One of the most simultaneously despised and celebrated athletes in sports is on the verge of retirement. Or so he says. Keep in mind, Floyd Mayweather has retired twice before, so when he talks about calling it a career, you never really know.
Mayweather is billing the Sept. 12 fight against the chumpish Andre Berto as his final bout. The 38-year-old Mayweather says he's finished, and that he's made enough money.
Coming off a $200 million payday from May's mistaken "Fight of the Century" against Manny Pacquiao, no matter who Mayweather took on next would be a step down in class and in hype. And Mayweather taking flack for picking an opponent perceived to be weak is nothing new.
Berto isn't among the top 10 welterweight challengers, according to The Ring magazine. The former class champion lost the title in a legendary 2011 fight against Victor Ortiz and has struggled to get back on his feet since. At 31 years old, he's 3–2 since, with losses to unimpressive fighters, signaling he likely doesn't have a shot against Mayweather.
Keith Thurman has been looking for a fight with Mayweather for months. The two went back and forth earlier this year, with Mayweather challenging the 26-year-old knockout artist to "go and beat Guerrero and then you can say you beat somebody. Keith Thurman is going to get nobody's stamp of approval until he beats a Guerrero… He hasn't done anything."
Well, now he has. Thurman dominated Guerrero in a March bout, and is now ready to battle Mayweather. But it doesn't appear likely he'll get that chance. Thurman says it's because Mayweather has too much control over the sport.
"He has so much power, the networks don't have the gusto," Thurman told reporters. "They love the revenue, they love the money he brings in. So everyone says, 'Yes sir, Mayweather sir. We love you, sir.' They accommodate Floyd, and as long as they are going to do that…"
Thurman is only No. 5 on the list of the top welterweight contenders. Pacquiao was No. 2. Britons Kell Brook (No. 1) and Amir Khan (No. 3) would be formidable opponents, as would No. 4 Tim Bradley. None of them will get a shot to dethrone the champ. Nor will Ronda Rousey, who has been publicly jousting with Mayweather since besting him for the top fighter award at the ESPYs last month.
Mayweather is not stupid. He owns a 48–0 record, and there is every probability in the world that he'll retire undefeated, tying Rocky Marciano's spotless 49–0 mark. Perhaps the allure of 50–0, or the pull of another massive payday could get Mayweather back in the ring after the Berto fight. But you never know.
Just like you never know what's going to happen when Mayweather and Berto get in the ring.
In 2005, a 38-year-old Mike Tyson was on the verge of retirement when he took on the lightly regarded Irishman Kevin McBride. Then the unthinkable happened when, according to the Guardian, "the sacrificial lamb rose up and slaughtered the butcher." McBride beat Tyson into submission, and one of the legendary careers in boxing was over.
Mayweather is smarter, more formidable, and more defensive now than Tyson was at that point in his career, but that doesn't eliminate the probability of 48–1 from creeping into the realm of possibility. He could lose just like Tyson did.
Even if the chance of that happening is slim, it's going to attract a large portion of the audience to Mayweather's next last fight. Because you just never know.