From the moment it began on Thursday in a downtown Los Angeles hotel ballroom, which did not appear close to full, until the bitter end, the kick-off news conference to hype Floyd Mayweather's supposed career farewell fight against Andre Berto was one gigantic exercise in justifying a fight that has been rightly eviscerated since it was initially announced on Wednesday.
Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) will defend his welterweight world titles against Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) on Sept. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a fight that nobody, Berto and team aside, has asked for, not even Mayweather's most ardent supporters.
There's a reason for that. It's because unlike a more deserving opponent -- take your pick from Keith Thurman, Amir Khan, Kell Brook, Shawn Porter, or even the rival Top Rank-aligned Timothy Bradley Jr. (whose team would have made a deal in about two seconds) -- Berto has done absolutely nothing to earn the fight. Well, that is unless going 3-3 in his last six fights, including getting knocked out by journeyman Jesus Soto Karass, losing decisions to two guys, Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz, that Mayweather beat easily in recent years and getting suspended for testing positive for steroids, warrants a fight with the best in the business.
But don't try to use logic on Mayweather or any of the legion of yes men he surrounds himself with. It's Floyd Mayweather's world and we all just live in it.
So instead of a fight that the public and media might genuinely be interested in, the pound-for-pound king decided to take the path of least resistance in order to move to 49-0 and pocket another check for around $32 million minimum to close out his six-fight Showtime/CBS deal and (he says) his brilliant 19-year career with a pay-per-view fight that they have the audacity to ask $64.95 for -- $74.95 in HD! -- after first teasing everyone that it might be free on CBS.
Mayweather claimed he picked Berto because he makes exciting fights. He has been in several good scraps. This is true. But this fight isn't about true competition. This is about Mayweather supposedly walking away from boxing with a perfect record without taking much of a chance in a not-so-grand finale. As usual, Mayweather had his talking points down pat.
"Berto is a tough competitor, a former world champion and every time he goes out there, he gives it 100 percent," he said.
And this: "Berto is a very tough guy, he's hungry and he's not going to lie down."
And this gem too: "I chose Berto because he's very exciting. Andre Berto is going to push Floyd Mayweather to the limit. That's one thing I do know."
And, finally, this most laughable comment: "This fight is a very intriguing matchup, very intriguing."
The fight is not exactly the encore fans hoped for (just read Twitter) after Mayweather's historic, but widely panned, unanimous decision win against Manny Pacquiao in their May 2 title unification fight, the one that crushed every box office record (including an all-time best 4.4 million pay-per-view buys), earned Mayweather around $225 million and failed to come close to living up to the massive expectations.
The fight with Berto is an obvious mismatch for which at least one online gambling site has Berto as a 100-to-1 underdog. Buster Douglas was only 42-to-1 against Mike Tyson (and that was on HBO, not on pay-per-view).
This is the kind of match that does not befit the end of Mayweather's great career, although one should not blame Berto. Can't be upset with Berto for accepting a multi-million dollar paycheck. Who wouldn't take the opportunity of a lifetime against Mayweather to try to change his life and prove the world wrong?
"Him coming off of the Pacquiao fight, of course, it's easy for people to downplay me," said Berto, a former two-time titleholder who has been a gentleman in the face of the withering criticism of the fight. "I can't worry about that and I'm not worried about that. Have you ever seen a boring Andre Berto fight?"
Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza, who signed Mayweather to a contract with his network in 2013 and has been one of his most ardent supporters/protectors since, defended the Berto selection.
"I think the choice of Berto to some extent was a little bit of a reaction to some of fans' [negative] responses to the Pacquiao fight and wanting to see more action out of an opponent for Floyd," Espinoza said. "One thing we know about Andre Berto is he has never lacked for action. There's only one way he knows how to fight, and that's all-out aggressive."
Fair enough, but he may very well be punching at air against the defensively awesome Mayweather, who claims this will be the end for him. The conspiracy theorists among us believe this is nothing more than a ploy to milk his contract finale and to try to convince people to watch (pay) a fight just because it is supposedly the end of Mayweather's career -- before the comeback, of course!
"I chose Berto because he's very exciting. Andre Berto is going to push Floyd Mayweather to the limit. That's one thing I do know."Floyd Mayweather
The MGM is building a new 20,000-seat arena on the Las Vegas Strip that is due to open in April. Executives there would love nothing more than to throw a ton of money at Mayweather for him to help open the building with, say, a spring rematch against Pacquiao, which, no matter how upset the public was (and still is) about that $100-pay-per-view boondoggle in May, it still generated more than $500 million. If a rematch generated half that, it would be the second-highest grossing fight ever.
Speaking of Pacquiao, Mayweather even found a way at Thursday's propaganda event to insult Pacquiao and the media (no worries, Floyd, we can take it) in the same sentence as he kept with the theme of trying to justify the fight with Berto -- as did the others, including Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe and Virgil Hunter, Berto's trainer, who defended the fight by going to his typical playbook and pulling out the tired "if you're not a fighter or trainer you can't understand boxing card."
"The difference between Andre Berto and Manny Pacquiao is that you guys put hype behind Pacquiao. That's what the media did," Mayweather said, perhaps forgetting that Pacquiao's career is every bit as historic as Mayweather's, includes winning world titles in a record eight weight classes and without whom he never would have come close to the biggest payday of his career. "My job was to go out there and be Floyd Mayweather and be a chess player and that's what I did. I found a way to win."
He found a way to beat Pacquiao indeed, and he deserves all the credit in the world for his victory. He has that from me. But he won't need to find a way to win against Berto. He already found that when he picked him as the opponent.