LAS VEGAS – A dozen more observations from Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s training camp in preparation for his May 2 fight against Manny Pacquiao.
Before Mayweather created the Money character and The Money Team, he fought Zab Judah in 2006. Judah has been around the gym for this camp, sparring sometimes with Mayweather, training some himself. Some insiders said Mayweather dropped Judah in one sparring session, but whether that’s true or not remains unclear. I talked to Judah on April 8, or exactly nine years after they staged “Sworn Enemies” together. It was one of Mayweather’s last appearances for Bob Arum and Top Rank Boxing and one of Judah’s last bouts under Don King. “There was no Money Mayweather,” Judah says. “It was just Pretty Boy Floyd.”
The build-up wasn’t quite at a Mayweather-Pacquiao level, but it was big. Judah recalls Jay Z and Toby Keith and Wayne Gretzky each attended. That was back when Jay-Z used the hyphen. They all saw the camps brawl – in the middle of the fight. “I remember Magic Johnson running out of the arena,” Judah says. “Like, I’m out of here!”
Mayweather won that contest and went on to superstardom. While Judah captured 42 victories, he never did reach a Mayweather-type level. He thinks the difference in how their careers unfolded stems from the way Mayweather trains, how he seems fueled by distractions, not distracted by them. Mayweather’s life, Judah says, may be filled with chaos and crazy and the occasional jail stint, but none of that stopped his training. “I was Brooklyn,” Judah says. “I really was a product of my environment. I was really out there, in the streets, this young kid, champion of the world, coming from the projects, who you just gave a million dollars to.”
Three days after he said that, Judah got into an altercation with DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley at the gym. Over an Instagram post. And a sucker punch. (More on that in the Mayweather cover story in this week’s Sports Illustrated.)
Visitors to the Mayweather Boxing Club can purchase T-shirts, hats, sweatsuits, etc., all emblazoned with the logos of Mayweather’s various companies or promotional arms. But merchandise isn’t the only thing that Mayweather is selling. I saw one of his bodyguards carrying a box of barbecue into the gym. The label read “TMT smoked tri-tip.” TMT, of course, is The Money Team.
No word on the flavor but the tri-tip didn’t last long.
Mayweather’s camp likes to describe this bout, the Fight of the Century in some quarters, as just another work day. But the more time you spend around the gym, the more you know it’s not. It’s clear. It’s kind of a big deal, and that’s evident in how serious Mayweather has been as he trains. His friends say this is just another fight. But they also say they’ve never seen him quite like this, so focused and tuned in.
“I think it’s that people believe he really can be beat,” says Ricki Brazil, Mayweather’s friend from childhood. “That’s the motivation. A couple of fights I felt like he was just going through the motions, like the (Marcos) Maidana ones, get the win and get out of there. This one, he’s out to prove to everyone, I’m still Floyd Mayweather, the best fighter in the world.”
Throughout this camp, Mayweather has repeatedly said that boxing isn’t as fun as it used to be and that it’s more of a job. His favorite line is, “I’m over this.”
In a telephone interview, Bernard Hopkins says he felt the same way, even though he’s still fighting at age 50. “I felt like that five or six years ago,” he says. “I had to trick myself into that anger. I had to be in that mindset of seek and destroy. I had to tell myself there was something I didn’t like about a guy. It wasn’t his fault. I had to really be angry at that person.”
Hopkins thinks Mayweather will win and continue to fight and continue to win. And as someone who has called himself both The Executioner and The Alien, he also likes “Money” Mayweather the character more than most. “First, I think it’s real,” Hopkins says. “I look at it more as a brand than a character. Disney World has a lot of characters. Money Mayweather is a brand.”
Stephen Espinoza, head of Showtime Championship Boxing, on Mayweather’s legal woes: “Those incidents are undeniable, and they shouldn’t be swept under the rug,” he says. “But they’re typically brought up by people with an agenda, whether it’s a rival network who’s upset that he left and while he was there, they remained completely silent about it.” He means HBO, his rival and Mayweather’s former business partner.
“It’s hard to separate the accomplishments from the person,” Espinoza continues. “We didn’t see the flaws of Ali, or even Sugar Ray Leonard. We didn’t have the access in the same way we have access to today’s athletes. With the immediacy of media. And the inescapability of fans with cell phones.
“You wonder a little bit, does familiarity breed contempt?”
Brazil and others in Mayweather’s camp spend half their time not answering their phones. Requests are constant. Brazil took so many calls about tickets in recent weeks that he wanted to change his number. He told Mayweather that. But Mayweather told him not to.
“Because when he was in jail, he remembered my number by heart,” Brazil says.
“You ain’t going to jail no more,” Brazil told Mayweather.
The number remains unchanged.
Mayweather operates on a different schedule than most people. He’s nocturnal, vampire-like. He rises most days in the early afternoon, stays up all night and eats breakfast in the morning (morning for most people, anyway) before he goes to sleep. “I think he’s ADD,” says his cousin, DeJuan Blake.
Blake and Mayweather have been close since childhood. Blake helps train and manage boxers under the Mayweather Promotions umbrella. When he and Mayweather were younger, he says they used to go to nightclubs and then run back to Mayweather’s house. That’s when he likes to train anyway. “It could 8 miles,” Blake says. “ You have to pay to play. If you go the club, you still have to train. So that’s how he rewarded himself – by running home.”
Blake thinks some of the criticism lobbed toward Mayweather is motivated by race. That’s a theme that comes up a lot in Mayweather’s camp. “You have a successful black man who’s able to control his own destiny, at the end of the day,” he says. “That’s a powerful thing. That makes people cringe. You can see it in people’s faces when he walks in the room.”
Mayweather’s manager, Leonard Ellerbe: “Floyd is a very normal person. He may have all the money in the world, but he does very normal things. Every day. He eats McDonald’s.”
Ellerbe looks down at his phone. There’s a text message from either the golfer Rory McIlroy, or someone on his team. He wants tickets.
A woman approaches the bodyguards stationed outside Mayweather’s gym.
“I need to talk to Floyd,” she says.
“No public in the gym,” one of them responds.
“I need to talk to Floyd,” the woman says. “It’s very important.”
“What’s so important?” the bodyguard asks.
“Well, I just need some money,” the women says.
At our Mayweather cover shoot, the boxer brought his own mister, a woman who carried around a spray bottle with the water inside warmed to Mayweather’s liking. She sprayed it on his body whenever he requested. He also had someone there to pick out his outfits. Her T-shirt said: You can’t buy personality.
The Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino will attend the fight, despite the fact that it falls on the same day of one of his favorite sporting events, the Kentucky Derby. Pitino even owns racehorses, but he’s going to watch Mayweather-Pacquiao instead. He previously was in attendance for Pacquiao’s first scrap with Tim Bradley, the one in which the judges said Pac-Man lost a fight he clearly won.
Pitino watched a Mayweather workout earlier this month and believes Mayweather will beat Pacquiao. “I always like anyone who’s 47-0,” he says.
I asked Pitino how he got his tickets. “I’m paying for them, and they’re very expensive,” he says.
Among those in attendance at Mayweather’s media day: 200 reporters, Mayweather’s lawyer, Judah, the songwriter Rodney Jerkins, Lil’ Kim, David Hasselhoff and Kliff Kingsbury. Because, of course.
Mayweather arrives about 90 minutes late, and, by pure coincidence, just after police sirens rang out down the street.