Mayweather Retires, Passes Torch

Grand Rapids native Floyd Mayweather fought his last fight on Sept 12 at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, NV. With a unanimous decision win against 32 year old Andre Berto, Mayweather retires as a division four (5x) world champion. The win tied with Rocky Marciano’s perfect record of 49-0 and in the minds of some, has cemented his legacy as one of the best prize fighters of all time. While Mayweather comes from a family of world-class pugilists (his trainer and uncle, Roger Mayweather once held a world title), he also continues a tradition of boxing greatness within the Midwest. It’s notable that many of the sport’s top talents emerged from Michigan. Joe Louis, Ray Robinson, and Floyd Mayweather are arguably the three best fighters in the history of their divisions, and all hail from the Great Lakes state.

Mayweather will retire after a brilliant career in the ring though it was nearly overshadowed by his run-ins with the law. He served 2 months out of a 3 month sentence for a misdemeanor domestic battery charge in 2012, making him the sport’s most controversial figure. The HBO documentary series, 24/7, covered Mayweather’s occasionally explosive relationship with his father, Floyd Sr, with one episode showing Floyd Jr slapping his father after a petty argument in the gym. To his detractors, Mayweather is but a coward, running away and fighting “like a woman.” For others, there’s never been an athlete as technically skilled to dominate the boxing ring. Watching Floyd Mayweather fight was to witness a master at work. He was so quick of hand and foot one wonders if his opponents even really had a chance. With that said, his biggest asset may have been his cunning, defensive skills, and ring generalship.

Despite the highly publicized negative events in Mayweather’s life, he does in fact serve as a role model for many young fighters in the Detroit area as well as other parts of the country. One thing Mayweather stresses to young amateur fighters is the importance of developing strong defensive skills. Boxing is a sport of half-inches and split second reflexes and death is always a possibility within the square ring which makes not getting hit the most important thing to a boxer, contrary to popular belief. It is for that reason that defensive prowess and technical skill, rather than brute strength, propelled Mayweather into the upper echelons of boxing greats. He has managed to retire healthy and has helped to create a new paradigm about what constitutes a “good fighter,” which is more than can be said about other champions such as Muhammad Ali who paid a great price for his willingness to take punishment in fights.

Mayweather has demonstrated that hard work and dedication are the ingredients vital to success and he has also proven that there is nothing cool or macho about taking a lot of punches in the ring. He set a precedent of self-management by doing so for the latter part of his career, avoiding trouble with boxing promoters who are often shady and looking to take advantage of the athletes.

Boxing is seen as a way out of the ghetto for many impoverished youth and Mayweather, like other champions before him, came from a poor background. Some boxing writers have remarked that boxing itself is in fact a condition of poverty, a reminder that the exploitation of the poor via prize fighting has taken place for centuries. Jack Dempsey, for example, started as a homeless teenager who wandered lumber camps and taverns challenging those he came across to bare-knuckle brawls for money and sometimes just food. Still, many kids are entered into amateur boxing for the stabilizing effect it has on their lives by teaching them to channel destructive emotions while cultivating traits like discipline, hard work and confidence. It was Joyce Carol Oates that quipped “Life is like boxing in many unsettling respects. But boxing is only like boxing.” With the passing of the torch, Mayweather steps down so that the next generation of young talent can make their mark on the world through a sport that is hopefully now safer and more lucrative for them.