If fighter indeed is retiring, he leaves with perfect record, polarizing legacy

- Martin Rogers USA TODAY Sports FOLLOW REPORTER MARTIN ROGERS @mrogersUSA­T for the latest on boxing and other sports.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. sold it well, but he has always been one heck of a salesman. At the end of the 49th and, he says, final fight of his career, he sank to his knees, looked to the sky, said thank you and goodnight and made his retirement “official.”

After beating Andre Berto (30-4) with total ease, Mayweather (49-0, 26 knockouts) had his speech ready, a few cracks of the voice to hint at imminent tears and fond reflection­s at the end of 19 years in the boxing business.

You could almost believe it. Almost, if it wasn’t for all the compelling reasons why his departure likely will be rescinded within a year or so, each of them revolving around money, that quaint little thing he has a license to print.

Yet whether people bought into the story line, Saturday night was a tame response to a figurehead of the sports world saying this was the end. MGM Grand Garden Arena wasn’t full, announcing a gate of 13,395, with some in attendance saying on social media they had been given free tickets.

Pay-per-view figures will not be released for a few days at the least but surely will be disappoint­ing, at least by Mayweather’s record-breaking standards. The round of applause he was afforded at sign-off was warm but hardly spine-tingling.

There were no arena-wide chants of “One more fight!”

And that in itself is Mayweather, the alternativ­e price he has paid for the incredible amount of money he has accumulate­d. To build that wealth, he played the heel, the brash and boisterous bad guy. To build his record, he played it safe tactically, relying so often on defensive brilliance.

He is polarizing enough for some to question whether he has actually been good for boxing. Would such a thing ever be suggested about another athlete who has enjoyed such an extraordin­ary level of sustained success?

The argument in Mayweather’s favor is that he became a crossover figure and stayed in the public eye at a time when boxing doesn’t have many household names, and he generated monumental cash flow for the often-beleaguere­d fight game.

Critics will say he made a lot of money for himself and allowed some of it to filter through to the chosen few who were picked to face him but did little to bring new, genuine, lasting fans to the sport.

The reality is his following adores him for the flash and swagger, for the obsession with money, for the business savvy and the way he steadfastl­y marches to his own tune. Others have no time for his arrogance and boastfulne­ss or his history of several accusation­s of violence toward women and subsequent denial of an attack he admitted to in court and for which he served prison time.

Inevitably, as with anyone who reaches the top, Mayweather has made enemies within boxing, too. Oscar De La Hoya spent Saturday trolling the Mayweather fight on Twitter, lampooning the lack of explosive action and suggesting boxing will be better off if, indeed, the Mayweather show has performed for the last time.

Those who like to pick at Mayweather have labeled him a boring fighter, but in fairness he was more active than usual against Berto. They tried to make a battle of the contest, but the gap in quality was too great. Berto wasn’t good enough to hit May- weather, who wasn’t stupid enough to let his opponent connect just for the sake of entertainm­ent.

Some athletes gain greater levels of affection once they are gone than they ever did in their careers. Maybe that will be the case with Mayweather, but in reality it is hard to see him winning over a large section of those who watched fights hoping to see him get knocked out.

But such questions are going to be hypothetic­al, for a good while at least. Because, let’s face it, he will be back, whether you like it or not.

As ever, some will, some won’t. For that, the contrast, the fact that what appeals to some repulses others, is the real product Mayweather sells better than anyone has before.

 ?? JOE CAMPOREALE, USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Floyd Mayweather Jr. kneels in the ring after the final round of Saturday’s bout vs. Andre Berto.
JOE CAMPOREALE, USA TODAY SPORTS Floyd Mayweather Jr. kneels in the ring after the final round of Saturday’s bout vs. Andre Berto.
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