By Jason Keidel
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At an age when most boxers fade under the dim lights of dementia, Floyd Mayweather Jr seems as keen and quick and good as ever, in defiance of history and precedent and logic.
Turns out Mayweather’s greatest challenge was just his latest challenge. Canelo Alvarez, a young buck in a rut who was charged with silencing the mouthy Mayweather finally and forever, was little more than a pale canvas on which the artist painted another sleepy, surgical masterpiece.
While millions dug deep into their 401K to watch two undefeated fighters at opposite ends of their careers, Mayweather (45-0) peppered Alvarez from whistle to gun, slicing cuts all over the younger, baffled fighter’s face. Though Alvarez was never in danger of falling, he never was in danger of winning.
Alvarez (42-1-1), the naturally beefier and more powerful boxer, fought as though a firewall were between he and Mayweather, keeping a comfy distance, just the right space for a wizard like Mayweather to snap his jabs and lead with lightning rights.
Perhaps the lone handicap of youth is machismo. Indeed, Alvarez tried to whip Mayweather at his own game, trying to outpoint and outwit the boxing savant who has perfected his hit-and-run magic since he turned pro in 1996.
Rather than read the blueprint drawn by Oscar De La Hoya and Xeroxed by Miguel Cotto, a rabid, smothering, smoldering approach, pushing Mayweather into corners and pounding him from the torso up, Alvarez was content to dance in the middle of the ring. It’s hard enough to beat Mayweather Jr at any game, much less his own.
Some pundits made the point that Mayweather’s career could use a loss, that the masses would be less inclined to reach into their wallets for another soporific, scientific win like the one we just witnessed.
As oxymoronic as that sounds, it may have some merit. Mayweather is so mundanely dominant that absent the barbaric power of Mike Tyson or some other threat of violence or competition, you will be harder pressed to sell Mayweather for $50 a clip, much less the $75 we just paid to watch him in HD.
Who’s left for Mayweather? Since the sport finds such a dearth of decent talent since larger fighters now play other sports and the rest have taken their acts down the road to the more savage but popular octagons of MMA, the sweet science has a decidedly sour future.
You don’t have to revere him. But you must respect him. Beyond the bold and gold and pyramids of cash, Mayweather Jr. checks his excess at the door when his smile bends down and his eyes glare and his nostrils flare and his instincts supplant his hubris.
His apologists will tell you that his bombast feeds his boxing, that his outsized persona, his obscenely profane life is sprung from poverty, that all his histrionics are natural adjuncts of the hood, and that any of us who don’t love it don’t understand it. Gibberish. Mayweather acts like an idiot because he wants to, and he clearly knows the difference between civility and stupidity.
You wonder why he wants to be flanked by Lil Wayne’s raspy rhymes or Justin Bieber’s diamond-crusted wrists. You don’t get why someone who has worked so hard to extricate himself from the galling poverty and career criminals of his youth would insist on flaunting the behavior spawned by both.
At some point, if you love boxing — yes, some of us still do, and will watch the sport through it’s sad, bruising twilight — you must separate the man from the mouth, from the vulgar mythology, from himself.
When Mayweather Jr. is in the ring, alone, against one of his peers, you realize he has no peers.
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