Retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr dusted off his gloves once again to take part in a controversial exhibition, cruising to a unanimous decision victory over a wheelchair boxer in a bout worth a reported $15million.
The undefeated, former five-division world champion retired from professional boxing after defeating UFC's Conor McGregor back in 2017, but is always on the lookout for some easy money.
Mayweather's last foray into the ring was at the end of 2018, when he knocked out 5'4", 127lb kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa, 19-years-old at the time, in a farcical exhibition in Japan that lasted all of 140 seconds and reportedly made the boxing legend a cool $9million.
But nobody expected his latest stunt. The 43-year-old was apparently given the idea by a member of his team, who suggested he take part in a friendly exhibition to promote wheelchair boxing in the Las Vegas area, with all the proceeds going to charity. Mayweather liked the low risk element of fighting someone in a wheelchair, but insisted he should make at least 8 figures and take 90% of the profits for the fight because he's the "A side", with the remaining 10% going to the Nevada Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation.
The man who calls himself 'TBE' (or 'The Best Ever') also insisted the event be held in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the preferred venue for much of his glittering professional career, and that the agreed weight limit of 154 lbs include his opponent's wheelchair.
An opponent was found in 26-year-old Walter 'High Roller' Reed, who had been making a name for himself in the wheelchair boxing game after losing the use of his legs in a car accident. And despite some last minute drama involving Reed's request for pain medication after suffering a sudden muscle spasm, which was ultimately denied after Mayweather's team threatened to cancel the event, the six-round fight went ahead.
In the first three rounds, a focused yet typically cautious Mayweather circled his opponent using his slick footwork, controlling the distance with some stiff jabs to Reed's stomach and looking for an opening to land that famed straight right hand, bobbing in and out of range and throwing feints as if he were fighting Manny Pacquiao.
A game Reed looked to penetrate Mayweather's patented shoulder roll with some heavy shots, but struggled to land anything clean, the two-foot height disadvantage proving too much to overcome.
The fight really came to life in the fourth round, when Mayweather landed a classy six-punch combination, consisting of a jab, a straight right, two consecutive uppercuts and a brutal straight right that would have knocked Reed to the floor had he not been strapped to his chair, as is usual in wheelchair boxing.
Perhaps mistakenly thinking the crowd's jeering was due to a lack of action and not that one of the greatest boxers of all time was mercilessly beating a disabled man like it were a world title fight, 'Money' really went on the offensive in round five, landing 53 clean straight rights.
Reed enjoyed a brief moment of success when he trapped Mayweather's lead foot under one of his wheels and landed a big overhand right, but Mayweather simply shook his head as if to say "you can't hurt me" and returned fire with a blistering combination of his own.
Round six was a dull affair, Mayweather typically backing up and letting his opponent chase him around the ring while throwing the odd jab or counter straight, safe in the knowledge that he had the fight won on the judges' scorecards by a landslide. As the final bell sounded, the former pound-for-pound king raised his arms in triumph before jumping on the ropes and addressing a wheelchair-bound portion of the crowd, mouthing the words "I told you", as if the result were ever in any doubt.
Legendary boxing referee Kenny Bayless had the pleasure of raising Mayweather's hand as ring announcer Michael Buffer confirmed the victory, a unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the bout 60-48, each round a resounding 10-8 shutout despite there being no knockdowns.
Speaking with Showtime's Jim Gray after the fight, despite no network opting to air the controversial event for obvious reasons, Mayweather defended his decision to take the fight:
"First of all, thank you to Walter Reed for taking the fight. He's a great champion, but boxing is my game. Listen, this is why I'm the best ever. Name one other fighter in the world who would have taken this fight and put on a show like this; that's right, you can't. I just made $15million for an easy night's work.
"Sure, I could've just tapped the guy and had a nice playful exhibition for six rounds, but that's not what the fans pay to see. They want to see Floyd Mayweather put on a boxing masterclass, maybe take a few shots, and that's what they got tonight."
CompuBox statistics for the fight affirmed Mayweather's dominance, the boxer outlanding his opponent 340-33 and connecting with a staggering rate of 88%. Of his 139 power punches, 123 were straight right hands.
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