Legacy and money are what drive boxing forward. Mostly money. Titles? Their nice to have and hold up after wins, by their pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. For Floyd Mayweather, which has all the legacy he can wish for, and probably all the money as well, there isn’t that much left out there to motivate him.
Still, 2013 might be a very big year for the number one pound-4-pound boxer in the world. The first year in which he takes on two fights for the first time since 2007. Not just two fights, but with only four months between them. Who? Robert Guerrero seems like the first fight he’ll take since his release from prison, and the second one should be Saul Alvarez four months later.
For the past couple of years, it looked like hanging around and waiting for Manny Pacquiao to decline a bit was everything left for Mayweather. Setting another PPV record, which seems to be something he really cares about (the money and viewing numbers he generates). But Manny Pacquiao has fallen too far, and lost too much. The Bradley fight can be forgotten, while Mayweather kept avoiding the fight everyone wanted to happen. After the knockout against Marquez, the chances of this fight, no longer such an intriguing one, actually happening are slim to none.
So what is there for Mayweather left to prove? That at 35 he can still beat up on the young guys? Get another million views and lead the list of the world’s highest paid athletes once again? His legacy as an undefeated champion of five different weight divisions isn’t going to become greater with any of the opponents out there at the moment, unless someone breaks out in a way it’s hard to anticipate. Canelo is also undefeated and one of the biggest draws out there, especially for Mexican fans, but it isn’t exactly a fight that’ll change the way we perceive Mayweather’s career.
Loving boxing is also a good reason to stay in the game. Mayweather’s persona that he takes on for twitter fans and before fights might not necessarily be him. Matter of fact is, Mayweather is pretty much always in shape to go in the ring. Obviously, in the months leading up to a bout he takes things a bit more seriously, but training, even at the lowest of intensities, is a way of life for him. Stepping out of the ring, even after making all the money in the world and beating anyone he should have (Except for Pacquiao), is very difficult.
How big of a stain is not fighting Manny Pacquiao? It probably depends on big of a fan you are of Mayweather. If you’re in the camp that believes he hand picks opponents only after realizing their weaknesses and side stepping from the biggest fight in the world for three years until it didn’t mean that much, then it’s one big asterisk. If you’re on the other side, that thinks Mayweather has always beaten the best man he had to face and the Pacquiao fight didn’t materialize not at Floyd’s fault, then it doesn’t really matter who he didn’t fight.
Beating a Middleweight champion like Sergio Martinez might be the only thing left for him to somehow improve the resume he leaves behind once he retires. Martinez’ walking weight is closer to the Light Middleweight Mayweather feels very comfortable at. Sergio Martinez has been taking some serious punishment in recent fights and is not too far from 40. If Mayweather is to get his hands on him, knowing of those vulnerabilities while also making sure he makes the most of Martinez’ still intact reputation, that should be the last big fight he takes. After that, it’s all against him.
Sure, the money is great, but risking that undefeated record is very precious to Mayweather. Once 2013 is over, fighting Sergio Martinez might be the only thing left for him to do before he hangs up his gloves for a third time, this time for good. Still, after avoiding the other great Welterweight for such a long time, it’s hard to avoid (as well) the feeling that Mayweather didn’t take on the biggest test he could have had in the ring, mostly because he was too scared to face it.