The buildup to a Floyd Mayweather fight is as routine as ever. Mayweather picks an opponent — in this case, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero on May 4 — and for the next few months he films reality shows embodying the villain who is gearing up to run down yet another guy who says he’s going to save the sport from the clutches of Mayweather. For the past half decade, the road to a Mayweather fight has become about as consistent as the sun rising in the day and setting at night. He fights on the same weekend, in the same location, uttering the same catch phrase about how ‘X’ amount have tried and ‘X’ amount have failed, with only a different opponent but yielding the same results thus far. However, something was different about this particular day.
In mid-April everything seemed to go as scheduled at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, NV. It was media day and Mayweather was slated to arrive at the gym at 3 p.m. to go through his routine of speaking to a massive amount of press while answering the same questions about the same topics before working out for the cameras. Rookie journalists arrived early in anticipation of seeing the highest paid athlete of 2012 but veteran boxing writers knew better as Mayweather’s habitual tardiness is part of his mystique.
Finally, at 4:20 p.m., the man of the hour arrives and for the next half-hour he delivers the same canned answers about the fight preempted by his notable “Like I said before…” tic before every other sentence. He’s done this too many times to count and through his million dollar smile you can sense that it is wearing on him. But what makes this different is the fact that he spent two months in prison for domestic abuse. It’s only a mere fraction of his life but it has certainly impacted him.
Usually, after smiling for the cameras, Mayweather speaks extensively with print media as Rafael Garcia wraps his hands. As he settles in, a journalist asks Mayweather if he has any advice for Guerrero considering that his opponent is facing charges after being busted in New York’s JFK airport with an unregistered gun. Upon hearing the question, Mayweather spins around, barks “Why do you have to ask something so negative?” clearly sensing the sarcasm wrapped inside of the inquiry and waves off any further questions. Very un-Mayweather like.
It appears that the day is a dud but select members of the press are asked to stay until his workout is finished so he can speak with us. We wait through his marathon training session and at 5:45 p.m., his father walks in. The very father that he had a public falling out with last year before the Miguel Cotto fight. But here he is, ready to train his son after Floyd Jr. asked his dad to be his main trainer due to his uncle Roger’s failing health (“I don’t think Roger will be in my corner on fight night,” he says when asked). The boisterous older Mayweather fields questions about his relationship with his son until Floyd Jr. stops his in-ring mitt work to tell his father not to give any answers that will get twisted by the media (“That’s what they do,” Junior says). By 7:30 p.m., Mayweather slumps into a chair in front of 6 members of the press. He has just done about a dozen more on camera interviews before finally sitting down with his designer frames covering a shiner underneath his right eye. He’s taken his cool off and ready to talk about something other than boxing.
He’s asked about his “Money” persona and how it has helped build to his fight with Guerrero, but mid-sentence Mayweather breaks character. ”It’s about entertainment and people like to be entertained,” Mayweather exhales. “But they think that’s all I think about. You don’t think I cry when my son breaks his foot and can’t play sports? I hurt on the inside. I want my kids to be healthy. I just want my kids to always have manners, be respectful, be positive,” he continues. “It’s no different than if a parent is an actor or actress and the kids see them in movies shooting guns or using foul language, I let them know that all this that I do is a part of my job. But in real life these things do happen but it’s a part of my entertainment.”
It’s clear in these first few moments that something has changed Mayweather. Perhaps the short stint in a Clark County Detention Center has made him realize that life is precious. “Freedom is very important,” he says while stretching the vowels in “very.” The 23 hours a day being locked up made the pound for pound boxing king realize just how much he missed the simpler things in life. It has also made him think about his future. And not necessarily the 30 months he has left on his lucrative Showtime deal. The future he’s talking about is the one where he gives back.
“I want to continue to work with up and coming fighters,” he says as Mayweather Promotion fighter J’Leon Love, Ishe Smith and Badou Jack flank him. “I also want to continue to give back to the less fortunate. I want to go back to making lunches for the less fortunate. We haven’t done that in a while because we’ve been so busy building the Mayweather company and taking the brand to the next level. It’s not always about the money. Money doesn’t define who you are,” he says slowly. “I bought all of these things because I didn’t have anyone tell me that I didn’t need it to validate me. When I saw Mike Tyson and everything he had, I was never jealous but I just thought that one day I’d have it. I’m an older man now and a nice Cadillac truck is enough for me.”
He laughs at his own words, realizing how ridiculous it sounds. The Mayweather we know has a fleet of cars stashed in his massive garage that is a mere fraction of his humongous house. “I’m glad I’m in a position to teach these new fighters right from wrong,” Mayweather continues on as he looks around the room. “I don’t want them to go down the same path that I did. I was a teenager when I learned. I made big bucks quick. Things happen and you are bound to make a few mistakes along the way. But I’ve learned from those mistakes.”
He admits the only place he hasn’t made a mistake is inside of the ring. Although he flat out denies laying a hand on the mother of three of his children, he will admit that he hasn’t been the perfect man and he’s learned that over the years.
Yes, Robert Guerrero is the opponent on May 4th, but the true challenge for him is preserving the future of his sport while giving back to the have nots as long as he continues to have. If you want to hear him talk about how Guerrero will be his 44th victim, this wasn’t the time. He’s exhausted all of the creative ways to explain how he’ll come out victorious once again. But now he’s thinking about his future. With his uncle’s health ailing, his children getting older and having his freedom taken from him, albeit briefly, Floyd Mayweather is showing signs of maturity, even for only this brief half-hour conversation.
He knows he’s the best of this generation, but at the age of 36, he’s really considering the future. “I think someday I’ll be one of the biggest trainers ever in the sport,” he says with a smile. “I can’t promise my fighters that they’ll be the next Floyd Mayweather. That’s in God’s hands. But one thing I can do is help get them as close to my level as possible. I just want to attach my name to success.”