Already one of the highest paid athletes in the world, undefeated American boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr. is assured of fortifying his position as the world’s top money-making sportsman when he clashes with his iconic Filipino rival Manny Pacquiao.
Win or lose, the unbeaten Mayweather, 38, is guaranteed $120 million to Pacquiao’s $80 million in the richest boxing event in history.
Depending on pay-per-view sales, that mind-boggling paycheck could go up to $180 million and $120 million, respectively, according to fight promoters.
But the stakes are much bigger than the unprecedented financial windfall for either fighter, arguably the top two pound-for-pound elite boxing champions in the world today.
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum said the winner of Mayweather-Pacquiao will emerge as the best fighter of their generation and bolster the victor’s place among the very best fighters of all time.
“It’s a fight that I wanna win extremely bad,” said Mayweather, who remains undefeated in 47 fights, of his May 3 welterweight title unification showdown with Pacquiao.
Beating Pacquiao, winner of a record eight world titles in different weight classes and considered the only fighter capable of stopping Floyd’s formidable 47 winning streak, will fortify Mayweather’s ring legacy and somehow bolster his self-serving claim as “The Best Ever” boxer in history.
In fact, until he finally decided to fight Pacquiao, ring pundits and fans alike suspected Mayweather of dodging the hard-hitting Filipino dynamo and scoffed at Floyd’s brash assertions that he’s better than such legendary boxing greats like Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.
“No one ever brainwashed me to make me believe Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali were better than me. No one can ever brainwash me and tell me that,” Mayweather told ESPN “First Take” co-host Stephen A. Smith.
“I respect those guys because these are the guys that paved the way for me to be where I’m at today. But for me to give [boxing]my whole life… To say there’s someone better than me, absolutely not,” he added.
People close to the trash-talking boxer think much of that obnoxious persona is contrived — Mayweather’s way of getting people’s attention.
Pro wrestler Triple H of WWE fame said that as early as 2008 Mayweather deliberately shed his relatively dull identity as a generic technical boxer and embraced the dark side to sell his fights.
“His success as a boxer comes from knowing what really sells tickets is entertainment. You can be a great boxer and win a lot of fights and still have nobody really care about you that much. I think he gets that,” Triple H said, noting that HBO’s 24/7 and Showtime’s All Access pre-fight documentaries were actually Mayweather’s ideas.
“He’s not afraid to play the bad guy and push the buttons of the people who are going to pay to see him fight — and lose,” explained Triple H, who figured in a WWE event that Floyd won. “He’s a smart guy. He’s created this persona that has driven people crazy. They can’t wait to see him get beat.”
Indeed, a decisive win over Pacquiao could at least lend credence or even validate Mayweather’s bloated claim to greatness.
Such as win will mark Mayweather’s 48th straight victory, only a bout shy of tying the record of legendary heavyweight boxing great Rocky Marciano, who retired unbeaten in 49 professional fights at the age of 31.
Mayweather, who has hinted of retirement after one or two more bouts, will most likely go for shattering Marciano record should he go past the explosive and hard-punching certified ring destroyer from the Philippines.
Born Floyd Joy Sinclair on Feb. 24, 1977 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the son of retired professional American boxer Floyd Sr. and Deborah Sinclair. Floyd Jr.’s uncles Roger and Jeff Mayweather were also boxers who helped hone his boxing skills at a tender age.
By his own admission, Mayweather had a “very rough background,” and some people say his bravado in and out of the ring is borne of his miserable upbringing and his prodigious ring talent.
As a child, Mayweather lived in New Jersey with his mother and seven others in one bedroom after Floyd Sr. served time for selling drugs. His mother also struggled with drug addiction issues. And so the young Floyd Jr. would turn to boxing as an outlet from his difficult upbringing.
Gifted with natural speed and agility and willing to spend long hours in the gym, he excelled in the sport with the help of his dad and two uncles.
Mayweather had an outstanding amateur career, winning three National Golden Gloves championships in 1993, 1994 and 1996. He went on to become a bronze medal winner at the Atlanta Olympics.
On Oct. 11, 1996 Mayweather turned pro and signed up with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank. With his father Floyd Sr. as manager and trainer, the younger Mayweather racked up victories at a prodigious rate.
KO artist early on
After racking up an amazing 17 wins in just two years, Mayweather won his first title, the WBC 130-pound championship by stopping Genaro Hernandez in the eighth round. Significantly, only four of those early fights went the distance, with 13 ending with stoppages, or a 76.5 percent knockout rate.
Mayweather kept his unblemished record intact en route to winning world titles at five weight classes: super featherweight, lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight.
But it was not until after outpointing then boxing’s top attraction Oscar De La Hoya via a controversial split decision in a Cinco de Mayo super fight in 2007 that Mayweather’s star really took off.
Although he has been world champion for more 17 years and has defeated 20 title holders during those years, critics accused Mayweather of cherry-picking his opponents, thus putting his greatness in doubt.
This negative perception of Mayweather is all the more magnified when the fighter who likes to be called “TBE” (for The Best Ever) is scrutinized alongside Pacquiao, who kept taking on the best available opponents as he collected titles from flyweight all the way up to light middleweight.
Mayweather brought much of that negative public impression upon himself when he decided to change his ring persona from Pretty Boy Floyd into one of boxing’s all time villains.
His long-time associate Leonard Ellerbe, the chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, say privately that much of Mayweather’s bad boy ring persona is make-belief gimmickry Floyd contrived to better market himself, that beneath the veneer of arrogance is a kind-hearted man who takes care well of his family, staff and friends.
Run in with law
But what about Mayweather’s well-publicized several run in with law?
In June 2012, he was ordered by a judge to serve a three-month sentence at Clark County Detention Center in downtown Las Vegas after he pleaded guilty to a reduced battery violence charge and no contest to two harassment charges. Previous to that, Floyd has been arrested several times since 2002 in battery and violence cases in Las Vegas and in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Love him or hate him, Mayweather is undeniably the best pure boxer of his era. His extraordinary skills in the ring and work ethic in the gym have won him all his 47 fights with little or no trouble. Though not a hard puncher, Mayweather’s savvy defense and great counter-punching have made some of the best champions he’s faced look very ordinary.
He practically gave the once-promising Mexican sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez a boxing clinic in their Sept. 14, 2013 bout to snatch the bigger and younger champion’s WBC, WBA and RING magazine 154-pound titles. The dubious majority decision verdict, particularly the 114-114 score turned in by C. J. Ross, hardly reflected the lopsided match as seen by most ringside observers.
Mayweather’s tremendous success has been anchored on his ability to hit is foes while avoiding getting hit, a style only boxing purists might find appealing but what average fans find boring. Combining his agility and overall ring smarts, Floyd typically dodges opponents’ punches, scoring with sharp counters and never giving them a chance to find a rhythm.
In his last eight bouts, Mayweather has scored just one knockout — what respected boxing commentator Larry Merchant called a “sucker punch” — of welterweight lion Victor Ortiz in September 2011 while Ortiz’s hands were down and was looking at the referee. However, all those eight victories were clear wins, albeit unexciting to the average boxing fan.
Mayweather and Pacquiao had five common opponents, all top tier champions who, like Floyd and Manny, are probably destined to be enshrined in boxing’s Hall of Fame. These are six-division champion and Olympic gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya, four-division Puerto Rican world titlist Miguel Cotto, three-division champ Shane Mosley, British lineal world welterweight champion Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao’s Mexican arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez, a four-division world champion.
Mayweather is 5-0 against these five elite champions, while Pacquiao is 6-1-1. Mayweather was pushed to his limits by De La Hoya, who Floyd beat via a disputed split decision; and he came close to being knocked out in the second round by two right hands to the jaw by Mosley who failed to capitalize on his momentum and eventually lost by a wide unanimous decision. Cotto gave Mayweather a hard time in a light middleweight tussle with Mayweather, winning four rounds to Floyd’s eight and bloodying Mayweather’s nose for most of the competitive fight.
Mayweather literally toyed with Marquez despite a 21-month absence from the ring, knocking down the Mexican superstar with a right hand counter in the second round and scoring a lopsided unanimous decision.
In contrast, the smaller Pacquiao forced De La Hoya to retire in his stool for an eighth-round technical knockout, stopped Cotto in the final round and knocked Hatton cold in the second round. He knocked Mosley down with a looping left in the third en route to a near-shutout UD victory.
Ironically, Pacquiao always had trouble dealing with Marquez, in four closely contested fights. Although Pacquiao still has an edge with two wins, and a draw, his sixth-round lights-outs knockout loss to the Mexican counter-puncher was probably the worst beating in his illustrious career.
De La Hoya and Cotto favor Pacquiao to win, while Marquez and Mosley are giving Mayweather the edge. Although Hatton is giving Mayweather a slight edge, the former British lineal 140-pound titlist thinks the fight could swing either way.
Surely, styles make fights, and the counter-punching Marquez probably comes closest to Mayweather’s style. So, can Mayweather, who hardly broke a sweat in disposing of the smaller Marquez, do the same thing with an offensive dynamo like Pacquiao?
Or will the explosive power and speed of Pacquiao that confounded De La Hoya, Mosley and Hatton prove simply too much for Mayweather to handle?
De La Hoya, who initially was picking Mayweather until he saw videos of Pacquiao’s superb conditioning, predicted that if the Pacquiao that stopped him on Dec 11, 2009 shows up on May 2, then Mayweather is in for tough fight that may not go the distance.