Wednesday April 8th, 2015

LAS VEGAS — Inside the Mayweather Boxing Club this week, one woman wore a tiara, pink boxing high-top sneakers and three bedazzled letters—TMT, for “The Money Team”– glued to her forehead. Or stapled. It was tough to tell. Another woman showed up in a business suit. Most wore sweats, including several sweatshirts with the same tagline: Parental Advisory: Excessive Wealth.

There were dozens, maybe more than 100, in attendance. It felt like fight week, even if the biggest fight in the career of Floyd Mayweather Jr. was still almost a month away. That would be, obviously, his May 2 showdown against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand, a mega-bout first broached in 2008 and first negotiated in 2009; a fight, finally, cemented in 2015.

• BISHOP: For Mayweather, fight vs. Pacquiao puts titanic legacy at stake

Mayweather’s bodyguards, once four in total, nine at last count (total tonnage uncalculated), maybe more tomorrow, attempted to clear the gym on Tuesday afternoon. That seemed more a more difficult task than someone actually beating Mayweather, an undefeated welterweight who wore his record—47-0, with the name of each opponent crossed out—on the sleeveless T-shirt in which he chose to work out.

Around here, they call that Tuesday. Nothing special. Nothing unusual. Just Mayweather, back in the gym he owns, in preparation for another title fight.

About 100 people watched him spar, give or take a couple dozen. That number included his lawyer, his manager, his assistant, his myriad female companions and several who said they had never met the boxer, beyond a handshake. They came to watch him tango with a southpaw for three rounds that lasted about eight minutes each. They came to watch him hit the heavy bag. They came wearing sunglasses indoors, and that in itself announced another major boxing match, because nothing quite says boxing like sunglasses worn indoors.

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Mayweather-Pacquiao fight coverage hub

Mayweather continued with his workout. His acolytes banged the ring apron before rounds. The gym was standing room only, even between the two rings, and back near the heavy bags, and in the area near the locker room with the leather couches and the flat-screen TV the size of an extravagant dinner table.

Sports Illustrated is here earlier than usual, same as everybody else. We rented a house away from the Strip, and the plan is to set up for a month, and for far more than the swimming pools and blackjack. We created a one-stop shop on SI.com that will serve as a destination for all of the fight-related content. There will be columns. And analyses. And magazine stories, new and old. And video. And podcasts. They call this the Fight of the Century—which, The Wall Street Journal astutely noted, is, against all odds, actually happening this century—and the coverage will be indicative of that.

We’re open to suggestions.

At the kick-off press conference in Los Angeles, Mayweather noted that he never wanted to win a fight as badly as he wanted to win this one. But as the bout has neared, he has painted it, or attempted to paint it, as just another matchup. Of course, he hasn’t seemed to buy that even as he’s said it. It’s doubtful anyone feels that way, as the sports world turns its attention to this fight after the Master’s finishes this weekend.

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It certainly didn’t feel that way this week. Security had more than doubled at the gym. Interviews had been cut back. The Mayweather that sparred on Tuesday wasn’t the same as the Mayweather who prepared for Shane Mosley and Robert Guerrero and Marcos Maidana (twice). He’s older, 38, but it’s more than that. That Mayweather always seemed so sure of himself, and in between sit-ups, he yelled and dispensed trash talk and carried on about his plans. He chanted “hard work” and “dedication” and everyone else chanted along with him.

SI VAULT: 19-year-old Mayweather Jr.'s relationship with his father

This Mayweather was serious. No shame in that. No big surprise, either. At his session Tuesday, he sparred the rounds and worked the heavy bag and shot off on a run toward Treasure Island, his posse in tow, a half dozen luxury cars in pursuit, everyone on the trail to watch a man … run.

Fans waited at the gym entranced, where not one but two white Rolls Royces idled out front. Between that and the Mercedes wagon and the Ford-150 truck, there must have been $1 million worth of cars out front. Nobody asked Mayweather about his domestic violence record. Nobody asked about the negotiations to fight Pacquiao that dragged on for six years.

All attention, Mayweather’s included, had been turned toward the long-anticipated meeting with Pacquiao on May 2. All the story lines—Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s former strength coach, now in Mayweather’s camp; the mutual disdain between trainers Freddie Roach and Floyd Mayweather Sr.; how Oscar De La Hoya lifted the careers of both men toward superstardom when they beat him; how Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing used to represent Mayweather before their split—could wait.

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Floyd Mayweather's $25k mouth guard made with $100 bills

​Mayweather signed no autographs on Tuesday. You could tell he was on his way out by the flurry of movement that proceeded him. Where dozens had waited outside, eating dinner, clutching cell phones, hoping for a nod from the Champ, or a signature, or a selfie. He exited the gym, and walked swiftly toward the Rolls Royce on the right. His driver had already started the car for him. He climbed inside, and idled while the nine men he pays to guard him cleared out both foot and vehicle traffic. He had a fight to prepare for, another day of training on the horizon, another round of autograph hounds and journalists and followers, all with their own unique angle, their own pitch, their own hopes for how Mayweather could help them.

Then he sped off into the night.

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