“I see the haters a mile away … From my Yacht of course lol"
—Floyd Mayweather on Twitter, December 2010
Shortly before his most recent round of legal problems, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was granting short interviews here and there, talking about how blessed he feels and about giving back to the community. Another popular topic was his recent engagement to his longtime girlfriend, Shantel Williams. Mayweather hinted at plans for a new reality TV show in which the two of them would star. Mostly, though, he talked about Twitter.
According to TwitterCounter.com, Mayweather has nearly 900,000 followers, which ranks him as approximately the 360th most-popular Twitter user. He’s well behind Lindsay Lohan, but at press time he was on the verge of passing Ivanka Trump.
Years ago, we had all looked forward to the day when Mayweather’s popularity would catch up to his skills. We imagined he could become that rare and desired boxing commodity – the fighter who was not only great in the ring but also famous enough to get mainstream attention. Not since the early days of Mike Tyson have we had a fighter who was immensely popular as well as being a dominant ring figure. Oscar De La Hoya had the fans but was never universally accepted as the best in the world; Roy Jones had the skills, but couldn’t put butts in the seats. As Mayweather proved to be a valid pay-per-view draw, it seemed our search for an all-around superstar was over.
Unfortunately, a number of factors have kept Mayweather from reaching the absolute, unquestioned, pinnacle of the sport, not the least of which was that Manny Pacquiao draws as well if not better, is a more exciting performer and possesses a more interesting back story.
But it is not just Pacquiao who makes Mayweather’s career seem only partially realized.
If we could whittle our thoughts down to a list of 10 things that has kept Mayweather’s career from being all it could be, it might read something like this:
10. HE WAS GIVEN TOO MUCH TOO SOON
Mayweather often says he wasn’t properly promoted early on, but considering he started his career as a bronze medalist from the 1996 Olympic team, he did very well: HBO fawned over him, and Bob Arum treated him like a superstar. Floyd also happened to come along when HBO was giving truckloads of cash to fighters who looked promising. The result was that Mayweather was a millionaire long before he’d done anything noteworthy. Then he complained that it wasn’t enough. Slave wages, indeed.
What If Things Were Different?Would Mayweather be more palatable had he come up the hard way, fighting for smaller purses with much less fanfare? Maybe not. That’s how his father and uncle came up, and they’re pains in the ass too. But maybe he wouldn’t have had such an inflated sense of himself in the early days of his career. And maybe it would’ve occurred to him to take a risk now and then. Where’s the incentive to fight thrilling fights when you already have a closet full of furs and jewels?
9. THE WAYS OF THE MAYWEATHER MEN
Speaking of dear Uncle Roger and Daddy Floyd, one wonders what sort of role models they were during Mayweather’s formative years. Some of the personal issues Mayweather is dealing with are similar to problems experienced by both Roger and Floyd Sr. Let’s just say that the Mayweather men have a particular way of doing things, and it often gets them in trouble. Maybe Floyd should’ve spent more time in the company of his Uncle “Jazzy” Jeff, a Mayweather male who is less volatile.
What If Things Were Different?Had Mayweather grown up in a Brady Bunch/Bill Cosby type of setting, he probably wouldn't be a fighter. Still, had he been exposed to a different sort of trainer/father figure at an early age, perhaps an Eddie Futch or a Freddie Roach, he might’ve seen that following in the footsteps of his relatives wasn’t the best way to go, and he might not be in trouble so often.
8. HE HAS BRITTLE HANDS
Granted, they haven’t been a problem in recent bouts, possibly because he doesn’t fight often, but there was a long period when we didn’t even want to tune in to a Mayweather bout because we knew he’d just slap and pot shot for 12 rounds, fearing another hand injury.
What If Things Were Different?A Floyd Mayweather with sturdier hands would have scored more knockouts and would be an even bigger star than he is now. He would’ve been getting pay-per-view bouts earlier in his career, and the mainstream coverage would’ve come earlier too.
7. HE BECAME TOO DEFENSIVE MINDED
It happens to all fighters. They realize there is something they do well, and then they rely on it too much. After Shane Mosley wobbled him last year, you can be sure Mayweather won’t be sticking his chin out again any time soon.
What If Things Were Different?Some of his bouts wouldn’t have been so deadly dull, that’s what. And if fans didn’t have him pegged as a defensive bore, he wouldn’t have to put on his obnoxious act to hype his fights.
6. HE BECAME A PERFECTIONIST
To borrow a line from George Foreman, “Boxing is sort of like jazz. The better it is, the less people appreciate it.” Certain jazz musicians remind us of Mayweather. They play a tasteful set but they never cut loose and are not particularly moving. That’s how Mayweather fights. Of course, he’d accuse us of being ignoramuses who don’t appreciate the subtleties of his style. Either that or he’d throw a phone at us.
What If Things Were Different?He would’ve seen that Mosley, and Juan Manuel Marquez before him, were ready to be taken in the later rounds and he would have stopped them. Instead, Mayweather was content to win rounds and take no risks.
5. HE PLAYED IT SAFE ON THE BIGGEST NIGHT OF HIS LIFE
With more eyes upon him than ever before, Mayweather entered the ring to face Oscar De La Hoya, and, rather than give us a night to remember, he pecked out a tepid win by split decision. When he realized De La Hoya was fading after the sixth round, Mayweather should’ve pressed the action and knocked De La Hoya out. That’s what Pacquiao did, and stopping Oscar turned “Pac-Man” into P-A-C-M-A-N. True, De La Hoya was a shot fighter when Pacquiao beat him, but he was pretty close to being shot when he fought Floyd.
What If Things Were Different?If Mayweather had stopped De La Hoya, we’re pretty sure Golden Boy would’ve retired soon after, which would’ve denied Pacquiao his own chance on the world stage. And if Pacquiao hadn’t destroyed De La Hoya, there’s no telling how the boxing landscape would’ve looked in recent years.
4. HE BECAME A CONTROL FREAK
He’s been criticized for not fighting various fighters, but we don’t think this has anything to do with fear. We figure he doesn’t like being told what to do. Our own theory about Mayweather’s demands for Olympic-style drug testing is that he’s less concerned with cleaning up the sport than he is with controlling people. Mayweather never talked about drug testing when he was making his own march from featherweight to junior middleweight, but now that he’s settled in at 147, with the world demanding he face Pacquiao, he’s suddenly concerned about the health and welfare of fighters and making sure that everyone is fighting fairly. But his negotiations with Pacquiao showed his priorities: It’s less important for Mayweather to fight than it is to be viewed as a man who calls the shots.
What If Things Were Different?He’d have fought Pacquiao last year. And going back in time, he would’ve fought Joel Casamayor, Acelino Freitas, Kostya Tszyu, Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto. ‘Nuff said.
3. HE “RETIRED”
Vanishing is never good for a person’s career. While Mayweather’s 2008-09 sabbatical didn’t seem to harm him athletically or as a box-office attraction, it allowed Pacquiao to gain momentum as the sport’s top name.
What If Things Were Different?Had he stayed active, Mayweather could’ve been the guy to whip Paul Williams. Then again, he probably wasn’t going to fight Williams. He would’ve picked easier opponents (see reason No. 4).
2. HE REMAINS IMMATURE
Emanuel Steward has often said Mayweather is like a big kid. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes Mayweather seems out of touch with the real world. He lives in a strange bubble filled with yes-men and flunkies who don’t dare upset the spoiled child-king. He released a video on the Internet in 2010 in which he hurled racial and homophobic taunts at Pacquiao. In 2007, he was videotaped in a studio doing an equally offensive rap. There’s a bit of the Michael Jackson/Tiger Woods syndrome going on with Mayweather. He’s been boxing since he was a child. He’s lived a largely sheltered life and remains in perpetual adolescence.
What If Things Were Different?We don’t expect Mayweather to suddenly become, say, a congressman or to act as dour as Evander Holyfield, but it would be nice if he weren’t such a hip-hop cartoon character at age 33. His detractors would have a lot less reason to dislike him, and boxing would have one less silly, clichéd personality for whom to apologize.
1. HIS PERSONAL LIFE BEGAN TO OVERSHADOW HIS RING ACCOMPLISHMENTS
His supporters argue that we shouldn’t care about Mayweather’s personal life, but when we see footage of his children’s mother being carried away on a gurney, allegedly because of Mayweather, we can only wonder how much more Mayweather can do before he hits the point of no return. That is, if he hasn’t already.
What If Things Were Different?What he needs to do is get rid of the enablers that surround him and spend some time with a good anger-management coach. For the price of a few bracelets, Mayweather might learn how to deal with his temper. Whether or not he gets out of his current jam, which involves a multitude of charges that have him facing up to 34 years in prison, he needs professional help.
We may never get a Floyd Mayweather who fights like Henry Armstrong. He is what he is: a defensive specialist. But we might settle for a Floyd Mayweather who treats others with more respect. After all, as amusing as it might be to read his Tweets from prison, we’d rather not see him behind bars.
Don Stradley is a freelance writer from Massachusetts and a regular contributor to THE RING.