On 8th December 2007, Floyd Mayweather defeated Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas, with the WBC and The Ring super lightweight titles on the line. Nearly 15 years later and with both men in their 40s, they each stepped through the ropes again. While this presented a fun parallel, the exhibition bouts each man took part in could not be more different. But in their own way, each perfectly represented the personalities of the men.
Hatton’s return, his first time wearing the gloves in a decade, came at his old stomping ground of the Manchester Arena. ‘The Hitman’ entered the ring following BOXXER’s Saturday fight card, headlined by Natasha Jonas’ world title unification win over Marie-Eve Dicaire. His opponent was Marco Antonio Barrera, the Hall of Famer who won world titles at three weights. It was every inch the boxing aficionado’s dream, as two modern greats tested their skills against one another.
Mayweather’s exhibition bout was poles apart. Topping a DAZN pay-per-view card that featured Tommy Fury, ex-WWE star Bobby Fish and Love Island’s Jack Fincham; ‘Money’ took on YouTuber Deji. This has been a recurrent theme for Mayweather post-retirement. He fits into the high-gloss world of celebrity pugilism like a hand into a boxing glove. From ‘Pretty Boy’ to ‘Money’ to ‘Mr Have-Gloves-Will-Travel’.
While Hatton was rolling back the years with one of his heroes, Mayweather was collecting another mammoth payday for knocking about someone with minimal boxing experience. Neither boxer’s approach is wrong. Hatton’s return was motivated by his battles with mental health issues and his ballooning weight. Manchester’s famed son needed a kickstart, a reason to get back into shape. An exhibition bout against a man he’d long-admired in Barrera was exactly the tonic he needed.
Mayweather’s motivations are perhaps more cynical. Always an astute businessman, the man they used to call ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd has worked out he can get money for old rope. Mayweather has engaged in five unofficial fights since his last pro bout, a 2017 win over UFC superstar Conor McGregor that was an exhibition in all but name. He has faced, in order; a kickboxer half his size, a YouTuber, one of his old sparring partners, an MMA fighter and another YouTuber. I must emphasise that this is no attack on Floyd. It’s an attack on the people willing to pay him exorbitant sums to do very little. Mayweather is just gaming the system, he didn’t build the system himself.
Highlights from Ricky Hatton's exhibition against Marco Antonio Barrera 💥
The contrast was clear from viewing the fights, if you want to call them that. Hatton and Barrera squared off as you would expect from two former world champions. The timing wasn’t what it once was, but the shots were stiff and the exchanges were absorbing. Nobody took it too far, but there was enough needle to keep the contest exciting. If you squinted just slightly, you could imagine you were watching the two at their peak.
Mayweather’s efforts were half-hearted at best. Without a true peer opposite him, he didn’t need to get out of first gear. Some on social media alleged Floyd missed shots on purpose to prolong the bout. That is up for debate, but what cannot be questioned is that Mayweather took it incredibly easy on Deji. There’s an argument to be made that Floyd had hit the Big Show harder at WrestleMania XXIV, at least until the sixth-round stoppage.
The problem with the Mayweather approach when compared to what Hatton and Barrera gave us is this. Boxers taking on YouTubers has a finite shelf life. Unless you’re Jake Paul, whose acolytes will pay to watch him fight literally anyone, eventually the bubble will burst. Mayweather has already boxed rings around Logan Paul and now Deji. Who is honestly going to shell out to watch him do it to yet another influencer?
Boxing hardcores will always be intrigued by seeing the legends one last time, as with ‘The Hitman’ vs ‘The Baby-Faced Assassin’. There was mutual respect on show and the bout gave us a fleeting glimpse of their world class skills. Mayweather showed us his world class skills too, but they were rendered meaningless against someone who would be sparked out by any half-decent amateur fighter. If Mayweather is going to continue to be ‘Money’, he might have to do it against his fellow retired boxers. Come to think of it, Manny Pacquiao has an exhibition coming up. Rematch, anyone?
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change