By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I got an e-mail from an old friend yesterday.
“I made this statement to a colleague earlier today,” it said.
“Mayweather’s an all-timer. I just thought I'd share.”
Hardly an Earth-shattering proclamation on its own, but in context it represents a dramatic shift.
A music guru who dabbles in boxing, the friend had been an entrenched member of the “OK, Floyd's pretty good, but he's beatable ... and I don't like him” club for as long as I've known him.
He was among the misguided who thought the late Arturo Gatti had a chance to do more than bleed, fall and surrender against Mayweather a few years back in Atlantic City.
And he's included a caveat with every pro-Money pick since, wistfully pining “I'd be happy to be wrong” before admitting that the foe – from Baldomir and Judah to Mosley and Ortiz – had little chance.
The same was true over the weekend.
Bless his heart, my pal approached Saturday night’s main event with his recurring brand of hopeful zeal and he carried it proudly through the ring intros – where the always-sturdy Cotto looked properly grim and clearly contentious upon hearing the “touch gloves” admonition from referee Tony Weeks.
Poor guy, I felt kinda bad for him.
Because the more I think about it – and regardless of any “I've seen the light” e-mails since – the more I have to shake my head toward anyone who expected anything other than a gutty and effective performance from Mayweather, or cringe at those who walked away from it with anything other than a “Now I get it, Floyd's the best” mindset.
Even the ardent Cotto fans – the ones who insisted Mayweather cherry-picked past foes and was incapable of handling an elite who’d try to rough him up – had to walk out of the MGM Grand firmly comprehending their guy, while game and gritty, had come out on the short end of a street fight.
And it's not because Cotto's all that bad.
But because Floyd is just that good.
In fact, the only ones still reticent to believe are blind faith followers of a certain Filipino belt-hoarder, a crowd somehow maintaining Mayweather has sidestepped their guy and insisting that their man’s last-round TKO of Cotto 30 months ago – in spite of a dubious catch-weight mandate by a certain asset-covering promoter – was somehow superior to a decisive victory at nine pounds heavier.
In the end, as the new champ said afterward, it’s just Arum being Arum.
But hey, I'm no fool. I understand the economics.
The Top Rank conglomerate had everything to gain with a Cotto surprise – perhaps setting up a nice, safe rematch at another concocted scale number – and everything to lose if Mayweather not only beat the WBA champion as expected, but beat him up to boot.
The latter provides the company’s arch nemesis clear pound-for-pound leverage – namely an increasing flow of positive public opinion – to demand that the fight with Pacquiao be made once and for all on his terms, with his testing demands and with his split of the proceeds.
In other words, it’s a perfect storm of reality for Arum.
While his prized possession made a welterweight name with blowouts of flawed targets coming off defining losses – Pacquiao’s last seven opponents were a combined 19-8-1 with three KO defeats in their four lead-in fights – Mayweather foes over the same stretch include four reigning champions, two who’d not lost in this century and none who’d been stopped in the fight’s scheduled weight class.
And unlike the cash-grabbers and no-hopers who’d sell souls and concede details to get a spot on a Top Rank poster, Mayweather is fully aware of his bargaining position and has no urgency to accommodate.
He said he wants the fight. He said he’ll take the fight.
But he won’t back down just to get it made.
And the more time passes, the more fans are thinking he shouldn’t have to.
Especially when the 40 in 60/40 still means more than they’ll make in 10 lifetimes, and the needle prick is no more intrusive than the typical minimum-wage job requirement.
Come June 9, after beating a guy with precisely one lead-in fight above 140 since 2007, it’ll be interesting to see what tack the traditionally parrot-like Pacquiao – trained to chirp the “I fight who my promoter tells me to” mantra – decides to take in response to Mayweather’s verbal gauntlet.
If he breaks script, we might have a fun December after all.
If not, at least for ol’ Bob’s sake, try to act excited for Marquez IV.
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Elsewhere, now that we’re 48-plus hours past fight night, I’ve cooled a bit on Bob Sheridan.
But while the “Colonel” was doing his thing Saturday, I was convinced he was in need of immediate demotion – if not outright discharge – from the ranks of professional blow-by-blow providers.
His effort during the Alvarez-Mosley co-main was alone worthy of a verbal firing squad, what with the ridiculous labeling of the fight an “instant classic” and an adjoining claim that a return match between the two was something anyone would conceivably welcome.
Keep in mind that three judges gave Mosley a grand total of four rounds out of 36, and that Mosley himself conceded a one-sided defeat – even hinting at retirement due to its severity.
Not exactly the tastiest ingredients for a must-see-TV recipe.
Unfortunately, the blather hardly changed in the night’s finale, as Sheridan consistently went beyond the pale in labeling Mayweather a defensive virtuoso – while nearly everyone else at ringside and beyond saw Cotto hitting him far more than anyone had in recent memory.
Make no mistake, I’m more of a “Money” fan than most of my media colleagues and I believe he clearly won the fight – eight rounds to four, to be specific – but all I kept thinking to myself as time went on was “For crying out loud, Bob, get off the guy’s jock!”
* * * * * * * * * *
All that said, however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the old man credit for one item – again during Alvarez-Mosley – that had me contemplating aural suicide as he belabored it in real time.
At no point since I’ve been watching/covering fights had I ever heard reference to a WBC rule that, as Sheridan insisted, actually penalized a fighter responsible for a headbutt one point on the official scorecards – even if the blow was deemed accidental by the referee.
Maybe that’s because of my age. Maybe it’s because of his.
Regardless, the more he qualified his scoresheet with the “if you take away the point for the headbutt, it’s actually” XXX to XXX line, the more I was sure the guy was going audibly senile on live TV.
But lo and behold, after some cursory research Monday… it turns out he was right on point.
According to Rule 13a under subhead WC-3 (Applicability of WBC Rules) in the WBC’s Synthetised Version For Rules Meeting Ceremony – dated Oct. 30, 2009 – in the event of an accidental injury from a butt: “A point will be deducted from the uninjured boxer. This point deduction will compensate the advantages acquired by the uninjured boxer. The referee will have the option to consult with the WBC supervisor to waive the point deduction if the cut is on the hairline upwards.”
And while I didn’t see Jay Nady make a signal to judges about the penalty – nor does it appear that a point was indeed taken based on cumulative post-fight scores – I’ve nonetheless got to give Sheridan credit for being the lone commentator to at least indicate that such a rule existed.
It’s not a total pardon for the night as a whole, but on the specific charge of concocting a bogus scoring rule in the midst of a championship prizefight… Sheridan is surely innocent.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior bantamweight title – Tepic, Mexico
Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. (champion) vs. Juan Alberto Rosas (No. 1 contender)
Sanchez (13-1-1, 7 KO): First title defense; Third fight scheduled for 12 rounds (1-1)
Rosas (36-6, 27 KO): Third title fight; Held IBF title in 2010 (zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Late-20s veteran has fought better competition and should be able to take young champion into more difficult deeper waters.” Rosas by decision
IBO/WBO junior middleweight titles – Brovari, Ukraine
Zaurbek Baysangurov (IBO/WBO champion) vs. Michel Soro (No. 69 IBO/No. 5 WBO contender)
Baysangurov (26-1, 20 KO): First title defenses; Unbeaten since 2008 (7-0)
Soro (18-0, 11 KO): First title fight; First fight outside France
Fitzbitz says: “Russian-born title-holder may not be among the marquee names in the division, but he should have plenty to get past French pretender.” Baysangurov in 8
IBO middleweight title – Brovari, Ukraine
Gennady Golovkin (champion) vs. Makoto Fuchigami (No. 20 IBO contender)
Golovkin (22-0, 19 KO): First title defense; Has fought in four countries
Fuchigami (19-6, 10 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Japan
Fitzbitz says: “Similar to other title fight on the IBO/WBO card, the champion here is a lesser light but far superior to no-name challenger.” Golovkin in 9
WBO flyweight title – Pasig City, Philippines
Brian Viloria (champion) vs. Omar Nino Romero (No. 8 contender)
Viloria (30-3, 17 KO): Second title defense; Held IBF/WBC titles at 108 pounds (two defenses)
Romero (31-4-2, 13 KO): Seventh title fight; Fought Viloria twice in 2006 (1-0, 1 NC)
Fitzbitz says: “Romero won big the first time and would have had a draw the second. In other words, he’s simply got the right style not to lose to his Hawaiian nemesis.” Romero by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 5-2
Overall picks record: 307-102 (75.0 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.