Boxing
"Money's" chance to manage the message
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - Let's say you're Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Compared to the average clock-puncher, you're doing pretty well. You've reached the pinnacle of a difficult profession. You have more money than three generations of grandkids will spend. And you'll more than likely be retired before your life is half complete.

If given the option, it's a set-up most folks would take in a second.

Somehow, though, it seems a little unfulfilling.

From a distance, that is.

In spite of myriad title belts and inclusion near the top of every respected pound-for-pound list, the mere mention of Mayweather's name elicits venom from fans across every demographic and from executives on the highest rungs of the boxing ladder.

And it's not just the brainless "He's a punk" or "He sucks" babbling from message-board cretins.

In this case, even the suits in corner offices join the pile-up, going so far as to allege cowardice and comparable psychological weakness in the interest of protecting an unbeaten record.


The mere mention of Floyd Mayweather's name elicits venom from fans.
"Floyd, to me, is a coward and he's always been a coward," Bob Arum said.

"Not a physical coward. But a coward because he's afraid to face somebody who could beat him."

Most reasoned folks understand it as promotional nonsense from a bitter ex-ally, who'd once claimed the very same guy was the best fighter since Muhammad Ali.

Funny thing about flawed perception, though.

The less-informed fans make it their mantras. The lazy-leaning media regurgitates it as fact. And as the misguided buzz remains constant over weeks and months, it becomes reality.

I'm hardly a world-class athlete. But if I were, it'd bug me.

So I've got to imagine, even though he'd never admit it...it's got to bug Floyd, too.

And little has changed in the aftermath of an aborted fight with Manny Pacquiao.

While learned observers see drug tests as dubious cause to trip up ridiculous paydays, too many others follow the prevailing sheep and continue to brand Mayweather "Public Enemy No. 1" for manufacturing a convenient excuse to exit the match.

What's more, Arum and Pacquiao deftly seized post-cancellation momentum and plucked durable and respected Joshua Clottey off the welterweight contender tree for March 13 in Dallas to augment their "See, we were the ones who really wanted to fight all along" claim.

It's a brilliant stroke by a well-oiled message-shaping machine.

And truth told, a pretty good fight, too.

Meanwhile, Mayweather was left to limbo - deciding between Timothy Bradley, Nate Campbell, Kermit Cintron or Paulie Malignaggi as stand-in partners for his own mid-March dance.

Each is accomplished in his own way, but none have the 147-pound street cred Clottey brings.

And no matter how impressive he might have looked in handling them while Pacquiao struggles, it's a net loss in public opinion for Floyd at day's end.

But...he and his minions at Mayweather Promotions are about to take a bolder stroke.

One that can curtail Team Pac's thrust and at least temporarily change perceptions to boot.

One that I'm prepared to offer here...free of charge.

Step 1: Contract with a publicist (I'm available, incidentally...) and call a press conference.

Step 2: Step to the microphone - free of attitude, hangers-on or thuggish posse affirmations.

Step 3: Reach an agreement with the other most viable entity at welterweight - WBA champ Shane Mosley - to a May 1 match, following the dissolution of his Jan. 30 bout with Andre Berto.

Step 4: Sign the contracts and brace yourself, because perception - and reality - will soon change.

Not only would Mayweather-Mosley trump Pacquiao-Clottey for a place on the 147-pound totem pole, but a preemptive strike from a presumed challenge- reticent icon would prompt paradigm shift in minds responsible for buzz.

Better fight. Better message.

Significantly better footing moving toward a date with Pacquiao this fall.

And all it takes as catalyst is a declaration from Mayweather that confirms what those calling him the world's premier fighter already believe, but that his understandable preference for chasing big money over fan favorites sometimes skews for the masses in spite of a 40-0 record:

"I am the best. I want to fight the best. Bring me the best."

No purse-haggling. No chest-thumping. No excuses. No chance for faulty translation, no matter how unreceptive the audience or how revisionist the promoter.

It's a chance for Mayweather - in political jargon - to "manage the message."

And in the end, a chance for him to cement the legacy he's already claimed...as one of the greatest fighters of any generation.

If he is what he says he is...he'll take it.

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at fitzbitz@msn.com, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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