Fancy Footwork


Leave it to Floyd Mayweather Jr. to bring trash-talking to ballroom dancing.

The brash boxer hasn't changed his persona from the ring one iota as he competes in ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars." He runs his mouth so much, even his partner, Karina Smirnoff, is talking a little smack.

"Hey, I gotta be me," Mayweather said last week as he and Smirnoff tuned up for the third round of "Dancing" at the Delgado Dance Studio in Las Vegas. "I try to make the impossible possible."

The couple has survived the reality show's first three weeks, which is better than another noted Las Vegan -- Wayne Newton. Newton couldn't tango well enough to stay in the competition and was voted off the show on Tuesday.

Mayweather, who has begun training for his Dec. 8 world welterweight championship fight with Ricky Hatton at the MGM Grand Garden, said the 16 hours a day he's putting in between the two endeavors has not been a problem.

"It's helping me," he said. "It's pushing me to the limit. It keeps me around positive people."

He then bellows to his manager, Leonard Ellerbe, "Hey L, there's nothing to worry about this fight."

Smirnoff listened to Mayweather run his mouth and shook her head and smiled.

"If he could talk less and dance more, he'd be a lot better," she said.

Smirnoff, who has finished second with actor Mario Lopez and got to the semifinals with singer Billy Ray Cyrus in her previous appearances on "Dancing" said the chemistry between her and Mayweather improves each day.

"He's not an easy student, but he's a fast learner," said Smirnoff, 28, who was born in Russia, lives in Los Angeles and travels to Las Vegas each week to practice with Mayweather. He's got natural talent as a dancer."

Mayweather appears to be taking the competition seriously. His work in the dance studio rivals that in the gym. He doesn't want to go down in disgrace.

"We're in it to win it," he said. "This isn't a joke to me. I'm serious about this."

Mayweather included a boxing component in his routine this past week as he and Smirnoff danced "The Jive."

He brought a jump rope to the dance floor and did a quickie routine leading into the dance which seemed to please the studio audience. Even Len Goodman, the stuck-up English judge who had told Mayweather early on that he's a fan of Hatton's, seemed impressed.

"I don't think that guy likes me," Mayweather said of Goodman.

Mayweather concedes ballroom dancing is far different than anything he has done.

"I come from another field of dancing -- hip-hop -- and we dance hard," Mayweather said. "But this has been natural to me. I can learn dance steps quickly."

Mayweather is used to performing in front of millions of people when his fights are shown on pay-per-view. He said being on TV with 30 million people watching is no problem.

"I love it," he said. "More people are being exposed to Floyd Mayweather. Hopefully, they'll buy the fight on pay-per-view after watching me dance."

Ellerbe said that was the whole idea behind having Mayweather appear on "Dancing With the Stars." It was about exposing Mayweather to mainstream America and broaden his appeal beyond boxing.

"No matter what happens the rest of the way, we've accomplished what we wanted," Ellerbe said. "This was great for Floyd to let people who don't follow boxing get to know him."

The show wraps up on Nov. 24, just two weeks before Mayweather climbs into the Grand Garden ring to face Hatton.

After having barely survived last Tuesday, the odds are against Mayweather going the distance in this fight. He's trying to learn how to dance the Viennese waltz for Monday's program, and it could be an uphill battle for he and Smirnoff to stay in the competition. If he is voted off the show, it will free him up to focus exclusively on Hatton.

HBO viewers will be treated to Mayweather's run-up to the fight when Mayweather-Hatton 24/7 debuts Nov. 18.

"There's nothing to worry about this fight," Mayweather said. "I'll be ready, just like I always am."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2913.

 

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