Friday, September 11, 2015

Mayweather-Berto: The End Of The Road For A Great Champion?

There is no doubt that the two biggest stories in the sport of Boxing in 2015 have revolved around Floyd Mayweather. The first story of course centered around the anticipation of a fight that Boxing fans and experts alike waited nearly six years to become a reality. Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao.

After so much anticipation the Boxing world focused it’s attention on the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV on May 2nd for the battle that some called “The Fight Of The Century.” The actual battle between the two future Hall of Famer’s however, did not live up to the anticipation or the general expectation of Boxing fans. It was in many ways a quintessential Floyd Mayweather fight. Mayweather using his intelligence, using his superb defense, and using an extremely accurate offense to score a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision over Pacquiao.

Following the victory over Pacquiao the second biggest story of the year began to take shape. Mayweather announcing his intention to fight in September and also announcing that the fight, the last of a lucrative six-fight deal with CBS/Showtime could be his last. Mayweather also announced his intention to relinquish the world championships he holds in both the Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight divisions. 

After a fight that broke all existing cable/satellite pay-per-view records, but a fight that also left a general dissatisfaction among Boxing fans, the question became who would be Mayweather’s opponent for what could be his final fight. Readers may remember during the course of the past five months a regular topic of discussion here at The Boxing Truth ® whenever fights have taken place in either the Welterweight or Jr. Middleweight divisions has been whether the fighters competing whether they be top contenders and/or former world champions would be able to garner interest for a potential fight with Mayweather.

Mayweather would ultimately choose former two-time world champion Andre Berto as his opponent. Although much of the discussion surrounding this fight has centered around the decision to put the fight on pay-per-view rather than on CBS or Showtime as was rumored for a period of time, there has also been criticism toward Mayweather for choosing what some feel is a fighter with only a puncher’s chance in Berto. There have been those both in media and fans of the sport who have called this fight a mismatch and a few who have simply referred to this bout as a “Victory Lap” for Mayweather in what could be his final fight.

The source of the criticism regarding Berto as the opponent stems in this observer’s view from the fact that Berto has gone 2-2 in his last four fights including losses to former world champion and former Mayweather opponent Robert Guerrero in November 2012 and a stoppage loss against longtime contender Jesus Soto Karass in July 2013. Berto has however, won his last two fights including a decision win over Steve Upshaw in September of last year and stopping former world title challenger Josesito Lopez in six rounds in his last fight in March of this year.

The victory over Lopez earned Berto interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings, a distinction he shares with undefeated Welterweight contender Keith Thurman. Although Thurman has been designated as having interim/regular status in the WBA Welterweight ratings for a longer period of time than has Berto, it will be Berto who will get the shot against Mayweather.

 It is also worth noting that despite Mayweather’s announced intention to relinquish his world championships in both the Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight divisions following his fight with Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather’s unified WBC/WBA Welterweight world championship will be on the line when he meets Berto on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. Although some have been critical of Mayweather for choosing Berto as his opponent, Berto is after all a former two-time world champion, who has won thirty out of thirty-three professional fights, scoring knockouts in twenty-three of those bouts. Berto also successfully defended the WBC Welterweight world championship five times before losing his first world title to Victor Ortiz in a fight that was voted Ring Magazine’s fight of the year to 2011.

Berto is a fighter who is very compact with his offense and has a good mix of hand speed and punching power. The question that this observer has as this fight approaches is pretty much the same question that has been asked of virtually every Floyd Mayweather opponent. Can Berto find a way to solve what has proven to be a complicated puzzle and solve the fighting style that is Floyd Mayweather?

There have been a select few throughout Mayweather’s career who have been able to make their bouts with him competitive and even have caused some debate as to whether or not they should have gotten the victory over Mayweather. Jose Louis Castillo, who many feel, this observer included deserved the decision against Mayweather in their first fight in April 2002. Oscar De La Hoya, who lost a razor thin split decision to Mayweather in May 2007. Miguel Cotto, who lost to Mayweather in May 2012, but a fighter who some feel gave Mayweather his toughest fight since his first encounter with Castillo. Finally, Marcos Maidana, who also gave Mayweather a difficult fight in their first encounter in May of last year.

Only Castillo and Maidana were able to get a second fight against Mayweather. In both rematches however, Mayweather silenced any doubters and defeated both former world champions by convincing twelve round unanimous decisions. All four fighters were able to have success against Mayweather by putting pressure on him and being able to sustain that pressure for a period of time and win rounds on the official scorecards.

An argument can be made however, that all four fighters relented from their strategies against Mayweather over the course of those fights, which allowed Mayweather to be the adjustments necessary in order to win those fights. The question remains as to whether or not an opponent will be able to mount a consistent attack and pressure Mayweather for an entire twelve round fight. This question will be asked of Andre Berto when he enters the ring to do battle with Mayweather.

Although Mayweather’s Boxing style is one that may not always be crowd pleasing, he is one of the most accurate offensive fighters in the sport as he routinely lands more than half of his total punch output for an entire fight. It will be up to Andre Berto to apply consistent pressure on Mayweather and keep Mayweather on the defensive where he cannot consistently return offense. It is a task that for forty-eight previous opponents that has proven to be easier said than done.

In his fights against Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero an argument can be made that although both fights are considered wars among both fans and experts alike, both Ortiz and Guerrero were able to win those fights based on their ability to outwork Andre Berto. In order for Berto to be successful in this fight in the eyes of this observer he must find a way to limit Mayweather’s offensive output. If Berto chooses to look to play the role of counter puncher and not let his hands go consistently, it will play right into Mayweather’s hands and Mayweather will likely be able to dictate how the fight is fought. Berto must be consistent with his offense and needs to make Mayweather uncomfortable. Simply put, Berto needs to make this a fight. Whether or not Berto can do that remains to be seen.

As for Floyd Mayweather, his fight plan will likely remain the same as it has for virtually every fight of his career thus far. Mayweather will likely look to be a tactician, set traps for his opponent, and execute his offense when opportunities arise. It is logical to assume that Mayweather, who has not scored a knockout since his fight with Victor Ortiz in September 2011 will look to do what he does best, box intelligently to a twelve round decision win.

Although this is being billed as potentially Floyd Mayweather’s final fight and an attempt by Mayweather to tie the mark set by former Heavyweight world champion Rocky Marciano of 49-0, this observer is not too sure as to whether this will be Mayweather’s swansong as a fighter. After all, Mayweather makes millions of dollars each time he enters the ring and there may be some who might say that as long as Mayweather can fight without suffering the wear and tear that comes with a long career as a fighter, why not continue?

If however, this will be the final time Mayweather enters the ring it will be interesting to see if Boxing fans will pay the expense of cable/satellite pay-per-view to the tune of $74.95 for the HD broadcast and $64.95 for the Standard Definition broadcast. If the rumored poor ticket sales for this fight are any indication, it appears that as I speculated when this fight was announced last month that Boxing fans may indeed reject what could be a moment in Boxing history. Regardless of what one’s opinion of Floyd Mayweather might be, as a fighter he is as good as they come and has no doubt had an illustrious career.

Whether or not this will indeed be Mayweather’s last fight remains to be seen. For a man however, who like him or not has earned his status as a great fighter, if this fight will indeed be the end of the road for Mayweather it will truly be a shame if that moment in Boxing history is rejected by ticket buyers and by cable/satellite television subscribers. We will not get the answer to that question on Saturday night when Mayweather and Berto do battle, but rather in the days and perhaps weeks following the fight when live gate and pay-per-view returns are calculated.

For a fight that has been widely criticized and dismissed by some Mayweather-Berto does have some intrigue. Although some may consider this fight to be a foregone conclusion, wouldn’t it be great if a fight that has been subjected to much criticism and even outright dismissed by some turned out to be a great fight? This observer sure hopes so.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Mayweather vs. Berto takes place, Saturday September 12th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The fight will be available on a cable/satellite pay-per-view basis in the United States and Canada for $74.95 HD/$64.95. Contact your local pay-per-view provider for ordering information. The card will be available in the UK and Ireland on BoxNation. Check local listings.

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