LAS VEGAS — Late Saturday night, long after the MGM Grand Garden Arena had emptied, Floyd Mayweather stepped to a podium as a fighter for the final time. He wore a blue and black hooded sweatshirt and white TMT hat that looked fresh out of the box. The only signs he had been in a fight were some light swelling above his right eye and a sore left hand he bruised snapping jabs off Andre Berto’s skull.
Mayweather-Berto was vintage Mayweather. He was sharp and accurate with his punches, slick and elusive when Berto tried to hunt him down. Mayweather “was slippery,” Berto said, and the former welterweight titleholder could only marvel at how, at 38, Mayweather was still at the top of his game. “I was in great shape, but it was difficult to fight him,” Berto said. “I tried to use my speed, but he was using little things, smart things, to get me off my rhythm.”
From the podium Mayweather reiterated his decision to end his 19-year career, walking away a world champion in two weight classes and unquestionably the top fighter in the sport. From there he pushed the same, tired narratives: He chastised the media for reporting that he couldn’t read; that accusation, though, came from his former best friend, the rapper 50 Cent, who once offered to donate $750,000 to charity if Mayweather could read one page of a Harry Potter book. He wondered why reporters ever bet against him, when the truth is, since beating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, he has never been an underdog. He rattled off his biggest wins and declared he has fought the best, when if there is an overriding criticism of his career, it’s that he most certainly did not.
He spoke for nearly an hour, delivering more of a Hall of Fame speech than a traditional Q&A. Then he was off, into retirement and an uncertain future. Truly, if we knew exactly what we were going to get from Floyd Mayweather in the ring we know little of what we can expect now that he is out of it.
In the short term, Mayweather will enjoy his wealth, which includes at least $32 million he collected for beating Berto. He will travel, attend scores of NBA games and spend more time with his kids. After that, though, things get murky. Mayweather says he wants to build his promotional company; but if he has failed at anything, it’s that. For the last eight years Mayweather has been the biggest star in the sport, yet Mayweather Promotions is more of a boutique operation than a powerhouse. When Oscar De La Hoya was at the height of his powers in the early 2000’s, De La Hoya, with help from then CEO Richard Schaefer, leveraged his own popularity brilliantly. He made opponents into partners, cut an output deal with HBO and quickly turned Golden Boy into one of the top promotional outfits in the country. Mayweather does have Al Haymon, the most powerful figure in boxing, but Haymon controls the fighters in his deep stable, and while he will happily contract Mayweather Promotions to put on a few of his dozens of shows, it’s unlikely he will cede any real power to it.
Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe says Mayweather has multiple offers for movie roles, though he declined to offer specifics. His history of domestic violence makes him radioactive to potential advertisers, eliminating one future revenue stream. Commentating is an option, though that takes a level of commitment that Mayweather may not be willing to give. The money won’t dry up but there is only so long a man so used to living in the spotlight can stay in the shadows.
It’s why his pledge to retire has drawn so much skepticism. While there is no obvious opponent—including Manny Pacquiao—for him to face now, there could be by the middle of next year. Haymon advises some of the best young stars of the welterweight division, a list that includes Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Amir Khan. He has multiple terrestrial television contracts, giving him a vehicle to develop one or more of them into stars. Say Thurman—a well spoken, power punching 147-pounder—continues his rapid ascent. By next September he could be a natural fit for Mayweather, who could fight for win No. 50 in a venue—the MGM Grand’s newest arena, which is due to open in the spring of ’16—he helped build.
Perhaps, though, we should take Mayweather at his word. Three years ago he signed a six-fight deal with Showtime and declared he would be finished in 30 months. Few believed he would live up to those terms then, yet here we are now. Indeed, there was a noticeable uneasiness amongst Mayweather’s sizable entourage on Saturday. For years they had followed Mayweather from camp to camp, trip to trip, catering to his every need. Train, win, repeat, almost like clockwork. That ended on Saturday and they, like everyone else, have no idea what happens next.