During a pensive moment of Wednesday national conference call promoting his upcoming clash with WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, unbeaten six-time, five-division beltwinner Floyd Mayweather Jr. paid tribute to vanquished rivals Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti.
Not only were the former titleholders men who were knocked out against Mayweather in three of the premiere performances of his career, but all of them were victims of tragic deaths.
“What’s so crazy was last night, I was just laying on the sofa and I was changing the channel and I said, ‘Let me go through my telephone numbers,’” said Mayweather.
“And I went to the ‘G’s’ and Genaro Hernandez was the first name that I saw. My eyes got kind of watery, because I was like, ‘Man, it all kind of started with him.’”
After the two-time titleholder Hernandez died in June at the age of 45 following a three-year battle with cancer, Mayweather paid for the funeral later that month without fanfare.
“I told him that ‘anything I can do to help you while you’re in that situation, you know, let me know,” said Mayweather. “I said ‘I don’t care what it is.’ And then, you know, a few months later, he passes away. So you know, you think about certain things like that.”
A former two-time beltwinner as well, Corrales was 29 when died in a motorcycle crash in Las Vegas in May of 2007.
His death had been ruled a suicide, but there is an ongoing investigation into whether or not that was indeed the case.
A 21-year-old Mayweather Jr. earned his first crown against Hernandez, whom he stopped in the eighth round for the WBC junior lightweight belt in October of 1998.
“Genaro Hernandez gave me my first opportunity when I was first coming up,” said Mayweather. “The world champion gave me my first opportunity. I have to be thankful for that.”
Mayweather made his sixth defense of that belt against Corrales, whom he knocked out in the 10th round after dropping him five times in January of 2001.
“You think about Corrales. He put everything on the line to face me. And he fought his heart out. But it hurt him deep inside, so after that loss, he was mentally never right,” said Mayweather.
“He got to drinking and he got into a bad accident. And what was so crazy is that he crashed right by my sister’s house. So you think about certain things like that.”
Mayweather also scored a fifth-round stoppage against Gatti, doing so at in June of 2005.
“You think about Arturo Gatti, and you think about certain different fights like that,” said Mayweather. “At the end of the day, everybody that I’ve faced, they have families, and they have children. And so, you know, I think about things like that.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com