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23 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

The Myth and the Reality of Floyd Mayweather Jr


Floyd Mayweather Jr
Floyd Mayweather Jr

By Thomas Hauser

In today’s society, Patrick Kehoe observes, “hyperbole tends to replicate itself as an electronic echo, transmitting the desired information as truth logged into infinite memory. Just keep talking, and something aggrandizing will affix to the culture at large.”

One might cite Floyd Mayweather Jr in support of that theory.

Mayweather is an extremely talented fighter who wants to be superstar famous and mega-rich. His record stands at 41-and-0 with 25 knockouts. In recent years, he and Manny Pacquiao have been vying for the right to be called the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Mayweather lives alone in a 23,000-square-foot house in Las Vegas. “When I was growing up,” he says, “seven of us lived in one bedroom. I got a closet now that’s bigger than that bedroom was.”

Floyd has never been married and has four children by two different women. A seven-man security detail that conjures up images of PEDs accompanies him at public functions. He takes pride in his appearance and has no tattoos. “I like the way I look without them,” he notes. “And I’m not a follower.”

Mayweather is obsessed with money to the point of having changed his sobriquet from “Pretty Boy Floyd” to “Money Mayweather.” When asked to name his heroes, he cites Bill Gates, Steve Wynn, Carlos Slim, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffet; all hugely successful entrepreneurs. He’s often draped in expensive bling and brags about his winnings at Las Vegas sports books. The probability is that, like most gamblers, he loses more than he wins.

Mayweather can be seductively charming. He’s also very much into control. When he says “jump,” the people in his inner circle tend to ask, “How high?”

“I call the shots,” Floyd says. “Everything that goes my way isn’t always the right way. I know that. But I like things the way I like them.”

Asked for more in the way of self-description, Mayweather offers, “I don’t like to be lied to or disrespected. I ain’t never gonna punch a clock for nobody. I was born to be a winner. I’m happy with my life. I don’t hate on people. Some people say I’m an asshole, but I don’t hurt nobody. I got a heart. God must love me, because look where I’m at.”

The public feuding within Mayweather’s family has been referred to as boxing’s version of The Jerry Springer Show.

The most notable estrangement was between Floyd and his father and lasted for nine years. Floyd Sr fought professionally in the 1970s and ‘80s and later spent five-and-a-half years in prison for cocaine trafficking. During the chill between father and son, Floyd Sr lobbied to train fighters who would be facing Floyd Jr and declared, “Floyd thinks he’s bigger than boxing, and he ain’t. No one is bigger than boxing.”

They reconciled in May 2009. Now Floyd Sr says, “My son is bigger than boxing.”

Floyd has been trained by his uncle, Roger Mayweather, for most of his pro career. Roger was imprisoned in 2007 for assaulting his son’s maternal grandmother. Last year, he was indicted on charges of battery and coercion. The police report on the latter incident states that Roger punched a woman named Melissa St. Vil in the ribs several times and wrapped his hands around her throat, causing her to nearly pass out. When the police arrived, St. Vil was coughing and spitting up blood. Trial on these charges is scheduled for later this year.

Floyd Jr. has had his own issues with women and the criminal justice system. In 2002, he plead guilty to two counts of domestic violence. Two years later, he was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery for assaulting two women in a Las Vegas night club.

The other core members of Team Mayweather are Leonard Ellerbe and Al Haymon. Ellerbe is Mayweather’s personal assistant, administrative aide, and business manager. Haymon masterminds Mayweather’s fight contracts.

In most sports, a fighter has to beat the best in order to reach the top. Corrupt world sanctioning organizations and HBO’s outsized marketing power have deprived boxing of that legitimacy.

Within this environment Mayweather has combined careful matchmaking and a cautious ring style with an attention-grabbing persona and superb boxing skills to build a brand name.

Floyd craves celebrity status. He understands what it can do for him financially, not to mention his ego. As Carlo Rotello wrote in the New York Times, “He wants to be bigger than boxing can make him; kind of like what The Joker has in mind in Batman when he says he wants his face on the dollar bill.”

Thus, Mayweather has expended considerable time and energy to turn himself into a magnet for media attention and build his profile outside the ring. In 2007, he appeared on Dancing with the Stars. One year later, he faced off against “Big Show” on WrestleMania. Truth and the business of combat sports rarely go hand in hand, so Floyd can be forgiven for boasting that he was paid US$20,000,000 for his wrestling foray. Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer puts the number at “about $3,500,000.” Still, that’s a staggering sum for a one-night acting gig.

The bulwark of Mayweather’s image-making has been HBO’s TV “reality” series, 24/7. The show has been used to promote eight pay-per-view fights, including Floyd’s outings against Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Shane Mosley.

24/7has propagated the view that everything Mayweather touches turns to gold and given him a platform to craft his outside-the-ring persona. To some, Floyd symbolizes crass materialism and conspicuous consumption. But as Lou Duva once noted, “Nobody goes into boxing to be loved. You’re in this game to make money.”

Mayweather has made money. His 2007 fight against Oscar De La Hoya engendered a record-breaking 2,446,000 buys. Oscar was the driving force behind that promotion. But Floyd’s seven pay-per-view fights have averaged close to one million buys.

“What’s this fight going to do for my legacy?” Floyd asked before squaring off against Ricky Hatton two-and-a-half years ago. “I got no fake answer. It’s not going to do nothing for my legacy. I’m fighting because I’m a business man. I’m like Bob Barker. ‘Come on down.’ If the price is right, let’s make it happen.”

“People love controversy, and I’m controversial,” Mayweather offers. “If you see Tom Cruise in a movie, that’s not really him. It’s a character he’s playing. Some of what I do in public is me, and some of it is playing a character. You figure out which is which. At the end of the day, it don’t matter whether the media likes me or not. People love me. When I go places, I get a lot of love.”

It might be that Mayweather confuses love with the attention he gets for being a celebrity. Either way, love isn’t central to his image. The pillars of his public persona are money and his ring prowess.

Mayweather’s skill as a fighter is a matter of record, and he’s boastful when it comes to extolling his place in the sweet science. Among his claims: “I’m the face of boxing . . . I can make anybody look like a nobody . . . When fighters are facing me, they’re facing the best. When I’m facing them, I’m just facing fighters . . . Some fighters do different things good. I do everything great . . . There’s no remedy on how to beat Floyd Mayweather. It’s like a difficult math problem that no one can solve . . . I’m the king of the throne. I do what I want to do . . . All roads in boxing lead to Floyd Mayweather.”

Mayweather also maintains, “I’m the reason people don’t watch heavyweights no more. I made the world pay attention to the smaller man in boxing.”

That will come as a surprise to Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran, whose internecine warfare captivated the world several decades ago. Fans of Manny Pacquiao might also take issue.

Then there’s the claim, “I’m the best fighter ever. Muhammad Ali? He lost to Leon Spinks, a guy who had seven pro fights. Sugar Ray Robinson? He didn’t win a championship after just one year like I did.”

In truth, Mayweather won his first world title belt after two years, not one. Robinson had to wait six years and fight 75 fights before he was given an opportunity to fight for the championship. In his first 131 fights, Robinson lost once. During that time, he beat Sammy Angott (twice), Fritzie Zivic (twice), Tommy Bell (twice), Kid Gavilan (twice), and Jake LaMotta (five times).

As for Ali; he had the toughest inquisitors of any champion ever and won five of six fights against Sonny Liston, George Foreman, and Joe Frazier. His greatness is untouched by what happened when he got old.

That said; even Mayweather’s critics acknowledge that he’s a formidable fighting machine.

The foundation of Floyd’s success in the ring is preparation. He knows how to do things right in the gym and trains his ass off. Getting ready for a fight, he always pays the price.

“You got to be ready every time you step in the ring,” Floyd says. “You got to be mentally ready before you can do the things you have to do to get ready physically. Then, when you’re physically ready, you can take the final mental steps. The mind tells the body what to do, but it’s all tied together. I’ve never been in a fight where my mind said something and my body wouldn’t do it.”

Those looking for a hole in Mayweather’s discipline point to his penchant for fast food. In response, Floyd notes, “Fast food is better than drinking. Fast food is better than drugs. Nobody works harder than me in the gym. That’s one of the reasons why, in fights, I don’t get tired.”

Mental burn-out is another matter. On October 23, 2007, an uncharacteristically somber Mayweather told the media, “It’s not like it used to be. I think I liked this sport better when I was fighting for free. When you’re young, you don’t have concerns, so you’re not worried about nothing. I mean, you never know what can happen in boxing. A lot of times, you worry about certain things like, if I die in the ring, what’s going to happen with your family? When I didn’t have no kids to live for, I really wasn’t worried about nothing. I was like, I don’t care what goes on. I’m just going there to fight. If I die, so be it. Now that I’m a lot older and a lot wiser, it’s more like I’ve got something to live for. I’ve got some people who love me. So that worries me a lot, because I feel like my job is like a cop. One shot can end your whole career.”

Seven weeks later, Mayweather knocked out Ricky Hatton. Then, on June 6, 2008, he announced that he was “permanently retiring from boxing.”

“I needed a rest, physically and mentally,” Floyd says. “I was burned out.”

Few people in boxing took Mayweather’s retirement seriously. The assumption was that he’d be back in the ring, sooner rather than later.

The return came against Juan Manuel Marquez on September 19, 2009. Maybe Floyd missed the spotlight and the competition. Just as likely, he needed money. On July 3, 2009, the Associated Press reported that the Internal Revenue Service had filed tax liens against him totaling US$6,170,000 and that he owed another $193,000 pursuant to a New Jersey Superior Court judgment.

There were also persistent rumors, denied by Leonard Ellerbe, that Floyd had been swindled out of millions of dollars in a financial scam.

Equally important, Mayweather thought at the time of his retirement that he could make a fortune without boxing; through endorsements, investments, and business ventures. That was easier said than done.

“He wasn’t broke,” Floyd Sr says. “But he had a money problem.”

Against Marquez, Mayweather showed that he was still a superb fighter. The one sour note in the proceedings came when Floyd blew off the agreed-upon contract weight of 144 pounds (nine pounds above Juan Manuel’s previous high) and weighed in at 146 pounds. The contract was hastily amended. Mayweather paid Marquez an additional US$600,000 out of his reported $10,000,000 guarantee, and the bout took place as scheduled. Floyd won a lopsided decision.

Eight weeks after Mayweather decisioned Marquez, Manny Pacquiao annihilated Miguel Cotto. That set the stage for Mayweather-Pacquiao, which, it was presumed, would be the largest-grossing fight in boxing history.

Not.

Mayweather-Pacquiao fell through to the dismay of the boxing community. Depending on one’s point of view, that was because Floyd made unreasonable demands with regard to PED testing that he knew would interfere with Manny’s training (a/k/a “the Pacquiao avoidance program”) or Pacquiao had something to hide.

Either way, Floyd needed a name opponent to counterbalance the fallout from Mayweather-Pacquiao falling out. Meanwhile, Shane Mosley was scheduled to fight Andre Berto (who, like Mayweather, is managed by Al Haymon) on January 30th.

On January 12th, Berto’s ancestral home of Haiti was devastated by a catastrophic earthquake. Six days later, citing concern for members of his family and the fact that he was mentally and physically exhausted, Andre withdrew from the Mosley fight. That same day, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy (which promotes Shane and co-promotes Mayweather) announced that he was working to put Mayweather-Mosley together for May 1st.

A decade ago, Mosley and Roy Jones vied for pound-for-pound honors, although the consensus was that Jones reigned. Then Shane lost to Vernon Forrest and the debate ended.

Mosley is now thirty-eight years old and had fought only twice since 2007. In one of those fights, he struggled on old legs against Ricardo Mayorga before knocking the Nicaraguan out in the twelfth round. Then, on January 24, 2009, Shane scored an impressive knockout victory over Antonio Margarito to capture the WBA welterweight crown.

Margarito-Mosley was the platform on which Mayweather-Mosley was built.
Shane has a name. Unlike many elite fighters, he really will fight anyone. And Mayweather felt that beating Mosley convincingly would legitimize his own claim to greatness.

Shane had the same agenda as Mayweather, but hoped for a different outcome. “Everybody has Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather on their mind,” he said. “I’m going to make sure that they know that I’m here. I want to make a point that I’m the best welterweight fighter right now. I’m not just going to talk about it. I want to be about it. There’s no welterweight out there who can beat me.”

The marketing theme for Mayweather-Mosley was “who R U picking?” That rang a bit hollow, since virtually everyone in the know was picking Mayweather. The odds opened at 3-to-1 and rose as high as 9-to-2 before settling at 7-to-2.

At the March 2nd kick-off press conference in New York, Schaefer proclaimed, “This is one of the best fights in the history of boxing” and predicted three million pay-per-view buys. Later in the promotion, when Mayweather was referenced during a tele-conference call as “the greatest fighter in boxing today,” Schaefer corrected, “Not of today; the greatest of all time.”

One hopes that, in his previous career as a banker, Richard fulfilled his fiduciary obligation to clients with more acumen and/or candor.

Mayweather has the habit of demeaning his opponent in the build-up to a fight, and Mayweather-Mosley was no exception. After calling Shane a “dumb motherfucker,” Floyd opined, “He’s desperate, so he has no choice but to fight me. His career is coming to an end; and before he goes, he wants that last big payday. I don’t really like to speak on people’s personal business, because his personal life is his personal life. But he just went through a divorce, and sometimes going through a hard divorce can be very excruciating. It can cost a lot of money.”

“This is our legacy on who’s the best fighter,” Shane responded. “It’s a challenge that I’m ready to take. It’s nothing personal. I’m ready to go into the history books as the guy to beat Floyd Mayweather and the guy that beats everybody out there. The last man standing; I’m into that. I don’t bark. I bite.”

But when pressed, Shane added, “He wants to talk about my suit. He’s talking about the curls in my hair and if I’m getting a nose job. Is he gay or something? You know, all of these different things about my personal stuff. I mean, you’ve got to watch out. There’s different things that don’t sound right.”

Then there was the issue of performance-enhancing drugs.

The contract for Mayweather-Mosley gave Floyd the right to dictate the terms of drug testing. Anything he wanted would be put in place as long as each fighter was subject to the same testing requirements.

Mayweather might be sincere in his claim that he wants elaborate PED testing for all of his fights as a way of ensuring “a level playing field for clean athletes.” Or he might be avoiding a showdown with Manny Pacquiao (whose phobia for giving blood is genuine). Let’s give Floyd the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Golden Boy appears to be less committed to PED testing. How else to explain the fact that it never raised the issue in conjunction with Hopkins-Jones II, Haye-Ruiz, or any of the other high-profile fights that it promoted recently?

Regardless, drug testing was in place for Mayweather-Mosley. During a March 18th conference call, Travis Tygart (CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency) advised the media, “Both athletes have agreed to USADA’s testing protocols, including blood and urine testing, which is unannounced, which is anywhere and anytime. There is no limit to the number of tests that we can complete on these boxers. Any positive tests will be published following a thorough legal process provided under our protocols.”

Initially, Tygart said that a positive test could result in a two-year suspension of the athlete and cancellation of the fight. But it was later acknowledged that punishment could come only after “a full legal process.” That would include, among other things, an arbitration proceeding before the American Arbitration Association to be conducted under restrictions of confidentiality, which would delay punitive action until after the fight. Tygart also admitted, “We have no direct control to enforce compliance.” In other words, the Nevada State Athletic Commission would have to impose the suspension.

Judd Burstein (Mosley’s lawyer) elaborated on that theme, saying, “There is no provision one way or the other in the contract for public disclosure of the test results; although I would think that the parties would be bound to report a positive test result to the Nevada commission.”

Meanwhile, Mosley was in the embarrassing position of having to acknowledge yet again that he’d used banned performance enhancing drugs prior to his 2003 victory over Oscar De La Hoya. That much was clear from Shane’s own testimony before a grand jury that investigated BALCO and its founder, Victor Conte.

Mosley claims that he took the drugs unknowingly, although circumstances suggest otherwise. He also notes that he never tested positive for PEDS and, during an April 21st conference call, told the media, “I don’t feel that I should be condemned for something that I never tested positive for.”

Of course, one reason that athletes sought Conte’s services was because he put them on regimens that would allow them to avoid testing positive for PEDs.

Mayweather, for his part, expressed the view that Mosley knew what he was putting into his body before he fought De La Hoya. “Marion Jones lied under oath and she went to jail,” Floyd trumpeted. “So what’s supposed to happen to Shane? We know what he’s done. He lied under oath.”

Then again; Mayweather repeatedly ducked questions about his own use of xylocaine to ease the pain in his hands during fights. Xylocaine is now legal under the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission if administered under the supervision of a doctor. That wasn’t always the case. USADA did not test the fighters for xylocaine.

When fight week arrived, Team Mayweather was in full bloom. Uncle Roger dismissed the media with the thought, “You guys don’t know shit about boxing so it don’t make no difference what you say.” Floyd did his part for good media relations by refusing to attend the HBO fighter meeting on Friday and declaring “I created 24/7.”

Floyd also proclaimed, “I’m doing Shane Mosley a favor. I’m letting him share the ring with greatness . . . Shane Mosley is an HBO fighter. Floyd Mayweather is a mega-superstar . . . He’s good at what he do. I’m great at what I do . . . Shane has checker pieces on the board. I’m playing with chess pieces. Most fighters have checkers pieces. And if they have a few chess pieces, they can’t move them as well as me . . . My game plan is to be Floyd Mayweather.”

One refreshing aspect to the promotion was that the sanctioning bodies were largely ignored. Mosley was the WBA welterweight champion. But Mayweather refused to pay the WBA sanctioning fee, noting,” There should be just one belt in each division. The way things are now, anyone can get to be a champion.” Shane followed suit on the theory that, if he lost, the title would be declared vacant; and if he won, he wouldn’t need the WBA belt to make money.

The WBC tried to get into the act by offering its “diamond championship” belt to the winner for a one-percent sanctioning fee. That was rejected as a bad joke, after which WBC president Jose Sulaiman offered the belt “at cost.” That offer was turned down on the theory that Mayweather-Mosley would be a happier occasion with $45,000 less in expenses and without a WBC presence.

Ticket sales were a bit disappointing. Ultimately, the attendance on fight night was 15,117, which meant that a thousand tickets went unsold. But during fight week, the buzz was that Mayweather-Mosley would do huge pay-per-view numbers. HBO believed that Floyd had developed an “anchor fan base” among urban African-Americans. And Mayweather-Marquez (which drew poorly at the gate) had engendered 1,080,000 pay-per-view buys.

No one took Schaefer seriously at the final pre-fight press conference when he said, “Our goal is to break four million buys.” But 1,500,000 seemed like a realistic number, which would have pushed Mayweather-Mosley past De La Hoya-Trinidad into second place on the all-time buy list for non-heavyweight fights.

Mayweather (who had a US$22,500,000 guarantee plus an upside) was telling people, “I should walk away from this with about sixty million.” Mosley had a guarantee of $5,500,000. As of this writing, it appears as though the pay-per-view number will settle in at between 1,100,000 and 1,200,000. That’s impressive, but might not be enough to give either fighter more than his guarantee.

The most popular figure in the media center during fight week was Mosley’s trainer, Naazim Richardson. Brother Naazim (as he likes to be called) is part philosopher, part story-teller, and all trainer. “Verbally, I can dance with you,” he says.

Richardson dismissed Mayweather’s mouth as “playing to the barbershops” and expressed dismay at the “Money Mayweather” persona. “You can have a guy who’s an idiot,” Brother Naazim elaborated. “But he can look at your car and fix the carburetor in a minute, so you got to respect what he does on the cars. I respect Floyd’s genius as a fighter, but I don’t like the way Floyd handles himself outside the ring sometimes.”

Asked for more, Richardson observed, “This is a battle for greatness. You have fighters. You have champions. And you have guys who are special. These guys are special . . . Shane is tenacious. You can’t be cute against Shane Mosley for twelve rounds . . . I had an old guy [Bernard Hopkins] who fought a young guy from Puerto Rico [Felix Trinidad] who was undefeated and knocking everyone out. We all remember how that one ended . . . Shane has to start fast. When you have a slow start against a fast rabbit; that story about the tortoise and the hare is bullshit. We all know the rabbit is going to win.”

Mosley’s partisans took hope in the fact that this was the first time Mayweather would be facing someone his own size since he fought Oscar De La Hoya three years ago. Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez were much smaller men.

Shane voiced optimism, declaring, “Floyd says a lot of things that are out of bounds. But I don’t care about what Floyd says. I care about what I believe and do. He has good hand-speed, but my hand-speed is good, too. I’m just as fast as him, just as slick as him. I’m going to beat him at his game. I won’t spend the whole fight trying to outbox Floyd, but I’ll do it from time to time. My power will be the icing on the cake. I pretty much know his thinking process, what he’s going to do. He’s a counterpuncher. He only strikes when he knows he’s got you beat. I’m not worried about that. Floyd fights fighters at what he thinks is the right time. But this time, he made a mistake.”

When Mosley was young, he radiated energy and strength. During fight week, that no longer seemed to be the case. At a Thursday sit-down with a group of writers, his face was puffy. There was no sparkle in his eyes. He looked tired. At age thirty-eight, he was the oldest opponent that Mayweather has ever faced.

“As you get older, your body changes,” Shane told the writers. “Things stop working the way they used to. You can’t work out all day and come back and train the same way the next day. You can’t spar every day.”

That reinforced the view that boxing has seen the best it’s going to see of Mosley. At the weigh-in on Friday, he looked good. But Mayweather had a glow about him.

“Mosley can’t beat me,” Mayweather said. “He beat Margarito. So what? Margarito got beat by Paul Williams. Margarito got beat by Daniel Santos. Margarito lost six times. Mosley lost five times. Mosley got out-boxed by Cotto. Mosley is dreaming when he says he can outbox me. He may be stronger when it comes to lifting weights. But this is boxing, not a weightlifting contest. I got too much for Mosley to compete with me.”

On fight night, Chris Brown sang the National Anthem. Given Mayweather’s history of criminally abusing women, it wasn’t a wise choice. Last year, Brown was charged with felony assault against his then-girlfriend Rihanna. He pled guilty and was sentenced to five years probation plus six months of community service.

Mosley was the first man in the ring. Mayweather kept him waiting before making a well-choreographed entrance punctuated by loud simulated gun-shots.

Round one of the fight was even and tactically fought. Fifty-five seconds into round two, Mosley did what he wasn’t supposed to be able to do. He whacked Mayweather with a hard right hand that had Floyd holding on.

Earlier in the week, Naazim Richardson had said, “The opportunities will be few and far between. Shane will have to take advantage of them when they’re there because the window will close pretty quickly.”

The window closed. When Mayweather’s head cleared, he didn’t run. He fought back. From that point on, he was the aggressor, controlling when and where exchanges took place. When Shane got inside, Floyd roughed him up, pushing down hard on the back of Mosley’s head and neck and using his elbows to maximum advantage. He out-boxed Shane and he outfought Shane.

Meanwhile, Mosley couldn’t let his hands go when the opportunities were there.

“The muscle twitch fiber goes first,” Richardson had said. “In your head, you’re making the move the way you used to, but the other guy is getting off first.”

By round five, Mosley was tired and discouragement was etched on his face. Mayweather’s jab was like a snake’s tongue and his right hand like the lash of a whip. In the second half of the fight, he beat Shane up.

Mayweather out-landed Mosley 208-to-92 with a 123-to-46 edge in power punches. Those numbers become even more lopsided in light of the fact that thirteen of Mosley’s power punches landed in the second round.

The outcome was determined by the variables that most people thought would dictate the result. Mosley was too old and too slow. Mayweather was too fast and too good. The judges were on target with a 119-109, 119-109, 118-110 verdict.

“I tried,” Shane said afterward. “I couldn’t pull the trigger when I wanted to.”

Mosley has now had fifteen fights since 2001. His record in those fights is 8-and-6 with one no contest.

So . . . How good is Mayweather?

Smoke and mirrors don’t work in the ring. A fighter can be hyped before; he can be hyped afterward. But those three-minute intervals are unscripted and real. During that time, he’s alone, exposed, and fully reliant upon his skills for survival.

Mayweather is a great technical fighter. He wastes no energy. Every move he makes is purposeful. Over his last six fights, he has landed 47 percent of his punches compared to a connect rate of 17 percent for his opponents. That’s a thirty-percent differential; far superior to that of any other active fighter tracked by CompuBox.

Floyd knows his own abilities and has a keen awareness of what each opponent brings to the table. “A good boxing mind,” he says, “means instinct, understanding strategy, being tough, and knowing the right moves to make.” He has all of that and more.

In the ring, Mayweather is risk-averse. “You got to be cautious in boxing,” he says. “I don’t have to be bloody and knocked down and getting beat up to prove that I’m great. There’s something greater than that, and that’s not getting hit. There’s nothing cool about taking punishment. What’s cool is dishing it out.”

But Floyd can fight rough. Anyone who doubts that should look at DVDs of his bouts against Mosley and Ricky Hatton.

“In the ring, I’m the predator; never the prey,” he says. “I’ve always felt that way. You need killer instinct to be a great fighter, like an animal in the wilderness.”

Mayweather has the respect of his fellow fighters. They know how good he is. It would be nice if he showed them more respect in return. Right now, he’s a great athlete, but not a great sportsman. And more important, if Floyd wants to prove himself in the eyes of history, he’ll have to be more consistent in seeking out the best available competition.

When people talk about why Sugar Ray Robinson was great, they don’t mention his win over an aging Henry Armstrong. No one says that Muhammad Ali was great because he beat an elderly Archie Moore. Robinson and Ali proved their greatness against the toughest opponents imaginable, as did Sugar Ray Leonard by conquering Wilfredo Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Hagler.

Mayweather hasn’t had the inquisitors that those men had. He doesn’t seem to want them. That might be a good marketing decision, but it makes it harder to consider Floyd an all-time great.

History judges fighters by what they did in the ring; not by whether they were on Dancing with the Stars and how much money they made.


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His next book about boxing (a novel entitled Waiting for Carver Boyd) will be published in June by JR Books. Hauser says that Waiting for Carver Boyd is “the best pure boxing writing I’ve ever done.”


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