By TK Stewart
"Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather, Jr. should have a lot to smile about. He’s generally regarded as the number one pound-for-pound boxer on the face of the planet. He’s the proud owner of an undefeated boxing record and he’s paid large sums of money to beat people up. He lives in a Las Vegas mansion the size of a small hotel and he routinely carries around thick wads of crisp one hundred-dollar bills that make his pockets bulge like the cheeks of a squirrel. He alone holds the keys to a fleet of luxury automobiles and owns enough bling to open his own jewelry store. With flawless mahogany skin, alert doe-like eyes and bright ivory teeth he is move-star handsome. The world would appear to be his oyster.
But Floyd is known to flip the switch on his moods. One minute he’s happy and charming, the next he is sullen and cheerless.
In less than two weeks he will come face-to-face in the ring with "The Golden Boy" otherwise known as Oscar De La Hoya in a mega-fight that only comes along in boxing once a generation. For this showdown, being plugged by promoters as "The World Awaits" he will be paid upwards of $10 million.
After this fight, at only age 30 and at the top of his game, Mayweather claims he will retire from boxing and nestle himself away to a life of peace and happiness. If all goes according to his plans he’ll be able to concentrate on various business interests and will be free to expand his music label “Philthy Rich Records” while living out his days with his family as an undefeated multi-millionaire. “I’m doing only one more fight and then I’m walking away,” Mayweather says. “I love this sport and the sport of boxing has been very good to me. I don’t need boxing anymore and I don’t need the money anymore.”
Life is good for Floyd Mayweather, Jr. but he can be a tricky man to figure out.
He often teeters between being friendly and engaging, but in an instant he can flip the switch to being nasty and ornery. His 30th birthday bash in Las Vegas this past February went on for seven hours. The party included his family, his own personal entourage of nearly forty people, his good friend and rapper 50 Cent as well as disgraced Miss USA winner Katie Rees. At the bash he was presented with a custom made cake by a celebrity chef as well as a gold championship-boxing belt. As he sipped virgin strawberry daiquiris, Floyd Mayweather, Jr, was gregarious and charming. He was the picture of peace and tranquility.
However, like the city where he lives, there seems to be a more sinister and dark underbelly to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He can turn on reporters and other fighters in an instant, as I found out last year when I asked him how much of the money pie he would require if the fight with De La Hoya were to be made.
“I don’t come up into your job asking you what you make!” snapped a suddenly angry Mayweather. “Don’t come up into mine asking me what I make!” And then, just as quickly as turned nasty, he was back to answering other questions in a calm and pleasant manner. Call it a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde moment.
The young prodigy has had legal troubles and several brushes with the long arm of the law as he has grown up in the boxing spotlight. In 2002 he pleaded guilty to two charges of misdemeanor domestic violence. In 2004, a Nevada justice of the peace ordered Mayweather to undergo "impulse control" counseling and sentenced him to a one year suspended jail sentence after he was convicted of misdemeanor battery of two women in a Las Vegas nightclub.
Also in 2004, an arrest warrant was issued for Mayweather for failure to appear at a trial in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan where he was accused of kicking a bar bouncer in the head during a melee at The Radio Tavern. Mayweather pleaded no contest to the charge of misdemeanor assault and battery and he was eventually fined and ordered to perform community service.
He also faced a charge of felony domestic violence for allegedly striking the mother of his three children outside a Las Vegas nightclub in 2003. In the 2005 trial by jury he was acquitted of hitting, kicking and pulling his girlfriend’s hair. The accuser recanted her version of events while on the witness stand. Josie Harris testified that she lied to police because she was angry Mayweather had left her for another woman. In front of the jury, Harris described Mayweather as a “teddy bear inside”.
For the past several years there has been no troubles with the law. Mayweather has matured and many forget that he was a boxing boy wonder that won his first title at only 21 years old. He came up under the intense media spotlight in Las Vegas, the boxing capital of the world where his every move was scrutinized and analyzed.
He has become a philanthropist as his purses have multiplied. He contributes large amounts of his vast fortune to the needy and at Thanksgiving he gives away turkeys and meals to the people in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also contributes to numerous charities and makes sure that groups of children are provided with hats, mittens and coats during cold winter months. Children naturally flock to him and he is a devoted father.
In 2006, Mayweather inked a marketing contract with the prestigious William Morris Agency that is efforting the process to make him more attractive to the Madison Avenue set. Almost immediately after signing that deal Mayweather was more affable in public and was often smiling during interviews and his appearances in front of the cameras were much more serene. The abrasive and contentious young man had been replaced by one that was positively charming.
As for the makeover, Mayweather explained that outsiders mostly misunderstood him and he placed the blame for his persona on the boxing writers that cover him. “I mean, I'm a gentleman. I handle myself in an orderly fashion. I tried telling people a long time ago that I wasn't that person that they were making me out to be,” he says.
Whatever the case, in order to get Oscar De La Hoya into the ring Mayweather felt he had to change his image and his methods. “I had to lay back in the cut and be easy,” he said. Otherwise, he felt that if he was too vocal and angry that De La Hoya would never sign the contract to fight him.
During the initial day of the press tour to kick-off the fight promotion which was held at the baroque Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, the boastful and taunting Mayweather was back on full display. “Now I can get loose, like I want to get loose,” he said.
Casting himself in the role of villain he commandeered the microphone in front of the assembled media and began ranting, raving and frowning. “I respect Oscar as a man before I respect him as a fighter,” barked an agitated Mayweather. “But do I respect his fight game? Hell no!”
The “Pretty Boy” was running the table and he let out all of the frustration that had been building inside him since the fight was agreed to three months earlier. He derided Oscar’s apparent success and criticized his opposition. “I could have done the same thing to an old Hector Camacho. I could have done the same thing to an old Pernell Whitaker. I could have done the same thing to an old Julio Cesar Chavez,” claimed a defiant Mayweather. “I’ve beaten the top fighters in my own era. You put Oscar in front of me and I’ll beat him. I’m the top dog in the sport!”
Before the day was over Mayweather told Oscar, “You ain’t gonna’ do shit!” And when the two engaged in a mock stare down they began pushing and shoving against each other making the organizers of the event somewhat nervous that a fight was going to break out right there on the stage.
The one place in the world where Floyd seems to be most happy is in the gym. He is a tireless worker and he pushes his body to its very limits during training camp. Even when he doesn’t have a fight scheduled Mayweather can usually be found running the avenues outside of Las Vegas. The atmosphere of training is where he is most comfortable and it offers him the sanctuary he needs as the pressure for this fight builds. He trains whenever the mood strikes him but he does train everyday. Often times he will go to the gym or hit the streets to do roadwork in the wee hours of the morning.
It’s the cynical boxing writers that serve to make Floyd defensive. Their questions are fired at him rapidly and in such a manner that he feels he must throw up a defense against them. While he is able to effortlessly ward off the punches of his opponents he has a more difficult time with the questions. Always the questions.
During the post fight press conference for his last fight with Carlos Baldomir in November, Mayweather was overcome with emotion and in a rare display of weakness he broke down while addressing the media. He then claimed that his next fight with De La Hoya would be his last.
With tears streaming down his face, he had to be consoled by HBO executive Kery Davis. “I'm leaving on top, that's what it's about,” said Mayweather. “I'm not hurting for money, for nothing. I love my family.” In a shot at the media a morose Mayweather said, “They tore my name down, tore my family down and I still rose to the top.”
But by last week, the brash Mayweather was back and he had his game face on. After watching a late night televised interview with De La Hoya he told his uncle and trainer Roger Mayweather to “Grab my running shit!” Motivated by De La Hoya’s comments he was out the door to hit the streets for a late night run as he attempts to whittle his skills to their sharpest ever point.
Before exiting into the dark Nevada night, the feisty young Mayweather said of De La Hoya, “I’m gonna’ ice this motherf-----”.
The switch had been flipped.
TK Stewart works for the Bangor Daily News