Andre Berto was, really, the perfect storm for those looking to take a one-day glimpse into what the boxing media has created.
It has also put some of us, who try not to buy into the sponsored group-think, into the unenviable position of pissing everyone off, all at once.
The truth is that Floyd Mayweather’s resume is not a mess of missed opportunities and ducked challenges. It actually holds up quite well with any of this era’s best. Eight of his last thirteen opponents were fighters he was accused of ducking at one time or another and you’d have to go back to January of 2005 before you could find him facing anyone other than a Top 4 challenger. His opponent list is not any more “hand-picked” than that of any of the other top names of this generation and is highlighted by wins over eight current or future Hall of Famers within the last decade.
But the truth is also that Andre Berto is not a fitting opponent for Mayweather at this point of Floyd’s career, one fight away from tying Rocky Marciano’s mythical 49-0 mark and with one foot out the door of a Hall of Fame career.
Choosing Berto at this stage of his career is a cynical matchmaking decision that gives credence to every bit of criticism thrown his way and reinforces what the hacks and serial critics have been working to prove since he got his first check not co-signed by Top Rank Promotions.
And yeah, yeah…the matchmaker in me realizes that the Berto match-up is not without its intrigue. And when all is said and done, Andre Berto may be able to issue more of a challenge than many assume.
But the X’s and O’s on an imaginary blackboard don’t forgive the fact that Mayweather Promotions is asking 65-75 bucks from loyal fight fans for a 50-to-1 main event.
And, while Mayweather may deserve a softball gimme like so many of the other top stars have enjoyed, this is not the time for one.
An overconfident, weepy-from-self-congratulations Mayweather, though, can be upset. If Marcos Maidana can out-hustle and beat a jaded, disinterested Mayweather for the first half of their first fight, then an always-game Berto can certainly do the same or better.
But is it fair for the competitiveness and overall worth of such a high profile bout to be based almost entirely on the favorite screwing himself out of the win? Unlike other sports, where two league champs meet in the finals, regardless of whether the match seems particularly interesting, boxing allows its champions, for the most part, to choose who they face– especially at Mayweather’s level. And no matter how you work to justify it, Berto is not the most deserving fighter out there, nor is he, realistically, even in the top five, six, or seven.
Even if Berto shakes up the world and upsets Mayweather, putting this abomination of a pairing on PPV will assure that it has minimal impact. Conversely, if this were, indeed, Mayweather’s last fight as promoted (it isn’t), then the promoters are ruining the victory lap of a Hall of Fame career by placing it atop a card almost guaranteed not to be a PPV hit.
There are many dimensions to this and back and forth.
That’s why it’s just so much easier NOT to think and to simply keep basing your blanket judgments on whatever allows you to keep riding your agendas and staying in good standing with those who are paying you to be conveniently dumb.
For those of us, however, who stubbornly (and, perhaps, dumbly) cling to silly concepts such as truth and impartiality, this job of analyzing the crazy world of boxing can be hard.
In this particular case, Mayweather, who has been unfairly maligned over the years, is deserving of scorn in his selection of Berto, especially as a PPV foe.
For Berto, it’s really not whether he can beat Floyd Mayweather or about him taking the shot dumped into his lap. There should be no flak for Berto taking the sweepstakes ticket.
Ultimately, it’s all about the decision to charge a premium price for a bout not perceived as a premium contest. It’s the equivalent of charging a footlong meatball sub price for a county jail ham and cheese sandwich, just because your clientele is perceived as stupidly loyal.
Whether it’s Mayweather vs. Berto, Pacquiao vs. Algieri, Kovalev vs. Mohammedi, or Golovkin vs. 95% of his resume– Cynical money grabs are always bad for boxing…period.
You won’t find him gossiping on Twitter, but if you have something to tell him, you can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also buy his book: Notes from the Boxing Underground! Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.