By Lyle Fitzsimmons
You have your favorites. My colleagues at BoxingScene have theirs.
I have mine.
And as anyone who’s consistently read my stuff can tell you, I’m a Floyd Mayweather Jr. guy.
In 30-plus years as a fan, he’s as good as I’ve seen. And though his personal brand of cockiness tends to rub people the wrong way, I sort of like it. For the same reasons I liked Deion Sanders when he was picking off passes and high-stepping for the 49ers and Cowboys, I suppose.
He was the best in the business and he didn’t mind telling you.
In an activity like boxing – or football, in Deion’s case – where the guys with the big mouths have to stand within arm’s length of the guys they trash, I say let them talk. The ones who are good quickly earn the right to keep talking. And the ones who are nothing but talk quickly vanish.
But my fandom doesn’t take away my credibility as a journalist, as 21 years of bosses would tell you. Nor does it mean I won’t take “Money” to task when it’s warranted, as my call for him to be DQ’d after the in-ring theatrics with Zab Judah a few years back clearly indicates.
What it does tend to mean is whenever an item involving Mayweather arises, people assume I’ll take his side. And if I do indeed see things his way, they assume any argument I might make – no matter how logical in nature – is driven by that favoritism rather than fact.
It’s nonsense. But it’s predictable.
So, even as I write this on a chilly Monday morning in Gainesville, I expect follow-up commentary on boards and inboxes to lean toward the “you’re a nuthugger/why do you have a job” norms of the past. And hey, maybe a random smart-ass blogger short on ideas will take a shot as well.
It’s all part of the territory. And it doesn’t bother me in the least.
In fact, I sort of like it, too.
Which all leads me to this week’s conversation starter…
It’s unquestionably Manny Pacquiao – not Floyd Mayweather Jr. – who’s at fault for an impending Las Vegas prom date with Paulie Malignaggi on March 13, rather than a super fight with Pretty Boy Floyd.
But before Pac and Co. get the lawyers ready for another suit, however, let me be clear.
I have no reason to believe Manny has ever taken steroids or any other illegal substances. I’m convinced his exploits in the ring over the past several months – many of them historic in magnitude – were the product of talent rather than prescription. No defamation of any sort is intended.
Still, I’m not the guy in there taking punches from him.
And if I am Floyd Mayweather or anyone else, I want to be assured beyond the shadow of doubt that my opponent has submitted – along with me – to the most stringent and advanced battery of tests before he lays a glove on me. Not just a month in advance, but a week and a day as well.
Hell, test me in the ring between rounds, too, if you’d like.
Nothing to hide? Nothing to fear.
Let’s remember, Pacquiao was a flyweight not all that long ago. He’s added what appears to be 40 pounds of muscle to his frame – nearly 40 percent of what had been his body weight – and is exchanging punches with guys who as recently as two years ago were considered mismatches.
If this were a baseball player, the media would be at least casually interested.
If it were a baseball player the media and fans didn’t seem to like – Barry Bonds, for example – the casual interest would go a tad further. And if it were Mayweather claiming “superstition” or “disrespect” as hollow reasons for backing away from the biggest fight ever, the mobs would be lining the streets.
It shouldn’t make any difference that Pacquiao is popular.
And it shouldn’t matter that Floyd and his family circus are villains.
In this case, right is right.
More so than baseball or other sports, making sure all is fair in boxing is vital. People can die in there. And a suspension after the fact would be a hollow salve FOR a beaten foe whose career is compromised through dubious tactics.
Remember, a pristine past doesn’t always guarantee fair play in the future.
Just ask Antonio Margarito. Or Luis Resto.
No one suspected them before their incidents, but the sport is better off because of increased examination – paranoia, perhaps – that makes such dalliances more difficult to repeat.
And just because no one’s asked for broad drug tests before doesn’t mean they’re a bad thing.
After all, it’s not as if a competitive advantage is being requested.
It’s not as if Mayweather asked for a 30-foot ring, pleaded he be allowed to wear headgear or demanded a reigning and defending champion come in two pounds lighter than his weight class allowed. That, understandably, would be cause for alarm.
Instead, he’d undergo the same tests as Pacquiao. Endure the same painful pin prick. Risk the same short-term arm soreness. And in the end, get the same Fig Newton cookie as reward.
It’s a small price to make sure everything’s on the up and up. For everyone.
Yet Pacquiao balks at testing and is given a pass, while Mayweather is branded as the guy who avoids tough fights in the interest of protecting his record – by the very promoter who not too long ago was favorably comparing him to Ray Leonard.
I don’t care whose side you’re on, that’s just baloney.
And if Manny is really so pissed off at Floyd calling the shots, I’ve got a simple remedy.
Block the exit strategy.
Surrender this battle to win the war. For the sport. For the fans. For your bank account.
Take the needle in the arm. Apply a Band-Aid and rest for a bit.
Then get him in the ring for 36 minutes. And give him the beating of his life to remove any doubt about who’s the best pound-for-pound property in the sport today.
That just might make him, Floyd Sr. and Uncle Roger go away for good.
Because beating Malignaggi – in spite of promotional revisionist history – just won’t get it done.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and willing to undergo random tests to ensure he’s not a blood relative of any member of the Mayweather clan. Reach him at email@example.com , follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz or read him at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.