|Tuesday, May 29
Updated: May 30, 2:35 PM ET
Mayweather needs an attitude adjustment
By Tim Graham
Special to ESPN.com
Call him Roy Jones Jr. Junior.
Because that's who Floyd Mayweather Jr. is turning into.
That's not a good thing.
Based on pure physical skill with all other things being equal, any debate about who the best fighter in the world is would come down to Jones and Mayweather. Then flip a coin. Heads it's Jones; tails it's Mayweather. They're both that great.
But we were reminded Saturday night in Mayweather's somewhat admirable victory over Carlos Hernandez in Grand Rapids, Mich., that all other things aren't equal. Mayweather showed heart in enduring two apparently broken hands, but he frequently displayed a suspicious lack of professionalism as he treated his opponent like an afterthought even after he sustained his injuries.
The heart of a champion? Maybe. The focus of a rank amateur? Absolutely.
Mayweather appeared to be badly hurt in defending his WBC super featherweight belt for the seventh time. He grimaced and winced, shaking his damaged fists as if he knew he would still roll a 7.
Now I'm not saying Mayweather was embellishing his injury, but the pain obviously wasn't bad enough to quit hamming it up for his crowd. Sitting on his stool before the ninth round, long after he started wagging his mitts in disgust, a smiling Mayweather craned his neck to better see the audience and chatted with friends as trainer and uncle Roger Mayweather pleaded for his fighter's attention. Earlier in the bout Mayweather winked at HBO commentator George Foreman, and he mouthed salutations during clinches.
Mayweather's concentration is as breakable as his hands are.
As the bout wore on -- and it wore thinner than a Jennifer Lopez evening gown -- the disappointed hometown crowd booed louder. Rightfully so. Mayweather, who once called HBO's three-year, six-fight contract extension worth $12.5 million "slave wages," doesn't comprehend that fans didn't fork over hard-earned cash to watch him screw off, injury or no.
Mayweather made $2 million Saturday and treated both his fans and Hernandez with inexcusable disrespect.
Looks like Little Floyd is little more than a Little Roy. Go to either one when you need an unending supply of uninspired talent versus mediocre opposition for big money.
Roy Jones Jr. might be the most gifted boxer the world has ever seen, but we'll never know. Jones refuses to challenge himself while trying to trick us into thinking he'll consider it someday. He flirts with fighting as a heavyweight, but he's too afraid to go through with it. He uses gimmicks like playing minor-league basketball the day of a fight and singing rap music. He calls out fighters he has no intention of facing while he beats up on part-time pugs for millions of dollars.
Nobody watches Jones because most of the time he doesn't seem to care. Mayweather, who promoter Bob Arum compares to Sugar Ray Robinson, is showing indications of the same.
True enough, Mayweather (26-0, 19 knockouts) owns splendid victories over Diego Corrales, Angel Manfredy and Genaro Hernandez. But when Mayweather fights a more anonymous opponent, he gets bored. He starts scanning the crowd for a diversion even though he has two busted hands and a game opponent staring at him from the opposite corner.
Like Jones, Mayweather doesn't have any big names coming up. Mayweather's bout with Carlos Hernandez was an out-and-out mismatch, especially in retrospect. Mayweather darn near pitched a shutout with two broken hands.
(A point of order: The "knockdown" referee Dale Grable called on Mayweather in the sixth round was ridiculous. Mayweather recoiled in pain and bent over at the waist after landing a winging left hook to Hernandez's crown. While Mayweather's left glove dangled precariously close to the canvas, it never touched.)
Mayweather's next opponent isn't exactly a world beater either. It's WBC top contender Jesus Chavez, who defeated Juan Arias in a gutsy undercard performance by both fighters. Chavez (35-1, 24 KOs) has been the WBC's No. 1 challenger for three years. The U.S. deported him to Mexico because of an armed robbery conviction, and being unable to fight in the States made it difficult to get a title shot.
But Chavez, who also hurt his right hand Saturday, finally will get his chance to face Mayweather this fall. The bout likely will begin with the lightest touching of the gloves in title fight history. Mayweather's brittle hands might get crushed into tiny sacks of osteo gravel.
Once Mayweather cruises past Chavez -- a near certainty -- who knows?
Mayweather wants to move up to lightweight, but there are no blockbuster matches to be made in that division. Mayweather would have to move up in weight even more to reach the likes of Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya, and the prospects of fighting those superstars with tender hands are bleak.
This isn't the first time Little Floyd's hands have been injured. And the Mayweather family has a history of hand maladies. Floyd Mayweather Sr. fought Sugar Ray Leonard with a broken hand. Roger Mayweather, a two-time champ, had a recurring hand injury. Contender Jeff Mayweather, brother to Floyd Sr. and Roger, had pins surgically implanted in both hands.
This could be a career-threatening problem.
Little Floyd said Novocaine was injected into both of his hands before the bout. Novocaine is an analgesic, which is illegal in WBC title bouts.
But we shouldn't worry about the WBA taking away Mayweather's title. After all, this is the same shameless sanctioning body that somehow justified making decrepit Julio Cesar Chavez -- coming off an embarrassing loss to pet food salesman Willy Wise, no less -- the No. 1 contender to Kostya Tszyu last year and mandated the match. Dead icon walking.
Mayweather needs to make a choice. It's been nearly three years since he dashed onto the boxing scene with back-to-back victories over Genaro Hernandez and Angel Manfredy. It could be three more before he comes up with a triumph as significant as the one over Corrales.
Will Mayweather follow the same path as Jones and continue to lackadaisically whack out club fighters for easy paydays?
Or will Mayweather utilize his talents to the fullest by digging deep, moving up the ladder and focusing on the glory that is worthy of his ability?
The decision is in Mayweather's hands.
ESPN.com boxing writer Tim Graham covers boxing for The Buffalo News and The Ring Magazine, and formerly wrote for the Las Vegas Sun.