Goodbye Ol’ Blue Eyes this was not
Other than we have no idea whether the star attraction at the MGM Grand for the last few years will also keep coming back despite bidding us farewell.
They didn’t have to tempt people in off the Las Vegas Strip with complimentary or cut price tickets to fill the room for any of Frank Sinatra’s final appearances.
They didn’t have to worry about the quality of the supporting act. The Sultan of Swoon was a soloist.
Floyd Mayweather came out for his last night – maybe? – having to deny that he has been in breach of drugs testing protocol.
He was sharing the stage with an opponent who most in attendance had deemed unworthy of the occasion.
The reception when he stepped into the ring was a mite muted.
But by the time the bell tolled for what he still maintains will be the last time in his career he could feel the love as well as the Money.
The undisputed master of the noble art of self defence had promised to put on a grand finale and at the end he did deliver.
After frustrating and repeatedly stunning Andre Berto for half an hour he toyed with him by accelerating his superior skills, taunted him with his tongue as well as his talent, twirled around him with his arm raised in triumph before the fight was over.
And he threw in an Ali shuffle. Who’s The Greatest?
He has called himself The Best Ever and many in the reduced crowd of 13,395 responded to Floyd the Showman by rising to their feet and chanting… T.B.E.
History may modify that verdict but he who is certainly the best boxer of his generation had the last laugh on all who have criticised his negative prudent style and his antics outside the ring.
The encore to the so-called Fight of the Century, against Manny Pacquiao was even more circus ringmaster than master class.
Berto was the self-styled ‘Beast’ let out of the cage and Mayweather controlled him from start to finish, putting him through hoops at the end.
It was scintillating stuff and if it was fun the people wanted he was right to make this much-criticised choice of opponent.
The Raging Beast was ideal fodder for a dazzling performance.
So will he really quit now, with all that talent still in brilliant working order?
He was also asked about hurting his left hand at the end of the ninth round so he used that to confirm: ‘It doesn’t matter which hand I hurt, my left or right hand, My career is over.’
But why, with so much more Money to make?
‘You gotta know when to go,’ he said.’When to hang ’em up. I’m almost 40. I’ve been winning for 19 years, a world champion for 15 years. I’ve got nothing left to accomplish. I’ve broken all the records.’
The latest one he has equalled, that held by Rocky Marciano of retiring as undefeated world champion after 49 fights.
So that’s it?
If so, then he has signed off in style.
All the judges agreed on that, my own score-card included.
Most of those in attendance had been won over.
They had found enough volunteers to virtually fill an arena scaled down to a 14,500 capacity and Mr Money came out to a noisy reception. Mayweather was his usual sharp, laser accurate, elusive self. Berto seemed unwilling to oblige the great counter-puncher by over-committing to attack but was still caught by some stinging lefts as Mayweather began the process of racking up the rounds.
Berto’s left lead was mostly falling short, while Mayweather’s jab was landing from a full spectrum of angles. As the round ended the underdog let fly with some round-house rights, a couple of which landed. They were not enough to take the round but they hinted at livelier action to come.
Mayweather came out looking to put the upstart back in his place and picked him off with a sharp two-handed combination. The best pound-for-pound boxer in the world did find himself in the unusual position of being on his knees but referee Kenny Bayless correctly ruled it a slip. Nevertheless Berto, as he stepped up the brawling and enjoyed success with swinging right, took his first round.
Berto was making a street fight of it, to the excitement of a crowd in hope of one of the great upsets in ring history. Mayweather was having to work hard but he almost dropped his man with a short, hurtful right and edged the fourth round.
It ws getting rougher and Bayless warned Berto for a blatantly low blow. Mayweather declined a respite and continued to frustrate. Again he edged the round but the margins were finer than usual.
Now for some vintage Floyd. A dazzling four-punch combination rattled Berto’s brain. Then came a lightning uppercut followed by a short right hook which almost put Berto down. Mayweather took a hefty left but the seemingly inevitable unanimous decision was moving closer.
Mayweather began the round by taking a breather but Berto kept slugging away at him on the ropes and forced the great man back into action. Two big hits buckled Berto’s knees but he came back in the exciting style Mayweather had predicted to enjoy his best round.
Mayweather was mixing it up more to the body as well as the head and when his guard dropped he was stunned again by a peach of a right. The familiar pattern was unfolding – the opponent lunging, the king dodging and countering.
Another flurry of punches stopped Berto in his tracks and as far as the points decision was concerned the fight was now beyond the former two-time world champion who had come claiming he would avenge a personal grudge against Mayweather.
Berto did have the satisfaction of connecting with a meaty right of his own but Mayweather has a sturdy chin to reinforce those refined skills. There was an exchange of verbal insults which moved the referee to warn them to concentrate on the fight… and Mayweather promptly landed a stunning left.
Mayweather was beginning to toy with his man by now. After clipping Berto with hurtful lefts he then ducked away from the ropes and made fun of him by looking behind as if trying to find himself. Then danced round him and beckoned Berto to come in.
Despite the alleged bad blood the pair embraced before the start of the last round. The crowd had risen to Floyd more raucously than of late at the end of the 11th and there was more excitement to come as he tried for the knock out with which to sign off his 19-year career. They were on their feet as he danced through the closing seconds, right hand raised in a sign of commanding victory. Suddenly it was Floyd the Showman.
The official judges were more or less in accord with my scoring, one giving it to Mayweather by the same score of 118-110, the other two 117-111 and 120-108.
He went into the warm Las Vegas night a happy man.
But will he miss it even more now he has the adulation he has always craved?
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