IT’S a little before midnight when Floyd Mayweather grumbles that his coffee is not sweet enough.
“That could do with a little more sugar,” he says.
Mayweather’s career could have done with a little more sugar.
Without question Mayweather is one of the greatest fighters in boxing history. Few can claim to have been as talented as Floyd, even those vying for the places at the very top. And no fighter has earned the money he has, or enjoyed such a long spell at the absolute peak of their powers. But with the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard, two greater fighters than Mayweather, one never got the feeling they could have done any more – both inside the ring and out – to achieve boxing immortality.
But when you watch Mayweather fight or hear him explain (a little too bitterly) that he has not received the credit he deserves, there is always a nagging feeling that he could have gone about things differently. Just a little bit. A different opponent here, a bit more humility there, and we might really feel like we’re in the presence of boxing royalty.
Mayweather always opens his post-fight speeches with thanks, but deep down one senses he would rather raise his middle finger than converse with almost every journalist that addresses him. Admittedly, some writers have been unkind to Mayweather over the years, but others have reported on his contests and progress with integrity and without agenda.
“Never bet against me,” he says. “I proved you all wrong. I made you eat your words.”
Mayweather proved nothing we didn’t already know against the willing but undeserving Andre Berto. He was typically brilliant. Defensively superb, conservative yet incredibly accurate in attack, and exhibiting extreme ring intelligence throughout. As expected, he cruised to 49-0, matching Rocky Marciano’s legendary tally.
“My career is over, it’s official,” Floyd said immediately after his victory via unanimous decision.
Now it’s (apparently) all over it would be great to sit and listen to Mayweather describe the science behind his greatest performances, speak honestly about his toughest rivals, but each question posed to him becomes a platform for him to talk about whatever he wants. One could say he’s earned that right. But another may say the public, particularly those that have paid to watch him for many years, deserve a little more than he is willing to give.
The underlying theme of Mayweather’s final address is money; The amount he’s earned (around $800m), what and who he’s spending it on, and how he doesn’t expect any fighter to earn more in one fight than he did against Pacquiao ($300m).
“Money don’t make me,” he says. “I make money.”
Sitting behind him are his family, friends and stablemates who are undeniably well looked after by Mayweather and his millions. Among them are fighters he has taken under his wing – when other promoters left them hanging out to dry – and improved their careers and bank balances by enviable amounts. Everyone smiles widely, laughs heartily and, every now and again, shouts loudly.
“All work is what?,” Mayweather asks quietly and suddenly.
His mob, right on cue, scream back: “EASY WORK!”
Mayweather smiles and says it again. “All work is what?”
Certainly Mayweather has made the vast majority of his 49 fights look easy. That is an incredible feat in a sport like boxing. While winning world titles from super-feather to light-middle, the likes of Pacquiao (at last), Saul Alvarez (young and unbeaten), Miguel Cotto (several years before his middleweight renaissance), Diego Corrales (who some expected to win), Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley (all before Pacquiao feasted on their remains), and many more besides all tried and failed to defeat Mayweather.
But something is still missing.
Like the bit of sugar that Ray Leonard sprinkled when he stunned Marvin Hagler at middleweight, that Robinson provided by fighting the best available opponents throughout his career, or the kind of sugar Muhammad Ali injected into interviews with writers who were there purely for him.
“Hard work,” Mayweather says with a knowing smile.
“DEDICATION!” his team yell.
Hard work and dedication. Mayweather had that in spades. As one of his team, WBC super-middleweight champion Badou Jack explained, the Las Vegas resident trains while his opponents sleep. Even when filthy rich, he prepared like he was broke. It takes a special type of person to do that.
Mayweather, undeniably, has given his life to boxing and unlike so many who came before him he walks away with his faculties intact, and a wallet that will forever bulge.
Be sure that boxing history will also be kind to “Money” Mayweather. But only he and his loyal team will call him “The Best Ever”.