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The "Avoid Floyd" Syndrome
By Martin Wade (March 18, 2004) 
Floyd Mayweather
Excuse me for not investing in the “intrigue” surrounding who will face Floyd Mayweather, JR. face in his junior welterweight debut this spring. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited in the first place; whomever he faces will hardly be a satisfying alternative considering the “Pretty Boy’s” earnest attempt to hunt for bigger game. In May, it will all be predictable as boxing purists will be delighted by the petulant prodigy’s otherworldly ring gifts.

This upcoming performance will once again give bigger men all the more reason to “Avoid Floyd”. Make no mistake, no matter what happens in May Arturo Gatti will not give Mayweather (despite being a mandatory) a shot because it’s a fight he cannot win. Plainly put, Floyd Mayweather, JR. is the most astounding pure boxer of his generation and this will earn him avoidance in one of the deepest divisions in boxing. Sam Langford must be looking down in sheer delight as the little guy attempts to get everyone south of Mike Tyson in the ring with no success.

Since bursting on to the pound per pound galaxy in 1998, Mayweather has showcased a peerless combination of speed, guile and defensive acumen. He is the only active boxer to rank with Roy Jones, JR. in God given ability and more than trumps Mr. Jones in technical skill and ambition.

Floyd, in contrast to Jones, does everything right in the ring; he also has the audacity to want to fight the best possible opposition (get this) all the time. This trait alone should be celebrated in the modern “politricks” era. It is when “lil Floyd” is faced with duress that he is able to flourish, rising to a competitive echelon that few modern fighters possess.

Unfortunately, Mayweather’s gifts and ambition have yet to translate into mainstream pay per view success. Fortunately for the “names” at junior welterweight they can hide behind sound business to avoid becoming Floyd’s latest victim. In the words of ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas, “he sees things”, it’s a shame for boxing fans that the likes of Vivian Harris (WBA) or Ricky Hatton don’t want to know what the prodigy can see. Nearing the end of his Top Rank/ HBO association, the Grand Rapids, Michigan virtuoso is desperate to make career-defining fights. It is obvious that in boxing’s current climate anyone of the belt holder status from 147 down would have to use what I call the “Pretty Boy” Floyd compensation/embarrassment ratio.

Who wants to risk possibly being embarrassed for short money?
If Roy Jones, JR. is boxing’s Michael Jordan then you can easily cast “Pretty Boy” Floyd as Iverson. Both diminutives, both fearless, both knocked for off court associations and behavior.

Floyd’s infamous “slave wages” statement is comparable to Iverson’s “practice?” rant. Floyd is now faced with maturity (and criminal) issues based on a December 18th fracas; presenting the ominous reality that he may not be equipped psychologically for stardom.

Mayweather and Iverson also possess the uncanny ability to undress bigger men with almost laughable frequency. The Mayweather check/ pull counters are the pugilistic equivalent to AI’s killer crossover. The only difference is the level of gratification received from the masses; “AI” will always be exposed via his association with an omnipotent entity such as the NBA. As part of a league Iverson’s exploits are magnified (despite his image) and encouraged by way of the NBA’s mega deal with ESPN and countless sponsors.

Mayweather on the other hand is left to exist in a splintered boxing world with no governing body, few sponsors with no branch responsible for such marketing. This is a climate in which Mayweather must accept the pullouts of Lazcano & Spadafora and the shrug offs of De La Hoya and Spinks. With the passing of a generation (RJJ, DLH, Lewis and Holyfield) it would be ideal if Mayweather can be ushered unto the canvas with the bigger names for higher stakes, but don’t count on it. Boxing should encourage any fighter willing to risk being great entering this post De La Hoya era. If Mayweather wants to challenge champions from 140 up to 154 in the same calendar year why not? All involved (for the health of the sport) should facilitate it. Why? Because boxing should be on par with the mainstream sports, in those sports athletes who want to do something of precedence aren’t subjected to red tape. If you win, you move on and your sport benefits in profusion from the attention from mainstream media. Remember, when Roy Jones, JR. attempted to win a heavyweight belt it was covered favorably and often by ESPN.

This was because it was considered historic, legitimate and impressive, perceptions boxing lack in mainstream media. Boxing is in need of positive attention for outstanding achievements and the Michigan ring wizard may just be the one to provide a few. Imagine Mayweather’s ambition being served, boxing can’t help, but to benefit from the exploits of a modern day Henry Armstrong.

The irony in all this is Diego Corrales; a fighter Floyd destroyed in 2001 will have more options than him. Spadafora (legal trouble and all) may get a shot at Gatti before Floyd. Even Jesus Chavez (another Floyd victim) may find himself on a pay per view card before him. If Floyd is reduced to calling out fighters (by way of insult) on boxing websites by years end it will be similar to Tiger Woods becoming a fairway heckler.

Boxing must right the ship that often forces elite fighters into unwarranted hiatus. Besides, how can boxing leave it’s best pure fighter all prettied up with no place to go?

Questions or comments,
Martin Wade:
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