Above the Fray
Even a brief
midfight melee didn't upset a newly calm, genial Floyd Mayweather as he
delivered a pounding to Zab Judah
Floyd Mayweather may have finally turned the corner, settling into adulthood
just in time to enjoy his stardom. Though long regarded as boxing's best, pound
for pound, he had not, until last Saturday night in Las Vegas, performed with
the grace and maturity that bring as much affection as respect.
And it wasn't only
in his easy win over Zab Judah, who stood in the way of a fourth title for the
29-year-old Mayweather. That title is dubious anyway, given that Judah, 28, had
retained the IBF's welterweight crown on a technicality. (Formerly the
undisputed champion, Judah saved this credential only because Carlos Baldomir,
who beat him in January, failed to pay a sanctioning fee.) Mayweather's
12-round decision win at the Thomas & Mack Center was a near shutout and
did little more than stamp him as a force in yet one more division.
(36-0, 24 KOs) did use the bout as a platform to declare a certain kind of
citizenship, which had been lacking in almost all his civic and personal
relationships, and which had seemingly doomed him to a career of grudging
popularity. Even before the fight he had shown the manners of an Eton
schoolboy, his familiar churlishness replaced with a graciousness that was
almost as astonishing as his hand speed had always been. Then, late in the 10th
round, when all about him lost their heads, Mayweather, of all people, kept
It was then that
Judah (34-4), suffering a beatdown, belted Mayweather way below the belt and
followed that with a rabbit punch. Mayweather had been warned by his corner to
watch for just such a ploy. But before Mayweather could even get to a neutral
corner for some recovery time, his uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, stormed
into the ring. During the mini-melee that ensued, Judah sneakily circled behind
Roger and landed a few more extracurricular shots.
Richard Steele disqualified Mayweather for his uncle's trespass--as was his
right but not, according to rules, his obligation--a mega-melee certainly would
have ensued. And tossing Judah might have escalated matters as well. So Steele
ruled wisely to continue the fight, and Mayweather sustained his dominance to
the final bell. What was so remarkable was Mayweather's composure throughout
and his total lack of spite after. "Things happen," he said, adding
that he and Judah had always been nothing but friends and, moreover, it was
only a business, not something to get all that excited about.
If this former
poster boy for surliness can be that genial in a postfight interview, then
maybe he really is on his way. Ever since he started winning titles at 130
pounds (then 135, 140 and now 147), Mayweather has been projected as the kind
of skilled, good-looking star who could save boxing. But he undercut all
efforts to promote him, getting into scrapes with the law, lashing out at his
promoter and his father, Floyd Sr., and dissing his network, HBO. As a result,
Mayweather remained box-office poison.
Lately, though, he
has shed the chip on his shoulder, embracing the media and anybody else within
reach. His cool reaction to the thuggery that surrounded him in the ring last
Saturday night is particularly encouraging. Perhaps Mayweather could yet be as
loved as he's always been admired, and if he doesn't save boxing, he at least
won't willingly preside over its demise as he once seemed to promise.
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