The rhetoric has toned down somewhat. But the confidence remains unabated. And the message is still the same, even if he delivers it differently these days.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. doesn’t expect to lose. Ever. Not on Saturday to Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden. Not down the road to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. And not to any young stud climbing the ladder in boxing.
“They keep creating these guys for me,” said Mayweather (43-0, 26 knockouts), a five-division world champion who will defend his WBC welterweight title Saturday. “Everybody says, ‘We’ll keep a lot of pressure on Mayweather.’ That’s been everybody’s game plan. Forty-three guys have tried, but no one has unlocked the ‘Mayweather Code’ yet.”
Manny Pacquiao? He never comes up in discussion these days other than when someone outside of boxing asks Mayweather about whether they’ll ever fight. When that question is broached, Mayweather’s now-tedious account of Pacquiao failing to submit to Olympic-style random blood testing for drugs as to why they never met kicks in as his response.
As he heads down the home stretch of his Hall of Fame career, the 36-year-old Mayweather remains the sport’s biggest name. He topped Forbes Magazine’s list as the top-earning athlete in fiscal year 2012 with $85 million. And that’s despite a lack of endorsements and the fact he fought only twice, when he beat Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17, 2011, and Miguel Cotto last May 5 — both at the MGM — before doing a two-month stint at the Clark County Detention Center after pleading guilty to domestic battery charges from an incident in 2010.
Madison Avenue might not be ready to welcome Mayweather back to its good graces, but Mayweather couldn’t care less. His six-fight deal with Showtime Pay Per View will net him a minimum of $200 million, and the figure likely will be closer to $300 million should he fulfill the obligations of the 30-month contract he signed earlier this year.
And while Pacquiao tries to figure out how to resume his career following the knockout he sustained in December at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, and while Alvarez still tries to grow his fan base beyond Mexico, Mayweather is the planet around which the boxing universe revolves.
His detractors still see a braggart and are hoping Guerrero is the asteroid that finally causes the planet to explode. His fans see a changed man who came out of incarceration humble and will leave the ring as one of boxing’s greatest performers.
Mayweather accepts the fact he is the face of his sport, and he’s taking that responsibility seriously.
“I’m trying to leave all the negative things behind me,” he said. “I only have 30 months left, and I want to finish in a positive way. I want to clean up the sport of boxing so the sport can live on. I want to keep drugs out of the sport.
“I’ve got some good young fighters in my company, and I want them to benefit and make money and win world championships. Mayweather Promotions is focused on letting the fighter win.”
For this fight, Mayweather has toned down the rhetoric. He said he hasn’t overlooked Guerrero, but Mayweather still gets in his verbal shots, like calling Guerrero a hypocrite on Showtime’s “All Access” reality show promoting the fight, after Guerrero was arrested in New York in late March for trying to carry a gun onto an airplane.
“On one hand, he’s a role model for children, and then he tries to bring a gun on a plane,” Mayweather said. “But nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes.”
Mayweather acknowledges he has made plenty, particularly the incident with then-girlfriend Josie Harris three years ago that ultimately put him behind bars.
“I’m not bitter,” Mayweather said. “I have nothing bad to say about the judge (Melissa Siragusa). It could’ve been handled a different way. But I had a great team of lawyers, and even though this cost me millions of dollars, I’m OK, and I’ve moved on.”
Assuming he can stay out of trouble, and assuming he can fulfill the entire six-fight deal over the next 30 months and not lose any of those fights, Mayweather’s legacy will be that of arguably the best fighter of his generation and one of the greatest defensive fighters in history. And that is why he took this deal with Showtime — for the chance to cement his legacy and get paid handsomely to do it.
“I can have a bad day in the gym, but I’ve never had a bad night when I fought,” he said. “This is about putting a couple of more stamps on my legacy.”
And the money?
“Money don’t make me; I make money,” Mayweather said. “And money don’t define who I am.”
Still, you don’t see Mayweather taking the bus to get to the gym. He’s not living in cramped quarters. And he doesn’t fly commercial much these days. The trappings of affluence have been around him for some time now, and the Showtime deal will allow him to continue to live that comfortable lifestyle. More important, it gives his four children the chance to have successful lives through better education and perhaps work with their dad in the boxing business when he’s through competing.
And, make no mistake, Mayweather’s last fight won’t be the end of the line with him and boxing. He is building a stable of good young fighters through his Mayweather Promotions, and he said he looks forward to the day when he can work full time training his fighters.
“I know I can be a great trainer,” he said. “I’m always talking to my guys about things I see and how they can get better.”
But his focus clearly is on Saturday’s fight with the 30-year-old Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs), who believes he has the skill and experience to knock Mayweather off his perch.
“Of course I feel unbeatable,” Mayweather said. “I’m in the sport to go down as the best. You just don’t get to the pinnacle by not facing and fighting the best competition.
“I just feel like I was before my time. I beat everybody. I beat everybody in the ’90s, and I beat everybody in the 2000s. Now here we go 17 years later. I still have a lot left. I still have the will to win.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.