LAS VEGAS: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his father have had a stormy relationship, but they are back together for the fighter’s toughest test yet against Manny Pacquiao.
Over the years, Mayweather Sr. has spent long stretches estranged from his son because of their clashing egos and the father’s stints in jail, including a five-year sentence two decades ago on a drug trafficking conviction.
Mayweather Sr., who turned to training after his own boxing career was cut short when he was shot in the leg during a family dispute, once almost took a job training Oscar De La Hoya against his son.
But the Mayweathers have reconciled and Mayweather Sr. has been in his son’s corner for the last four fights.
And on Saturday, the 62-year-old Mayweather Sr. will shepherd his now-grown namesake into the ring at the MGM Grand Hotel to take on Filipino icon Pacquiao in a fight that will go a long way to determining who was the greatest fighter of their era.
A boxing baby
Mayweather Sr. likes to tell a story of when his son was just a baby and he would put him down on the bed at their house and move his tiny hands in punching motions.
“One day I came into the room and he’s laying back on the pillow doing just what I was showing him,” Mayweather Sr. said.
“I said, ‘This is it. He’s going to be a fighter.’”
There’s another story involving his son that Mayweather Sr. is less comfortable talking about, but he tells it anyway.
Sitting in a chair in his Grand Rapids, Michigan home with his toddler son in his arms, Mayweather Sr. found himself staring down the barrel of a 20-gauge shotgun .
The shotgun was held by his brother-in-law, who had decided to take matters into his own hands after being told he had worn out his welcome at the Mayweather home.
Mayweather Sr. ignored the pleas of the child’s mother, hanging onto the boy as the only thing saving him from death.
“She was trying to get the baby. ‘Give me my baby, give me my baby,’” Mayweather Sr. said. “But you are not going to get this baby, because this was my only shield.”
“I got shot with him in my hands,” Mayweather Sr recalled and added “He would have killed me.”
The blast destroyed the left calf of the father but Mayweather Jr. escaped that incident unscathed.
Fame, wealth, violence
Carrying on a family boxing tradition has brought Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26 KOs) fame and wealth, but the kind of turbulence that surrounded his upbringing is also still a part of his life.
But he has multiple convictions for assaulting women, serving two months in jail in 2012 for a hair-pulling, arm-twisting attack on a former girlfriend as two of their children looked on.
Unlike other millionaire athletes, Mayweather Jr, 38, has never been suspended or sanctioned by one of boxing’s governing bodies over domestic violence incidents.
His latest legal trouble unfolded last year when some fellow boxers, who work out at his Las Vegas gym, sued him over training conditions which allegedly included making fighters go 31 rounds without a break.
Mayweather Sr. missed seeing his son fight in the 1996 Olympics, where he lost in the semi-finals, because he was in jail.
Mayweather Jr. credits his father with leading him down the boxing path to a record purse of more than $150 million.
At least for now, the Mayweathers have also patched up things inside and outside the ring.
“He might have felt it was my fault, I might have thought it was his,” Mayweather Sr. says. “He’s still my son.”
Mayweather Sr. boxed for 11 years until his wounds from the shooting and a lung disease that he says he caught in prison made it impossible for him to continue.
He fought as a welterweight contender in the 1970s and 1980s, losing by a 10th round technical knockout to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978.
“I fought Sugar Ray Leonard with one hand. I had a hairline fracture in my hand,” he said.
But while revered by his son as a boxing “wizard,” his counterpart in the opposite corner this weekend—Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach—is less impressed.
“The dad gets too excited in the corner, doesn’t give good direction,” Roach said.
“I’m very happy he’s there, to be honest with you.”