Thursday, December 27, 2007

Floyd at the Crossroads: A Pretty Rich Dilemma

As 2007 winds down to a monumental close for welterweight champion and pound for pound artist, Floyd Mayweather Jr., he should be sitting pretty following his 10th-round destruction of Ricky Hatton (which was also a financial success--thanks to Hatton). Mayweather also resides in boxing's deepest division and is not lacking quality opponents. What he is lacking though, is big name opponents. But 2008 can either cloud his vision or make it clearer.

Now that he has vanquished Oscar De La Hoya and Hatton, Mayweather seems to be at a crossroads while in his prime. Should he retire, as he already did and eluded to even further during HBO's 24/7 series while visiting his therapist concerning his always injured hands.

And then there's the third and most recent path in his yet untraveled path: a shot at immortality by competing in an MMA event. While pro boxers crossing over into the world of mixed martial arts is nothing new, never has a boxer of Mayweather's status and level competed in an MMA event. Back in the '60s, stuntman/actor Gene Lebell (who also allegedly choked out Steven Seagal on the set of Under Siege) choked out ranked light heavyweight Milo Savage in 4 rounds in one of the first, if not the first, televised MMA bouts on U.S. soil. Most recently, Shannon Briggs, former linear heavyweight champion, knocked out MMA veteran Tom Erickson, in one round at a K-1 event in 2004. Shortly thereafter, Briggs said he found himself at a crossroads and decided to go back to wht he knew best, boxing.

If Mayweather does indeed follow through with billionaire Mark Cuban's HDNET Fight plans, he will be the first top boxer and current champion to answer the call. Past champions Joe Louis declined Helio Gracie's challenge and decades later, Mike Tyson turned down Royce Gracies challenge. The Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki match would not compare due to the ridiculous rules and the fact that is was far more spectacle than combat.

The guess here is that the initial sum of Mark Cuban's parts are enough to more than entice Mayweather, but there is serious doubt Mayweather will take that plunge. Why risk his oft-injured hands in a sport where he would be using smaller gloves and would require many months of extensive, hard-core training where injury is ever present?

Besides, there are still a few more mountains for "Pretty Boy" to conquer before he exits boxing to tackle another sport. For starters, there's Puerto Rican star, WBA w.w. champion Miguel Cotto, fresh off his close win over "Sugar" Shane Mosley. Cotto is the best bet for Mayweather in terms of money and promotion. Together, they would sell out Madison Square Garden in June, just in time for the annual PR Day Parade.

Then on the lower, but just as dangerous end are two high risk, low rewards competitors: Antonio Margarito (whom Mayweather promised a shot--see it here) and WBO w.w. champion Paul "The Punisher" Williams (think Tommy Hearns minus the right hand power). And let's not forget the Margarito conquered, vicious right-hand puncher and future MMA candidate, IBF w.w. champion Kermit Cintron (don't let the first name fool you, he has a strong wrestling background). Of all four, I'd have to give Williams the style preference, and hey it could also be billed as this millennium's Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas "Hitman" Hearns.

Or maybe, just maybe, Mayweather wins an easy MMA fight, returns to the boxing ring after Margarito-Cotto and Williams-Cintron sort out their fights, and either fights the winners one-by-one or let's and additional round robin determine who deserves their own 24/7 spot.

Regardless of the final outcome, look for Mayweather to test himself as only a fighter can. As he stated on 24/7, he doesn't need the money. He's like all fighters before him. From the greatest of the greats who fought everyone, everywhere to the local tough pug who fought everyone in the same small venues year after year, while working full-time outside the ring to support his family. Once the fight venom penetrates your blood stream, there's nothing you can do but alleviate the urge by abusing your body in training, sparring and fighting. This is the constant purging fighters like Mayweather search for until they can no longer concoct the antidote to harness and regulate the perpetual fighting spirit.

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