By Chris Robinson
During a recent visit to Las Vegas, legendary promoter Don King could be found inside of the Hard Rock Hotel at a press conference stirring up interest for next month’s Joseph Agbeko-Abner Mares bantamweight title clash. Still going strong after forty-plus years connected to the sport, King was talkative as always and also turned his attention to other subplots and headlines in boxing, including the latest with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Surrounded by myself, Yahoo! columnist Kevin Iole, and BoxingScene.com boss Rick Reeno, King was advised that Mayweather had recently been spotted in Atlanta, Georgia as he made headlines by setting a $100 bill on fire inside of a nightclub. That act from Floyd is one in a long line of many that have drawn him some kind of public ire, one of the reasons he constantly finds himself as one of the sport's most talked-about figures.
Upon hearing the news King was surprisingly out of words, very much a rarity, and simply mumbled that he is going to have to talk to the multi-division superstar. Still, he wasn’t shy on dishing out compliments to the come backing fighter, who is currently lined up with a September 17th date against WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz inside the MGM Grand.
“Mayweather is the best fighter in the world, I say that unhesitatingly,” stated King. “I have a great deal of love and respect for [Manny] Pacquiao and everyone else that is out there fighting. I think that Pacquiao’s presence has made such a major difference. But Mayweather is my man.”
A Mayweather fight will always create a special kind of buzz but the fact remains that Floyd has been relatively inactive in recent times, having only fought twice since reemerging from an attempted retirement after his December 2007 fight with Ricky Hatton. That reason alone, says King, could spell trouble for the 34-year old down the road.
“But if you don’t practice your trade, I don’t care how good you are, something is going to fall between the cracks. If you are going to be a great pianist you have to work day after day, month after month, for one concert on one day. You’ve got to practice your trade and he wasn’t practicing his trade and I’m glad to see him back into the fray developing himself and fighting again,” King quipped.
King made headlines last July when he was spotted hanging with Mayweather near his cozy confines in South Florida, as the undefeated star updated his throngs of Twitter followers with pictures of the two men together. Grinning ear to ear, King and Floyd could be seen enjoying lobster, flashing money, and most likely talking some kind of business with one another, a fact all the more interesting because just weeks earlier Mayweather had seen a second round of reported negotiations for a potential fight with Pacquiao again fall through.
And what exactly did King get to know about Floyd from their time alone with one another?
“He’s a very stand up guy, but you’ve got to know what he’s standing up for," King continued. "He’s a guy that stands up and he takes the criticisms of his actions. He needs a little guidance, a little help. You what I mean? He is a guy who will stand up for his convictions. Once he makes up his mind and if you help him to make it up on the right thing, you couldn’t get a better guy than Mayweather.”
As our time came to a close I threw one last question King's way as I asked if he felt that Mayweather was in some way intimidated or even jealous of all the attention that Pacquiao had gotten in recent years, specifically dating back to his December 2008 battering of Oscar De La Hoya as he began an improbable trek against bigger, dangerous foes. Not so, says King, who fully believes that Mayweather's future lies in his own two fists and that it is up to him what road he will end up taking.
“Well, all artists want to be up there in the light. That’s what they do. But I don’t think he is because he could have corrected that. Jealousy is when you are inhibited or you are restrained from doing it. He didn’t have to do anything but say ‘Yes’. It was his own self-confinement, his own self-discipline. I don’t think it’s jealousy. I think he just needs some guidance that he can rely and depend on. Because everyone he relies on, all of them sell him out.”