Over the weekend, Floyd Mayweather Jr. took a few short minutes out of his not too busy schedule to once again clarify that he remains, at age 40 and over a year into his retirement, the biggest player in the whole boxing game. Whether you love him, hate him or merely respect him, it’s the absolute truth.
Mayweather announces that he is coming out of retirement, to fight an athlete under contractual obligation to an entirely different sport and it is treated as far, far more significant by the mainstream sport’s media than DeMetrius Andrade’s tough-fought victory over Jack Culcay in Germany, even though Andrade might really and truly be the best 154-pound fighter on the planet. Or, he might just be the best 154-pound fighter on the planet not named Floyd Mayweather.
If Mayweather wanted to come back and defend his yet-to-be-filled status as the real, authentic world champion in that division, against Demetrius Andrade, boxing writers and fans like myself would be falling all over ourselves to give Mayweather his credit for making the brave play.
Instead, Mayweather announced his intention to fight Connor McGregor, an outstanding Mixed Martial Arts champion who was handled with relative ease in a sparring session with fringe contender Chris Van Herdeen.
I don’t link that video to disparage McGregor. Van Herdeen did a nice analysis of the session where he gave McGregor plenty of respect as a tough, trained fighter. I am inclined to think McGregor could have been a pretty good boxer if he had focused on it at a young enough age.
Just like Brock Lesnar could have been a pretty good professional football player, if he had started young enough, the way Steve Nash did. Instead of just being a guy who managed to not embarrass himself at training camp.
That’s about the ceiling for McGregor in a professional boxing match. He’s a guy who can go spar with pretty good professionals and not embarrass himself. Which is pretty damned good for an athlete from a different sport.
But if Mayweather can get more attention and more money for fighting McGregor, who is a big, mainstream star in his own right, than he can get for fighting the true young lions like Andrade, Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr. or Kell Brook, than good for him. He’s making the smart play in a brutal game.