The Saturday night prize fight between Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto was a chance for one of the world’s premier entertainers to remind us all why he belongs on top. The occasion called for the kind of career-defining performance that his rabid fanbase was expecting. This demanded confidence, swagger, and execution.
By that measure, Justin Bieber let us down.
The Mayweather-Cotto fight was a good one, filled with earnest attempts to punch each other — an unfortunately rare occurrence in big bouts — and Mayweather’s stunning quickness and masterful defense.
But the biggest buzz from the evening will undoubtedly be Mayweather’s march to the ring. It started in ordinary fashion: Mayweather sauntering through the bowels of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a red leather vest with spikes on the shoulders, flanked by a massive entourage wearing various “Money Team” apparel. 50 Cent was there, so was Triple H.
Then Bieber showed up.
It was the kind of event that makes you seize up in terror — Shit. This is it. The Internet is going to break. There’s no way it can withstand this — until you remember that the ever-vigilant Al Gore is somewhere keeping a watchful eye.
Holding a few title belts, Bieber walked alongside Sirs Mayweather, Cent and H into the ring and took part in some macho posturing before the fight began. The surprise appearance apparently came about after an exchange between the teen pop star and Mayweather on Friday, and it caught the fans in attendance so off-guard that most of them forgot they were supposed to be booing.
I’ll give him a pass on the hair and earring, but during the 20 seconds or so that it took to reach the ring, Bieber turned in such a lackluster performance that I’m beginning to doubt the high hopes that I’ve long held for him.
Anyone who knows me is familiar with my love for Bieber. Not so much for his music — I’ll Jazzercise to “Baby” in my room once in a while — but more for the person I hope he’ll become.
Between the musical talent, the boyish charm, the swagger, the dancing, the freestyle rapping and the potential to fit in with almost any group of people, Bieber is the heir apparent to the teen-pop-turned-immensely-likeable-superstar throne currently occupied by Justin Timberlake.
When he emerges from the cocoon of 14-year-old-girl tunes, I want a super-entertainer to emerge. A wide range of musical options, impeccable improv comedy and legit character-driven acting.
It takes a special kind of personality and confidence to reach that level. Until Saturday night, I was 100 percent sure that Bieber had it.
But on a huge stage, he faltered.
He’d been invited by one of the most successful, volatile athletes in history to join his swagger posse. It’s a huge ego boost, and all he had to do was pimp walk into the arena like he’s the shit, smile and point to the belts.
Instead, he looked nervous — like an 18-year-old white kid who was out of place. Of course, he is an 18-year-old white kid who was out of place, but he’s not supposed to let that show.
In fact, he looked so nervous that I wasn’t sure it was him. I (the guy who owns a Bieber poster) even got into an argument with a friend (who was severely impaired by alcohol) over whether it was actually Bieber.
I was damned sure it wasn’t him, until he flashed that million-dollar smile. But then it disappeared, and he looked nervous again.
He recovered a bit afterward (though I missed a good chunk of that; thanks Comcast), but the first impression was hard to forget.
For many, the simple fact that Bieber was there is enough to advance him toward the kind of superstardom that I envision, giving his street cred an enormous boost through association with the likes of Money May and 50 Cent.
What I saw was a scared little boy.
Look, I wasn’t expecting him to play the role that 50 did during Mayweather’s bout with Victor Ortiz, when the rapper leaned in and whispered, “He’s trying to make sure you can’t feed your kids” to Floyd en route to the ring.
But the stage was set, and I wanted Bieber to look like he belonged on it.
Instead, on a rare night where boxing delivered a show that lived up to the hype, Bieber never got up off the canvas.