Star cower: Considering Mayweather’s reined-in persona

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About two hours before Tuesday’s promotional press conference for Floyd Mayweather’s return to the ring against Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17, the fans waiting outside were privy to a bizarre scene about a block from the Hudson Theater, as a somewhat unhinged would-be rapper climbed a light pole in the middle of Times Square and wouldn’t come down.

Traffic was diverted for 20 blocks as he did pull-ups and tossed CDs to bemused onlookers. After a couple of hours, he finally descended right around the time Golden Boy ushered everyone in for the presser, reportedly of his own volition.

Maybe he was just tired of the attention.

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It’s funny to say, but considering Golden Boy’s completely over-the-top promotional video for the fight, some wack job managing to shut down Times Square was only the second-weirdest thing I saw on Tuesday.

Some random dude Making the ridiculous theme more glaring, a relatively subdued and distant version Floyd Mayweather was quite a departure from what we’re used to.

Golden Boy string-puller Richard Schaefer proclaimed that this would be the most heavily promoted fight of all time, despite the presence of Mayweather, one of only two fighters in the American consciousness whose involvement promotes itself.

Perhaps, but the promotional video Golden Boy showed before the boxers ascended to the stage can best be described as preposterous. For better or worse, they pounded home the “Star Power” nomenclature, portraying Mayweather and Ortiz as celestial bodies on a collision course. I overheard confused sentiments that they felt like they were watching Star Wars; to me, it resembled one of those IMAX movies you watch at Liberty Science Center.

I could describe the video further, but you should really watch it yourself. (At right)

The weird part — well, one weird part — about the “Star Power” theme is that much of that is derived from Mayweather, and very little from Ortiz. Golden Boy would have you believe that Ortiz is a “rising star,” which isn’t entirely untrue. Ortiz is talented, he has a great look and accessible temperament, and he’s coming off a defining victory over Andre Berto.

But Ortiz isn’t a mainstream name. And he had about as bad a loss as you can have in the sport, essentially showing a lack of heart while being punished by Marcos Maidana, and that was just two years ago. His return to prominence was put over the top by a win over another fighter in Berto who is widely acknowledged to have been pushed too fast, too soon — and yet he definitely could have beaten Ortiz if things had gone slightly differently that night.

So the promotion of the fight relies heavily on Mayweather being what he’s always been: a polarizing figure who has become a colossal draw based mainly on his ebullient personality along with a heavy dose of acidic trash talking.

The ironic part is that the promotion of Floyd’s fights are often far more entertaining than the fights themselves; Mayweather justifiably refuses to alter his defense-minded style in the name of a more entertaining fight. His unbeaten record in itself is more than enough of a marketable commodity. He never stops talking, but his skills speak for themselves.

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The thing is, what happens if Mayweather just doesn’t have his heart in it?

The only utterance that passed for fighting words Tuesday came from “Vicious” Victor, who clumsily and incongruously alluded to a match Roger Mayweather lost to Julio Cesar Chavez back in the 80’s.

Other than that feeble attempt, there was little animosity. Ortiz thanked Floyd for the opportunity, while Floyd thanked Ortiz for being a relatively credible opponent. Their “faceoff” pose was a laughable visual. They took a weird picture together with Mayweather’s kids. (Gallery below)

I’d imagine Golden Boy told Ortiz to ramp it up a bit, as literally overnight, Ortiz seemed to develop a bit more of an edge for their Los Angeles presser on Wednesday. He even “shoved” Floyd, with the weak rationale that he had been paying too much attention to Pacquiao in his pressers and not enough to him. But Mayweather was still basically having none of it.

In a weird, rambling speech Tuesday, Mayweather ping-ponged back and forth with little of the vitriol we’re used to. He took what may have been subliminal shots — referring several times to how Ortiz rebounded from his crushing loss to Maidana — but those also could simply be awkward compliments. (From the looks of him, even Ortiz had no idea what to make of it.)

Conventional wisdom would be that Floyd is simply getting back in the swing of things after a tumultuous year, replete with plenty of court dates, but no boxing matches. One would think that once comfortably in his element in front of HBO’s 24/7 cameras, he’d again begin to invent ways to verbally tear down Ortiz.

“24-7’s going to be amazing,” Floyd deadpanned.

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Do we get Pacquiao-Mayweather at some point? I mean, who knows? Floyd said Manny is “next” on Wednesday, and the media’s heart went aflutter in typical Pavlovian fashion.

So many still hold a torch for that fight, and yet I think it has no choice but to be anticlimactic if we get it. It’d probably be good at this point to just get it out of the way so it stops holding us all hostage.

Background But for now, the lasting image for me: As that ridiculous promotional video was winding down on Tuesday, the curtains in the back of the theatre opened just a little and I caught a glimpse of Floyd waiting to come to the stage.

Instead of the cocky sneer we all know so well, he wore a blank, vacant expression. Then, once on the dais, he deflected potential criticism by propping up his kids next to him.

Time takes its toll physically; though still impressive, I don’t think the Pacquiao we’re seeing in the ring now is comparable to the dervish we saw even a couple years ago.

But perhaps, in Mayweather’s case, it has also taken its toll emotionally.

Though he brings scrutiny on himself by going too far on occasion, tossing racial epithets at Pacquiao and the like, he’s been in the spotlight so long that at this point it may be too draining to maintain the “Money Mayweather” act that has been such a highly successful marketing tool.

Floyd had this look on Tuesday like he didn’t truly know what he was supposed to be doing there. It’s entirely possible — probable, even — that he figures that out in time for 24/7 to sell the fight the way everyone’s come accustomed to. I certainly hope so; there’s little more entertaining than Floyd when he’s feeling full of himself.

But as he prepares to fight someone who he bears no animosity toward, I wonder if Floyd looks around and wonders what his endgame is, and what happens when far fewer people hang on his every word — and whether that’s actually what he wants.

Floyd Mayweather has never met a fighter he can’t beat. But it may currently be dawning on him that the passage of time is impervious to shoulder rolls.

 

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Gallery is below. If you use any, please credit SportsAngle.com.

 

Esoteric

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