Last Saturday night, with only a handful of seconds remaining in the 12th round of Floyd Mayweather’s welterweight fight with Andre Berto, Mayweather started to hop around the ring while raising his fist in the air. He smiled and danced, playing to the crowd as the final bell sounded. He then went to the center of the ring, dropped to both knees, and lifted his head to the ceiling, soaking in the feeling for the final time. He was now 49-0, capping off his brilliant, unblemished career by dismantling the befuddled Berto on Showtime Pay-Per-View. And then, he called it a day.
But how long will that day last? If his past behavior is any indicator, probably not long. There have been too many guys before him who’ve said the same thing, only to return for another shot at glory. It rarely ends well. Perhaps Mayweather can buck the trend by finally keeping his word.
You’ll probably recall that Mayweather has sung this song before, as far back as 2006. He had just defeated Carlos Baldomir in an utterly hideous fight that had those in attendance running for the exits like Lord Cthulhu had just jumped into the ring in search of food. He wept at the post-fight press conference and announced his decision to stop fighting. He was back in the ring six months later, defeating Oscar De La Hoya via split decision.
After knocking out Ricky Hatton at the end of 2007, Mayweather agreed to a rematch with “The Golden Boy,” only to abruptly call off the bout and retire. This time, he seemed a bit more sincere. He said that he was tired of the sport, bored of fighting, and that he was moving on to other things. It was shocking to see a 31-year-old fighter, especially one has dominant as Mayweather, hang up the gloves. He was saying goodbye to millions of dollars. But he claimed to be “at peace” with his decision. The peace lasted around a year-and-a-half. During that time, he occasionally kept his hands busy. He announced his return in 2009, got angry with Brian Kenny, and then embarrassed Juan Manuel Marquez.
So when Mayweather announced in August that his final opponent would be Berto, several pundits wrote it off as merely another hype job, something done to promote an otherwise terrible match-up. And given Mayweather’s track record, and the fact that he’s just another win away from 50-0, and the fact that he’s still extremely sharp, and the fact that another fight would bring in an ungodly sum of money, there’s strong reason to doubt that this retirement will stick.
After the fight was announced, I wrote that Mayweather had found himself in the incredibly rare position of being able to go out on his own terms, as the top draw in the sport. But that lure will always be there, like a seductress, beckoning for one more fight. There will always be another contender, another hungry fighter who could maybe, possibly defeat “Money.” Lennox Lewis, the great heavyweight champion who last fought in 2003, was still rumored to fight again nearly a decade later. He even had a little extra incentive — unlike Mayweather, Lewis’ last fight was close, and shrouded in a bit of controversy when he stopped Vitali Klitschko. Somehow, he held out and stayed retired.
The same can be said for Joe Calzaghe, who also retired with a perfect record. It had to absolutely gnaw at him to see Carl Froch rise up, knowing he could come out of retirement and earn a massive paycheck to take him on. But he stayed away. His post-career ride hasn’t always been smooth, but he stayed out of the ring. His legacy is intact.
Mayweather will hear these same calls. He’ll likely be inundated with them in the coming months, promising eight or even nine figures for another bout. And really, who could blame him for taking one? He looked just as sharp Saturday as he has in years. He remains damn-near impossible to hit, and thus damn-near impossible to beat. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see him fight for a bit longer and remain the pound-for-pound king.
He has a stable of fighters under his Mayweather Promotions banner that he says he’d like to groom. And maybe that will keep him busy enough to stave off thoughts of a return. But he isn’t a promoter. He’s a fighter, one of the best to come around in a long, long time. That just doesn’t leave a man because he says he’s done. That competitiveness, that ego, that itch, will still be there. It will probably never leave him.
You won’t find many people who think this retirement will be permanent. But maybe this time, Mayweather means it. He’s earned a staggering amount of money, and perhaps he really has invested wisely, like he mentioned to Jim Gray after Saturday’s fight. And then there’s the record. Winning, staying undefeated, means more to Mayweather than anything. If he feels like he’s slipping in any way, it’s hard to imagine him risking the zero in his loss column for one more payday.
So this could actually be it for Floyd Mayweather, one of the most polarizing figures the sport has ever seen. Or, maybe he’ll be back next May, poised to collect another massive check while exclaiming that there’s more work to be done. But eventually, those other-worldly reflexes won’t be there. Along with that, the incredible hand speed, footwork and accuracy will follow them out the door. If he remains as savvy as he’s shown himself to be, those things will disappear while he’s enjoying a few cocktails somewhere near a ring.
If he fails to resist the urge, those skills will evaporate in front of us while he’s in the ring, like so many other boxers have. That would be the ultimate irony, because the one thing we can all agree on is that Mayweather would never be labeled as just another boxer.
Some Random Notes From This Past Weekend:
- Errol Spence, Jr. beat the hell out of 300 extra Chris Van Heerden Friday night on Spike TV’s broadcast of “Premier Boxing Champions.” Though Van Heerden is limited, he’s a tough hombre, and Spence looked like the goods. Hopefully, he’s in with a top 10 welterweight next, but with adviser Al Haymon, who the hell knows?
- It was nice to see Vivian Harris make an appearance, until we all realized he was there to be violently concussed. Again.
- This referee is terrifying.
- So is this one.
- In Spike’s main event, light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson looked like a monster when he smashed the shit out of Tommy Karpency. I don’t think he looks nearly as scary if that’s Sergey Kovalev in front of him.
- On Saturday afternoon’s PBC broadcast on NBC, middleweight Peter Quillin nearly killed Michael Zerafa, who may or may not be a male stripper. Quillin won’t find Danny Jacobs that easy to roll over.
- I’m not sure why super middleweight George Groves looked so shocked over his split decision loss to Badou Jack Saturday night on the Mayweather/Berto undercard. He was lucky to get the split. He’s pretty fun to watch, but he just doesn’t have the stuff to be elite. I’m not sure if Jack does either, but at least we can now watch him without wanting someone to staple our eyes closed.
- Junior lightweights Orlando Salido and Rocky Martinez gave us one hell of a show Saturday night. While Salido deserved the decision win instead of a draw, his indefatigable pace and Martinez’s incredible beard gave us a strong Fight Of The Year contender in their rematch. I’m betting the inevitable rubber match is no different. The fight almost made Mayweather vs Berto worth the price.
- Berto is not a great fighter, but he really didn’t do any worse than Canelo Alvarez or Robert Guerrero before him. Mayweather doesn’t discriminate — he makes everybody look awful.
(Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime)