Mayweather's alleged last act a fitting mismatch vs. Berto
Andre Berto wasn't the people's choice.
Floyd Mayweather has never been the people's champion.
Ergo, Mayweather's choosing of Berto as his opponent for his alleged swan song Saturday night in Las Vegas was all too predictable.
The five-division titleholder and surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer has throughout his career been accused of handpicking challengers at the optimal moment. Oscar De La Hoya, past his prime; Canelo Alvarez, yet to reach his; and a handful of others ill-prepared to challenge the all-time great Mayweather altogether.
Berto, a former two-time welterweight champion who's 3-3 over his last six bouts, was himself criticized early on in his career for padding an unblemished record with soft-touch opponents before suffering his first pro defeat in 2011.
This time, however, Berto is the poor bet in what's widely been lampooned as an obvious mismatch - the 49th "L" to draw Mayweather even with former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano at 49-0.
How we got here
Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) enters the familiar halls of the MGM Grand on the heels of his unanimous decision victory over Manny Pacquiao in the richest, but certainly not most entertaining, fight in boxing history.
Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) is coming off a sixth-round TKO of Josesito Lopez, a fighter with seven losses who was actually ahead on the scorecards before a pair of knockdowns convinced the ref in charge to halt the March bout.
Boxing fans and insiders aren't buying the talk that Berto, 32, was chosen to push Mayweather to the limit - as the defending welterweight champion pronounced last month - after being knocked out by veteran Jesus Soto Karass in 2013 and dropping a pair of decisions to former Mayweather opponents Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero before that.
Love him or hate him, Mayweather has dispatched a who's who of boxers from his generation; however, Berto, barring a shocking upset, won't be added to that list.
What to expect
Mayweather, 38, said he also picked Berto because he's an exciting fighter. But so were many of Mayweather's 48 previous challengers before falling victim to the great tactician's infuriating cat-and-mouse game.
Said Berto at a news conference in August, "... Every time Pacquiao fights, it’s exciting. Every time (Marcos) Maidana fights, it’s exciting. Every time Guerrero fights, it’s exciting. Every time Andre Berto fights, it’s exciting. There is only one common denominator in that situation who’s making the problem."
Berto is likely to do a lot of chasing, hoping to land one flush overhand right, whereas Mayweather will, as usual, aim to dictate the pace with his superior speed, and the distance with both a height and reach advantage over his opponent.
"He’s fighting a boring fighter, but he’s getting his biggest payday,” Mayweather said at the same presser, unintentionally encapsulating the storyline of the bout.
As for the hype, there is none. ESPN reported Tuesday that 2,100 seats were still available on Ticketmaster, and most expect the fight to bomb on pay-per-view. At the sportsbooks, Mayweather is a heavy 35-1 favorite.
Handily trumping the newsworthiness of Saturday's clash was word that Mayweather reportedly received an exemption for an IV injection banned under World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines three weeks after the Pacquiao fight.
Perhaps this is the appropriate way for Mayweather to say goodbye, breezing his way through 12 rounds of glorified shadowboxing. He never did find a true rival in the sport, though some would say he never sought one.
There's reason to doubt Saturday will mark the end of the pound-for-pound king's 19-year career; the only guarantee is the expiry of Mayweather's six-fight deal with Showtime/CBS.
A rematch with Pacquiao, who's expected to return from shoulder surgery in the spring, isn't out of the question, not to mention the uneasiness of retirement, to which boxers have been historically averse.
For his part, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe says Saturday is the fighter's last ride, having accomplished what most boxers can only dream of.
"... I applaud Floyd to be the first to walk away from the sport undefeated, with all his faculties and nine figures in the bank at 38 years old," Ellerbe said. "To accomplish that feat is truly remarkable.”