“Winning” vs. “Being the Best”

Floyd Mayweather is evil.  Deadspin (and probably a million others) labeled him as a “coward” after the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, the Pacquiao camp says Manny was denied a crucial shoulder injection before the fight which put him at a disadvantage and for heaven’s sake Justin Beiber is a huge Mayweather fan – enough said.

Yes, Floyd “Money” Mayweather is clearly evil.

But regardless – he’s also a winner… and we hate it.

After the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight last night the whole world is burning with comments about the fight.  Some good, some bad, mostly just bitching because Mayweather doesn’t take the traditional “take a punch, punch back” route to his victories.  But whether you like his style or not, he still won.

I’ve never been a boxing fan.  Fighting sports (MMA, boxing, etc.) never interested me; mostly because I was a scrawny kid with no muscles when I was younger and I’m a fat old dude with no muscles currently – and neither is a great body style for fighting.  But I wanted to watch the fight last night because it was billed as the biggest fight of 2010 and besides, I was tired of drywalling my upstairs bathroom.

So I headed over to a buddy’s house and a half dozen of us watched the fight.  I was clearly the only one there who had no clue about boxing because as an outsider looking in I would have told you for the first 7 or 8 rounds the Pac-man was winning.  But every time they put up the unofficial judges cards it seemed to show that Mayweather had the advantage.  I couldn’t figure it out until my buddy explained that Mayweather’s gentle caresses of Pacquiao’s face with a jab counts the same as a the solid hit Manny lands on Floyd’s body while the latter is trying to run away.  Apparently the only real difference in punch tallies is whether a punch was a “power punch” – if they rotate the hips when they swing.  Interesting.

But I can accept that and appreciate it.  I don’t claim to understand how to score boxing any more than I understand cricket, so I accept the explanations of others more knowledgable than I on the subject, and given that I don’t think there was any question that Mayweather won the fight.

I don’t think anybody can argue (once they understand how it’s scored, anyway) with the judges’ unanimous decision to leave Mayweather undefeated.  But getting a unanimous decision doesn’t mean Mayweather is the better boxer, and that’s where all the arguments stem from.

When folks my age think “boxing” we picture two guys sitting there hammering on each other for somewhere between one and twelve rounds.  We see Ali and Frazier going at it; George Foreman taking body shots and then finishing the match with a hook to his opponent’s head.  We see Mike Tyson biting someone’s ear (it’s unfortunate we think of that instead of his vicious right uppercuts).  Even though Muhammad Ali has the famous “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” approach we don’t think of his dancing around the ring avoiding contact as his primary means of winning – we think of his left-right combinations that just destroyed his opponents when they landed.

But that’s not Mayweather’s style.  Call it cowardice, call it fear, call it evasion – but like it or not you can’t deny his decision to run away was smart.  He avoided the obviously stronger Pac-man’s punches all night long, and when a couple would land he’d take advantage of the hug to minimize the damage.

Whether you like him or not the one thing you can’t straight-faced call Floyd “Money” Mayweather is “stupid”.  The man built his empire up, took home somewhere between $100m and $200m for last night’s fight and – let’s not forget – improved his record to an impressive 48-0.  He didn’t do it in conventional boxing style by taking punches and giving back as good as he got, but he still won.

It’s like Tim Ferriss (one of my favorite authors) when he won the 1999 Chinese Kickboxing championship not by kickboxing better than his opponents…but by pushing them out of the ring – a legitimate, albeit not favored by fans, judges or opponents, way to win).  Conventional?  Hell no.  Successful?  Absolutely.

As much as I hate comparing Mayweather to Ferriss it’s impossible not to draw that parallel.  You don’t have to be the best boxer (Mayweather clearly isn’t, at least as far as fundamental boxing goes) but he’s still the champion because he knows how to use the rules of scoring to his advantage and win.  He boxes smarter, not better.

Unfortunately for HBO and Showtime (and boxing in general) that doesn’t bode well with the general public.  As my buddy pointed out given the outcome of the fight last night it’s possible that what we paid $100 to watch on pay-per-view was the last Fight (with a capital “F”).  Few people want to pay $100 to watch twelve rounds of ballet dancing in a ring, and so until a fight appears that’s likely to leave at least one of the boxers with a half-dozen open wounds on their face at the end it’s going to be hard to convince the world to drop $400m of their hard-earned money to watch a boxing match.

But we’ll see; it’s not like Mayweather’s style wasn’t known from the get-go, and we still opened our wallets and said “here, take my money” in the hopes that Pac-man could lay Mayweather out.

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What do you think?