FLOYD MAYWEATHER JNR was born on February 24, 1977 into the murky underbelly of the sport he now presides over.
His uncles Jeff and Roger Mayweather (the latter would later become world champion) were boxers while his father, Floyd Snr, was a capable fighter operating on the fringes of world class, and the law.
There is an infamous story about the roots of the Father and Son relationship that illustrates the troubled upbringing Mayweather endured.
Young Mayweather was exposed to drugs and violence from a very early age; his mother’s brother shot his father who was cradling Floyd Jnr at the time. Floyd Snr disputes some of his son’s tales about a difficult childhood but the child’s love of boxing cannot be doubted. By the age of six he had already decided that he wanted to be a boxer.
Amateur Floyd – nicknamed ‘Pretty Boy’ because of his fresh complexion and defensive prowess – claimed national Golden Gloves titles in 1993, 1994, and 1996 before entering the Atlanta Olympics as a featherweight. Many observers felt he deserved the decision over Bulgaria’s Sefarim Todorov in his semi-final clash, but Mayweather – amid furious protests from the USA camp – had to be content with a bronze medal.
FIRST WORLD TITLE
FLOYD MAYWEATHER had encountered few problems while cruising to victory in his first 17 fights. Despite that, not many were predicting great things for the 21-year-old, and if it wasn’t for a flood of late bets on Mayweather, he would have started his Las Vegas challenge to WBC super-featherweight champion Genaro Hernandez as an underdog.
But the challenger proved to be a revelation, his frantic style of boxing bewitching Hernandez in October 1998. Mayweather did have some issues with his rival’s left hook, but his own curling bombs – clustered together in lightning combinations – overwhelmed the champion and forced his retirement in the eighth.
The journey was suddenly gathering pace.
AS world champion, Mayweather became an attraction. So much so, that HBO were prepared to offer the 23-year-old a $12.5m deal for six fights. Floyd, nurturing his raging ego, dismissed the offer as a ‘slave contract’ and angered many veteran boxing writers in the process. Boxing News were less than complimentary following a March 2000 win over Gregorio Vargas, observing the fighter was not improving, and commented on him wearing a $300,000 watch “as if he’s the Sultan of Brunei”.
Even so, Mayweather was an exceptional talent that was illustrated by his (perhaps career-best) performance against Diego Corrales, regarded by many as the best super-featherweight in the world.
Mayweather dominated, decking his rival several times before the massacre was curtailed in the 10th round. Floyd, now 25-0, said afterwards: “I’m still young, I’m still learning. By beating the best you become the best.”
Mayweather signed a $15m deal with HBO and after the Corrales shellacking, few could dispute he deserved it.
FLOYD MAYWEATHER was thought exceptionally lucky to become a two-weight world champion when he won a 12-round decision over WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo in April, 2002.
The Mexican – a former sparring partner of the great Julio Cesar Chavez – bullied Mayweather, roughed him up on the inside, and according to the official punch stats outlanded the favourite by 203 shots to 157. But Floyd was awarded the decision via two scores on 115-111 against the same tally favouring the underdog.
“Most thought Castillo won,” said HBO’s Larry Merchant, “but the house fighter got the decision.”
There was a rematch, of course, and Mayweather exhibited maturity and the ability to learn. Few argued with the scores this time (115-113 twice, 116-113) but Floyd’s erratic out-of-the-ring behaviour was alienating fans.
Even promoter Bob Arum was infuriated with his young star when he failed to show up for the pre-fight press conference.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA had been watching Floyd Mayweather’s progress carefully. The ‘Golden Boy’, and the game’s star attraction, was in the midst of a comeback and managed to tempt Floyd up to the light-middleweight division to try for a world title in his fifth weight. The fight, set for May 5, 2007 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, would be the richest contest in boxing history.
Mayweather had been improving since the Castillo fights, beating the likes of Arturo Gatti and Zab Judah, and was regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. But the fight with Oscar was poised. The crowd favourite had looked good since he’d been back – thrashing Ricardo Mayorga – and the jump to 154lbs was considered a risky step for Mayweather.
The fight itself was riveting but failed to catch fire. De La Hoya – under the tutelage of Freddie Roach – enjoyed plenty of success in the first half behind his impressive jab but faded down the stretch to hand victory, and the WBC 154lb crown, to Mayweather by the split scores of 114-115, 116-112 and 115-113.
Following the triumph, 30-year-old Floyd announced he was done. “I’ve done everything I wanted to in this sport. I beat the best from 130 to 154 and made a lot of money. You can’t stop God’s work. What’s meant to be is meant to be. Right now I am officially retired.”
PREDICTABLY, Floyd Mayweather’s retirement – announced after tightly outboxing Oscar De La Hoya – did not last for long and he signed to fight unbeaten British hero Ricky Hatton on December 8, 2007. The build-up was engrossing, with the conflicting personalities making for press conference gold. Hatton, like so many Mayweather opponents, was eager to quieten down his mouthy rival and took along a vociferous army of supporters to Sin City.
Hatton – an elite body-puncher and unbeaten in 43 bouts – made of a fight of it for the first five rounds until a point deduction by over-zealous referee Joe Cortez stirred panic in the mind of the Brit. Suddenly going hell for leather, Hatton became an easy target for the brilliant Mayweather.
In round 10, the American timed his ragged foe with a short left hook on the inside that careened Hatton into the corner padding. Ricky went down, exhausted and hurt, and did not recover despite regaining his footing. The subsequent assault – a left, right, left – sent Hatton tumbling again and Cortez waived it off.
This performance, more so than any other, confirmed the intelligence that lay within Mayweather’s gloves. Supreme at ruining a fighter’s rhythm, and then punishing the subsequent desperation, he looked almost unbeatable.
After the fight, Floyd again switched the talk to retirement. “I need to see if I want to come back,” he said. “What else is there for me to prove? These guys can’t beat me. I’m the best.”
He did not fight again for almost two years.
FLOYD MAYWEATHER divides opinion. Some find his lavish habits deeply annoying, while others worship his garishness, and are eager for him to fulfil his promise of retiring undefeated. But the American superstar has worked hard to carve out his reputation – particularly when one considers he is rarely in a thrilling fight. The fact he is – year after year – the highest paid athlete in the world speaks volumes for the determination and focus that drives him.
It’s hard to know what truly goes on behind the scenes, or in his head. In 2002, Mayweather was convicted of assaulting the mother of one of his children. Domestic abuse is perhaps the most damning evidence of Mayweather’s dark side. He does not welcome criticism and has, for the most part, created an environment full of worshippers who applaud his every move. It’s tough not to be a little envious of his fortune, and the private jet that transports him distances too vast for his array of sports cars to travel. But those who know him speak of a man who gives millions to charity, and is generous with his time and affection. In June 2011, he paid for the funeral of his former opponent, Genaro Hernandez.
If money is the root of all evil, Mayweather – who once bet $810,000 on an NFL game (he won) – might be heading for a fall. But those quick to criticise should remember he has been the master of his own destiny from the start, and every last cent earned the hard way.
HERO TO ZERO
AFTER accepting a plea bargain in December 2011 for a reduced domestic abuse charge – previously Floyd Mayweather could have been sentenced to over 30 years – he was given permission to suspend his sentence in order to do battle with Miguel Cotto in May the following year. Since returning to action in 2009, Mayweather had trounced two great fighters in Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley, and emerging pretender, Victor Ortiz. He looked unbeateable.
So it came as a surprise when Cotto – thought to be in decline – handed Mayweather his toughest assignment in years. “Money” was forced to fight hard on the inside, take punches, and box his way out of danger. At the end there was no doubt the American had won but the gritty nature of his win attracted mixed reviews. Some felt it was evidence that Floyd was slipping, while others celebrated such a gutsy performance.
On June 1 that year, less than a month after the fight, Mayweather went to prison. He served two thirds of a three-month sentence.
SAUL “CANELO” ALVAREZ was being groomed by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions as the new star of the game. Who better to test the Mexican’s burgeoning skills than the best of them all? On September 14, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas – Mayweather’s home ground – the two came together in a light-middleweight showdown, entitled ‘The One’. Even the weigh-in was keenly attended as 12,000 fans watched the pair strip down to their underwear and step on the scales.
Floyd had been criticised for taking on inferior or ageing opponents but there could be no faulting his latest choice. Alvarez was unbeaten in 43 bouts and, Manny Pacquiao aside, was considered “Money’s” biggest rival. The fight generated gate receipts of more than $20m, $2m from closed circuit, and over $2m from Pay-Per-View revenue.
The bout itself was completely one-sided, though. Mayweather – earning a whopping $41.5m – turned in a spotless showing, laced with true greatness, as he gave the younger man a boxing lesson and barely took a punch. At the close of 12 sessions all that was left was award Mayweather victory, his 45th without loss, before judge CJ Ross’ mind-boggling score of 114-114 landed her in eternal infamy. The other judges’ scores (117-111, 116-112) were also too close but thankfully favoured the right man.
At the age of 36, Mayweather had proved yet again that he was ‘The One’.
MAIDANA AND BEYOND
ARGENTINE Marcos Maidana is the latest fighter to test Floyd Mayweather, snaring the golden ticket not once but twice. The crude but effective slugger earned his May 2014 shot thanks to an upset win over Mayweather-wannabe, Adrien Broner, but a sigh of discontentment greeted news that he would be Floyd’s 46th test.
But the underdog was a revelation, his unorthodox rage causing mayhem, and leading the way after five rounds. By the halfway point Mayweather had figured out his rival, and boxed smartly to take the decision. Like in his last fight, Floyd had to settle for a majority decision (he was favoured by two judges whereas the third scored it all square) after a gruelling affair.
The verdict was not controversial, but Mayweather and Maidana signed to do it all again in September. It was again dramatic. Just before the bell sounded to end the third round, Floyd was forced to take a booming right hand that straightened his legs. Briefly he was in trouble. Undoubtedly he was saved by the bell. But the Las Vegas resident, showing off his incredible talents, was soon in control, and bossed the majority of the final eight sessions to cruise to a points victory.
At the end of the bout, talk switched to Manny Pacquiao. And for the first time in years, Mayweather indicated that he was willing to take on the Filipino.
BOWING OUT ON TOP
SUDDENLY, things hit overdrive. After years of ‘will they, won’t they?’ Mayweather and Pacquiao finally signed to fight each other. The date was set: May 2, 2015.
The build-up was unlike anything boxing has ever seen, and fans had to pay to just get into the weigh-in (though proceeds went to charity). Las Vegas was swamped with boxing stars – past and present – and celebrities from across the globe.
The fight annihilated all revenue records, generating almost $600m in total. The action, however, did not live up to expectation – bar some marginal success for Pacquiao in the early stages, Mayweather utterly dominated proceedings, peppering Manny from range and manouvering him any which way he wanted. The decision was unanimous, and while countless fans felt short-changed, Mayweather had proven himself the best fighter of his generation.
He then insisted he would have one more fight and call it quits for good. Instead of a legitimate challenge, Floyd selected the undeserving Andre Berto as his dance partner for his swansong. The promotion was a stark contrast to the Pacquiao fight – the outcome was a mere formality. In September 2015, Mayweather befuddled Berto and earned yet another conclusive points victory.
He stuck to his word and bowed out from the sport, his legacy, faculties and gargantuan bank balance all intact.