Over the weekend, Floyd Mayweather fought what he claimed would be his last fight. Whether or not you know boxing, there is something instructive in what Mayweather has done. Unfortunately, it’s not about being great. Mayweather is retiring with an unblemished record in the ring: 49-0. This ties Rocky Marciano‘s unbeaten record, but there is a huge difference between the two. That difference makes a great business point as well.
For the last few years, Mayweather was fighting what are called in boxing “tomato cans.” Boxers either of far lesser skill or once great boxers past their prime. He has done so with one notion in mind: not to lose and keep his record clean. In so doing he can do something greats such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard couldn’t: retire unbeaten. That record, though, is criticized for how he hand-picked his opponents rather than fighting the best opponents available, something other great fighters rarely did. He was more focused on not losing than on beating the best. It’s a shame, and that’s the business point.
No one likes to lose. That said, what kind of victory is it when we know we’re not being pushed to be our best? In my mind, the lessons one learns from a tough loss are more important than those learned from an easy victory, mostly because in the unsatisfying walkover there really aren’t any lessons to be learned. That’s not to say we need to accept losing, but it does mean that we can’t compromise our greatness to avoid the possibility. The best business lessons often come when we’re on the short end of a decision, and we need to embrace the value of those losses even as we hate losing itself.
I suspect that Mayweather will fight again. His main focus has always been on making more money in the ring than any fighter in history (something he’s already accomplished) and he’ll win the fight easily because his opponent will be a joke (this last one lost his last three fights previous to fighting Mayweather). His bank account will shine; his reputation will be further tarnished. Unlike Marciano who fought everyone both good and bad in his weight class, Mayweather may be undefeated but he’s been beaten, in my book. Yours?