LAS VEGAS – For all the acrimony and ill will and arguments that have come to define the Mayweather-Pacquiao promotion, it can be easy to forget that Floyd Mayweather Jr. spent the first half of his career with Top Rank Boxing. Genuine, lasting relationships remain from that time. And that’s why there are two people in this promotion who work on opposite sides and genuinely like each other. Seriously. They’re friends.
One is Mayweather, the undefeated welterweight who will face Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night in the MGM’s Grand Garden Arena. The other is Todd DuBoef, the stepson of Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, and the president of Top Rank. While everyone else bickers, Mayweather and DuBoef remain close, apart from the fray.
“My guy,” Mayweather said after a recent training session.
Quick story: Mayweather announced the so-called Fight of the Century against Pacquiao on the social media website he invested in, Shots. He did that on Feb. 20, a Friday. DuBoef was in a bar in Manhattan having a drink with Maverick Carter, the business manager and childhood friend of LeBron James, and David Levy, the president of Turner Broadcasting System, or TBS. DuBoef’s phone was immediately inundated with phone calls and text messages. The moment everyone had waited six years for had finally arrived.
DuBoef flew back to Las Vegas the next Monday, where he met his sister, Dena, for lunch at the Palm at Caesar’s Palace. As DuBoef rode down an elevator, he saw Mayweather riding up one, surrounded by beefy bodyguards.
Mayweather saw DuBoef and smiled wide and wrapped him in a bear hug. They walked around for two hours at The Forum Shops. Mayweather did most of the shopping. They talked about the old days, the beginning, before Mayweather paid Top Rank $750,000 to be released from his contract and created his “Money” persona and became the highest-paid athlete in sports.
One bodyguard, unaware of DuBoef’s day job, asked if he was going to the fight. Mayweather laughed at that one.
At one point, Mayweather told DuBoef he wanted to share a story. “The first time I ever saw platinum—his mother,” he said, pointing to DuBoef. “Lovee taught me about platinum.”
Soon afterward, Mayweather and Pacquiao held their initial news conference on March 11. DuBoef sent Mayweather a text message that morning. “This is like the old days,” DuBoef wrote.” At the presser, they hugged again.
There’s a ton of history involved there. After the first round of Mayweather-Pacquiao fell apart over drug testing in 2010, DuBoef and Mayweather remained in contact. “You’re like family to me,” DuBoef would text him. “You know I never had a problem with you.” Mayweather, DuBoef said, was in his wedding. He was an honorary DuBoef, if not an honorary Arum.
The first time DuBoef traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich., Mayweather’s hometown, the boxer took him around. They went to the barbershop.
DuBoef took Mayweather shopping for the first time. They went to, of all places, The Forum Shops at Caesar’s, Giorgio Armani and places like that. DuBoef even helped Mayweather pick out his first car, a blue Lexus.
“I mean, he doesn’t like the word, but to me he’s always Little Floyd,” DuBoef said. “That’s how I know him. He’s cried on my shoulder a bunch. We talk about stuff.”
“It’s brilliant what he did,” DuBoef continued. “There are a lot of things he has a style for, but to me he’s little Floyd. I look at him and see his father.”
DuBoef can still remember negotiating with Floyd Mayweather Sr. when he was in prison, or a halfway house, after a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Senior was shot in the calf—a famous Mayweather story—while holding Junior in his arms as a shield.
Top Rank never did realize Mayweather’s vision, how he wanted to reach the urban market, play the villain role, sell a lifestyle more than his considerable in-ring talent. But DuBoef doesn’t think the Money Mayweather thing is an act. He thinks it’s more of Mayweather’s personality being projected in this era of social media and reality TV. And that can sometimes eclipse what made Mayweather famous in the first place.
“I’ll say this,” DuBoef said. “I’ve been around a lot of fighters. If you want to see someone happier than anybody in their life, put a boxing ring up and put Floyd inside it. He is at home there more than anybody. It’s safe. It’s where he feels comfortable. When he gets in the ring it’s just incredible. He’s a different person.”
On Saturday, DuBoef will watch Mayweather—the same way he watched him when Mayweather fought for Top Rank—with an appreciation for his craft and once-in-a-generation talent. Everyone else can fight. Their friendship has endured.
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