Mayweather-Ariza tag team? Don’t bet on it, brother

The boxing-as-professional wrestling trope is a go-to move for far too many modern fight writers, but I understand the easy connection — especially in the case of an orchestration like Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s under-cover-of-darkness tweet in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Mayweather’s coy original tweet — “Alex Ariza stretching the Champ before his 3 am run,” accompanied by a photo of the same — has since been removed. But it served its purpose, receiving posthumous preservation by, among others, Title Boxing:

Boxing fans know Ariza as the longtime strength and conditioning coach of Manny Pacquiao and, more recently, Marcos Maidana — who gamely fought and fell to Mayweather last May, and who will face Floyd again in a rematch on Sept. 13. Does it make sense for a 37-year-old fighter with marginal power and gradually eroding speed and quickness to bring a renowned industry leader into his employ? Sure. But it also has nothing to do with Mayweather’s photo op with Ariza.

Floyd all but says so himself in this clip from back in mid-July:

Say what you want about Ariza — plenty has been said, lots more will be — but he routinely works with some of the best boxers in the sport and remains widely sought after. Mayweather, though, couldn’t be less interested. He’s quick to point out that he has never used a specialized strength coach and, without mentioning Ariza specifically, makes a clear nod in his direction when he crows: “Somehow I keep beating all their fighters.”

Think about it: In the same breath, Mayweather invites Ariza into his camp and, essentially, denigrates his work — or at least the efficacy of his profession.

So why, then, did Floyd’s followers receive the early-morning Twitter blast today? Because that’s what Mayweather does. He is a brilliant self-promoter whose calculated long-view maneuvers aren’t merely intended to plug his next fight but also to open doors and foster ticket-selling beefs for shows perhaps years in the future. Think this dalliance with Ariza, which figures to have the shelf life of sliced avocado, is all about tweaking Maidana? Uh-uh. Break down that clip into its component parts and you’ll realize it was just as much about Mayweather engaging a public that simply can’t help itself in the never-ending circle jerk of a theoretical fight with Manny Pacquiao.

And what of He Who Shall Not Be Named By Floyd? Will Mayweather-Pacquiao ever come to pass? By asking the question, you’ve already decided to play (and are well on your way to losing) Mayweather’s game. Pacquiao isn’t a potential opponent. He’s an idea, one that Floyd has co-opted and added to his collection of marketing tools designed to bolster his brand and keep him balanced atop the slippery pop-culture arc.

Call me cynical, but Floyd’s friends appear to get the same treatment as his enemies. “Money” doesn’t make acquaintances, he makes connections — like a living, breathing LinkedIn account. Confidantes past and present — 50 Cent, Stephen A. Smith, even Floyd’s own family — are used as props and mouthpieces, or to hoard demographic shares. Hell, Floyd is the man who has given us this unholy alliance:

Ariza will be around only until his presence isn’t useful to Mayweather, and not a moment longer. When whatever buzz generated by this flirtation begins to quiet, possibly even before Floyd steps on the canvas at the MGM Grand a couple of weeks from now, boxing’s one-man three-ring circus — the truest embodiment of sports entertainment — will already be on the move again, in search of an ever-larger audience.

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