Mayweather plays his role well again

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by Tim Dahlberg

LAS VEGAS (AP)—The crowd at the MGM Grand arena didn’t waste any time leaving, with most getting out even before the decision was officially announced. They had come to cheer Juan Manuel Marquez, and the few who were still there when Floyd Mayweather Jr. left the ring sent him on his way with a chorus of boos.

That comes with playing the role of a villain in boxing, a role Mayweather plays well. Making it rain in strip clubs one night, giving a dominating performance in the ring the next, it all comes with the territory.

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DOMINATING PERFORMACE—Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, throws a left at Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico, during their non-title welterweight boxing match in Las Vegas.

He returned from a brief retirement Saturday night to give an undersized Marquez a beating and, although the crowd might not have appreciated the messenger, they surely appreciated the message. Hate him all you want, but Mayweather is a singularly talented boxer, the kind of fighter who makes the sweet science seem even sweeter.

A 21-month layoff wasn’t going to change that, something that soon became apparent to even the Marquez faithful, who had to know by the third round or so that this was a mismatch of both size and skill. Marquez did everything he could—including drinking his own urine in training—to beat a bigger man at his own game, but this was always going to be a long night.

If you were foolish enough to spend 50 bucks to watch at home in hopes that Mayweather would be beaten, well, that’s 50 bucks you don’t have anymore. The problem with boxing is the biggest stars fight only for the biggest money, so a comeback against a guy who was two weight classes smaller never figured to be terribly competitive.

If this were the UFC, no one would have cared or screamed ripoff at their flat screen TV. Fights there can be total mismatches or end in bizarre fashion in the first round and fans still cheer drunkenly and start saving their money for the next big card.

But this is boxing, and the sport’s long and sometimes rich history means fighters are held to a higher standard. That means Mayweather is open for criticism for everything from not knocking out Marquez to helping build him up to be a tougher challenge than he turned out to be.

“I’m never going to win,” Mayweather said afterward, and with some truth. “There’s always going to be an excuse.”

The excuse this time was that Marquez—who had fought only three times over 130 pounds—was far too small to give Mayweather a good fight even though he had given Manny Pacquiao almost more than he could handle in their two fights. Mayweather didn’t help his own cause by coming in two pounds over the 144-pound contracted weight—making the size advantage even greater even though he had to pay Marquez $600,000 of his purse because of it.

Mayweather knocked Marquez down early and won every round on most ringside cards. He landed left hands to the head of Marquez every time he came inside and evaded his opponent’s punches so well that Marquez was credited with landing little more than one out of every 10 punches.

Undersized and outclassed, Marquez had nothing going for him but his heart. True to his proud Mexican boxing heritage, he kept fighting hard up to the final bell even as he kept taking a beating.

“Hey, I tried,” said Marquez, who seemed awfully happy for a guy who had just been given a whipping. “I proved I can give it my all.”

What it all means for boxing will have to be sorted out later. Mayweather never was a big ticket seller before he found the role of villain and the less than capacity crowd at the MGM may have been a tip-off to the pay-per-view sales, too.

The fight went up against a UFC card that was also on pay-per-view, and promoters surely will analyze the results and both claim victory. But this was not a referendum on boxing, like Mayweather’s fight against Oscar De La Hoya a few years ago that was supposed to save the sport but ended up merely delivering millions into both boxer’s bank accounts.

Indeed, a better fight is upcoming in November when Pacquiao meets Miguel Cotto. The assumption is Mayweather will fight the winner because the money will be too big to refuse. But he was noncommittal after his fight other than to say he wanted to fight the best fighters out there.

When he does, he will be booed again because, as good as he is, he will always be the villain. It’s a role he embraces, and he should, because it has made him millions.

And the next time you see Money Mayweather, you can bet he’ll be making even more.

(Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org.)

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