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Behind the Great Wall: Floyd Mayweather's bodyguards speak out

LAS VEGAS—After 15 years of shielding the famous, of clearing paths through raucous crowds, of trying not to step on smaller humans, Adam Plant and Alfonso Redic can smell an approach before it starts. They’re known as The Great Wall. They have shielded the rapper Snoop Dogg and now protect the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.

They know the approach. It’s so obvious, so transparent. The tentative steps closer to the famous person, the head down, the eyes pointed at the ground, the, "Um, do you mind, could you stop, please, pretty please, can I get a (insert insane request here)."

This is the art of bodyguarding. An art that they’ve perfected.

They’ve seen it a thousand times. Maybe ten thousand. Maybe tens of thousands. And even though Redic is 7'1'' 430, and Plant is 6'7'' 380, they believe that brute strength is the least important part of the equation.

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“We’re here to avoid problems,” Redic says. He points to his head. “We’re trying to avoid altercations. S--- happens so fast, man. My head is a weapon. It’s more important than a gun.”

About six weeks ago, in the earliest stage of preparations for Mayweather’s bout Saturday against Manny Pacquiao, a woman approached the Mayweather Boxing Club. She was frantic. She absolutely had to speak with Mayweather, immediately. She was sweating. “It’s very important,” she said.

“OK,” Redic responded. “What’s so important?”

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“Well,” she said, “I just need some money.”

“I appreciated the honesty,” Redic said later with a chuckle.
That’s part of art of bodyguarding, not taking anything too serious. Recognizing the absurdity involved. Making sure it doesn’t bother you. Because The Great Wall has seen it all. They know to expect the unexpected.

“I’ll say this,” Plant said, “A--holes come in every size, man. Small to big. The average person, if we touch them, it’s a lawsuit, period. So you’ve got to think first. But if it does have to go to those measure, we call it The Great Wall for a reason. The Great Wall will smash your ass.”

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Often, Plant and Redic will look at each other as they see someone approach. They assume that anyone headed toward Mayweather does so with a motive, and that they want something, anything, from the richest athlete in sports—an autograph, a handshake, a selfie. The bigger guys usually want to join Mayweather’s legion of bodyguards, of which there are now nine. Plant and Redic were the originals, a package deal, the first two.

Mayweather hired them away from Snoop Dogg.

Over barbecue lunch earlier this month, Plant and Redic wore “The Great Wall” T-shirts, a merchandise venture that Mayweather invested in. They said the undefeated welterweight sent a letter to members of The Money Team about a year ago, in which he told them he would soon retire from boxing and urged them to look into what they might want to do next.

They ordered grilled chicken and chicken nachos, but not an abnormal amount of food, a small amount, even, for two men of abnormal size. They explained the rules of Mayweather security (and Mayweather does call his bodyguards “security;” rappers, he says have bodyguards).

1. Job first. 2. Be nice. 3. Protect Mayweather at all times. 4. Speak rarely of the work involved.

Neither man has seen Mayweather quite like this, so serious, so engaged. He tells them that he prepared for this, all the lights, all the cameras, ever since he was a kid. He used to stay up at night and practice his signature. But still, he canceled some of his events for this bout, like his usual The Money Team thank you dinner, held most years during Fight Week. That, they said, speaks to the bout’s importance.

They’re both almost 40 now, and they can sympathize with Mayweather, who in recent weeks has said he’s “over” boxing. They’ve been on stage with Snoop Dogg in front of 200,000 people. They’ve walked Mayweather into numerous boxing rings for championship bouts and once for a Wrestlemania cameo in 2008. They’ve traveled the world. “The older you get and the more you’ve done it, it doesn’t have the same appeal as it used to,” Plant said. “You ‘ve been there.”

Even for the bodyguards, this is old hat.

“We were here before The Money Team,” Redic said.

So The Great Wall is looking forward, hoping to broaden their reach. They’re interested in writing a bodyguard how-to book and expanding their merchandise line. Maybe a memoir. “Floyd made all this possible,” Plant said.

He finished his lunch and climbed in his truck and headed toward Chinatown down near The Strip. Mayweather had called. It was time to go to work.