Floyd Mayweather will enter his next bout at 45-0. | Photo: Mike Sloan/Sherdog.com
Floyd Mayweather sat there, elbows on knees, dressed in a sharp black T-shirt, and cast a childlike gaze at the circus of humanity in front of him. They came in all shapes and sizes and they all wanted a piece of him, to touch him, to see him and to pay homage to him like he was some sort of shaman with the answers to life.
Earlier that night, Mayweather had completed answering any questions about his toughness by dispensing Shane Mosley in 12 rounds and surviving the biggest scare of his professional career: a second-round Mosley right that buzzed him. In the wee hours of the morning the next day, Mayweather was still celebrating his victory in a sober, understated way. He sat there basking in the adulation of his worshipers at a swank Las Vegas nightclub.
For a moment, “Money” was transparent and vulnerable. He was in a gregarious, effuse mood when he blurted out something that may have shocked fight fans worldwide: He cares. He cares what people think, believes his legacy is important and wants to be remembered as one of the all-time greats.
At 37 and sitting at 45-0, with 26 knockouts, no one will dispute that. He is a first-ballot, unanimous hall of famer. He has beaten the best fighters of his era, with the exception of Manny Pacquiao, and that seems a moot point, considering “Pac-Man’s” slipping abilities and Mayweather’s vast superiority at this stage of their careers.
For now, however, he will go back into bad-guy mode, which serves to stir up more pay-per-view buys and agitate the boxing cognoscenti in building his fight with Marcos Maidana on May 3 in Las Vegas. It marks the third fight in Mayweather’s six-fight deal with Showtime, and it means he is one step closer to the end. It is not something he was thinking about four years ago after beating Mosley. However, you have the sense that Mayweather, a father now with real responsibilities and the rearview mirror looming ever larger in his windshield, wants to be appreciated more today.
Over the last five years, it is something fight fans have begrudgingly done. In his last seven fights dating back to his 10th-round technical knockout of Rickey Hatton on Dec. 8, 2007, Mayweather has generated more than one million PPV buys with each appearance, despite stopping only two opponents. His defensive wizardry has grown on fight fans, as they kept flocking and Mayweather the biggest draw in the sport. He knows the persona he has created, much like “a work” a professional wrestler performs, has been a turnoff to many fans. Consequently, it has taken away from his many accomplishments in the ring.
Consider the following:
• Mayweather took on WBC super featherweight champion Genaro Hernandez just 17 fights into his pro career and finished him in eight rounds. Then, just two months later, he vanquished the hot Angel Manfredy in two rounds in his first title defense;
• In 2001, he destroyed Diego Corrales, knocking him down five times;
• In 2002, he avenged a controversial decision victory over Jose Luis Castillo with a thorough one-sided trouncing, and five years later, he won the largest PPV fight in boxing history by taking a split decision over Oscar De La Hoya on May 5, 2007. The bout drew 2.4 million PPV sales;
• In 2012, he dominated Miguel Cotto, and last year, he chopped up 23-year-old Canelo Alvarez, despite one myopic judge’s scorecard.
Mayweather has taken on the best and beaten the best.
“I really don’t know what more I have to do,” Mayweather said the night after he beat Mosley. “I think I do everything the fans want to see. They want to see me fight the best out there, [and] I fight the best out there. Everyone wanted me to fight De La Hoya. I beat De La Hoya. Everyone wanted me to fight Hatton. I beat Hatton. When the Pacquiao fight fell through, what was the best option out there? Mosley, [and] I beat Mosley.
“What people really want to see is me get my ass kicked,” he added. “That’s never going to happen, not now, not ever. I’ll know when to get out. I’m not going to be one of those guys you see broke, crying about how they have to continue fighting because they blew all of their money. I’m too smart for that.”
What makes Mayweather so special, beyond his extraordinary skill set, is his addiction to boxing and working out. In October 2000, Mayweather arrived at a press conference in Detroit to promote the Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota fight being shown on a Friday. Mayweather was fighting Emanuel Augustus the next day on HBO’s now-defunct hip-hop boxing series “KO Nation,” with Ed Lover as the ring announcer. Mayweather was bugging his aides-de-camp about the need to find a gym. He wanted to get in more work just days before his fight with Augustus, a serviceable journeyman who posed no real threat to him. Yet, Mayweather would not feel right unless he got in the extra work. That Mayweather still exists. The one major difference is that he has his own gym and is willing to work out at any hour of the day, at his whim. Boxing is a part of him. He derives his ego and confidence from the amazing shape he maintains year-round.
It is that side of him many do not see but should. It is the workaholic Mayweather that made him this generation’s best fighter.
“I really don’t think I’ll be fully appreciated until I’m done,” Mayweather said. “Look at all of the things I’ve done and the fighters that I beat. I’m undefeated. No one can beat me.”
No one ever may. That is why we should appreciate Mayweather now, because time is dwindling on one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters ever.