Mark E. Ortega

The First Time: Seeing Mayweather live

 alt

Saturday night will mark the 44thtime that Floyd Mayweather has stepped into a professional boxing ring. For this writer, it will be the first time seeing Mayweather fight live and in person. Last month, RingTV.com began a monthly feature calledThe First Time, which asks different people in the boxing community about various firsts for them in the sport.

Last month’s top was about the first time traveling abroad for a fight. This month, with Mayweather fighting Robert Guerrero in a Showtime PPV main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it was fitting to find out when a number of people in the sport saw man now known as “Money” fight for the first time.

Oscar De La Hoya, president, Golden Boy Promotions, former multi-divisional world champion

I don’t remember specifically what fight, but I remember seeing Floyd on many of my undercards before he reached championship status. Back then, I knew he had something special. I had no doubt he would reach the level he has reached, though for the first part of his career he was with the wrong promoter. Once he partnered with us I think he saw his career reach new levels.

Stephen Espinoza, vice president of Showtime Sports

The first fight I saw Floyd in person was against Diego Corrales. Like many, I thought it was going to be very competitive. It was a huge fight in Las Vegas with both guys being from the area. One thing I recall from that fight was seeing Floyd’s ability to focus in the midst of a lot of hoopla. At that point, it was Floyd’s biggest fight and he cut right through it and delivered one of the biggest performances of his career. I think that focus has typified him throughout his career and is a big part of what has made him the great fighter he is.

Brian Kenny, studio host for Showtime, MLB Network, Brian Kenny Radio Show

altSurprisingly, the first time I saw Floyd fight in person was when he fought Oscar De La Hoya.

Thinking about it, the reason for that was, when I was with ESPN Friday Night Fights it was difficult convincing them to send me out to one of his fights as he hadn’t really reached that level until he fought Oscar.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. Halfway through, it looked like Oscar was gonna win going away. I was sitting next to Teddy Atlas and said, “Is this really happening? If Oscar continues jabbing like that, he’s going to win.”

The problem was, Oscar quit jabbing like that.

Doug Fischer, editor of RingTV.com

I don’t remember the guy (he fought), but it was a Mexican journeyman (Angelo Nunez) who was out of shape and it happened on the undercard of the late Genaro Hernandez against Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez at the Olympic Auditorium (in Los Angeles in November 1997).

The first time I saw him, I was there as a fan and not a writer and actually snuck into the venue. I trained at the L.A. Boxing Club, which shared a parking lot with the Olympic Auditorium. I had just finished working out and me and a couple of local pro fighters, a junior middleweight prospect named Dwain “Tiger” Williams and muscled-up club fighter named Warren “War Dog” Kronberger, snuck in.

Nobody caught us, nobody made us leave and by the end of the night we were in the second row as a few VIPS never showed up.

altI was well aware of Floyd. I watched him on TV during the Olympics against the Cuban and I remember the storyline about his dad being in jail. I remember at this time in his career, Top Rank was saying once Floyd Sr. got out of jail he was going to be in the corner of Floyd, who was then cornered by his uncles Roger and Jeff.

He had great power at the time and his money punch was a lead right hand and it floored guys. It was that which got the guy out of there.

The first time I saw Floyd as media was the following year against Gustavo Cuello, also at the Olympic. He was much more defensive and his father was indeed in the corner. I remember that it was where I interviewed his dad for the first time, after the fight.

Dan Rafael, boxing writer for ESPN.com

The first fight I saw Floyd was against Emanuel Burton, who later changed his name to Emanuel Augustus, in Detroit. It was an HBO KO Nation card (which was short-lived), which took place on Saturday afternoon.

The reason most reporters were at that fight was that Mike Tyson against Andrew Golota was the previous night in Auburn Hills, which was odd given that it was a Friday night. A bunch of us caravanned down to the fight.

He’d been off for awhile and he was coming off of that dispute with HBO about his contract at the time. Burton had a terrible record but gave Floyd a tough fight. Pre Miguel Cotto, if you asked him what his toughest fight was, he would always say Emanuel Burton.

Though he had a bad record, you knew he was going to hang in there with Floyd. Even though Floyd stopped him, I don’t remember him taking Burton off his feet. Floyd was already the 130-pound champion and was just taking a non-title fight.

If you had said to me back then that not only would he go on to become the sport’s pound-for-pound best fighter but also its most profitable, I’m not sure I would have believed it. The pound-for-pound part maybe, but not the future pay-per-view star. It was just an average type of crowd.

After the fight there wasn’t a press conference but they took us in the back. Floyd looked a little beat up but he was happy with the win and said the layoff is part of what made it a difficult fight.

Because the fight was in the afternoon, the card ended in the early evening. One funny story that Tim Smith and I still talk about is how on our way out the door, this guy in full pimp attire that was the colors of Fruit Stripe gum came up to us and asked us if he could have our credentials to get in to watch the fight, to which we explained the fight was already over.

Gordon Marino, Wall Street Journal

The first time I saw Floyd fight in person was against Oscar De La Hoya. I remember learning in that fight that he could be hit with a jab. I think it is surprising that he has reached the popularity and status he has because as a fighter, he has never been known to be very exciting. It is surprising to me that he has captured the imagination of the general public in the ways of Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali.

Kieran Mulvaney, ESPN.com

The first Floyd fight I was ringside for was against Carlos Baldomir. I remember thinking that Floyd didn’t belong at 147 pounds. I recall him crying after the fight and saying he was retiring. I had no idea just one fight later he would become a megastar.

Mark Kozelek, lead singer of Red House Painters and Sun-Kil Moon (named after the former boxer)

altThe first time that I saw Floyd Mayweather fight live was against Justin Juuko at the Mandalay Bay in 1999. It was an undercard to the Oscar De La Hoya against Oba Carr fight. I was working on the set of Almost Famous, had a day off, and a few of us went.

The main thing I remember was how focused Floyd was, the way he watched Justin. His jab was very powerful and he moved out of the way fast. He’s instinctual and he reminded me a lot of Pernell Whitaker, the way he moved and slipped punches.

I also remember an annoying girl a few rows back yelling, “JUUU-KOOOOO” throughout the fight. I met Shane Mosley that night, also.

Norm Frauenheim, boxing columnist for the Arizona Republic, RingTV.com

I saw him as an amateur. I didn’t see the robbery in Atlanta, but I saw one of the preliminary fights when covering the Olympics for the Arizona Republic in 1996.

There was a lot of attention on him because of his father who was in jail at the time. He had written a letter to the president to try and get him out of jail. You could tell back then he was talented, but he was also skinny as hell. I thought he might be something of a good lightweight or super featherweight, but it was hard to predict at that time he would become the fighter he has become. Going into those Olympics, many had Antonio Tarver as the American to keep an eye on. After they were over, it was David Reid after he beat the Cuban and Fernando Vargas got a lot of shine as well.

Bernardo Osuna, ESPN commentator and roving reporter for ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights

The first time I remember watching Floyd live was when he had his championship fight with the late Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez.

For him to go out there and dominate a talented boxer like that, it made him look as legitimate as they come. He has learned to evolve over the course of his career. From the nice kid with the good story in the Olympics to the street thug to the trash talker, he was the best at all of those stages. You never know how these guys are going to pan out because anything can happen, whether it be outside the ring or inside of it. But it was clear Floyd was very talented.

Lem Satterfield, staff writer for RingTV.com

The first time I saw Floyd was against DeMarcus Corley. He was very upset at the time with Top Rank and I did a one-on-one with him in his hotel room after the fight.

He was pushing to get a fight with Oscar De La Hoya, so his whole point was he wanted to prove he could knockout a 140 pounder.

I’ve always thought very highly of Floyd. I don’t think he’s ducked the people that others say he ducked and I think he is a tremendous fighter.

Ishe Smith, junior middleweight titleholder and Mayweather Promotions fighter

The first time I saw Floyd was in the amateurs. One thing I thought was he was extremely talented. We sparred when we were young, he was maybe 13 and I was 12. Before he got here, I was the top dog and he gave me such great work. When I found out he was Roger’s nephew and Floyd’s son, I thought, “Damn!”

David Levi, Floyd Mayweather’s assistant

The first time I saw Floyd fight live was his bout against Victor Ortiz. I started working with Floyd in March 2011 during a time when he wasn’t even thinking about boxing.

During training camp for the fight I was thinking Floyd was going to stop Victor in the later rounds after seeing him destroy his sparring partners on a daily basis. It’s always different when it comes down to fight night. I think thealt team as a whole is more nervous than Floyd is because we don’t like seeing him get hit by any opponent.

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, staring at Floyd and watching his reactions to the shots Victor was throwing at him.

After the second round I could tell Floyd was sure he was going to stop Victor by the look in his eyes. I felt confident, but then Victor threw his head at Floyd in the fourth round. I jumped out of my seat, screaming.

When Floyd knocked Victor out, fans sitting around me were yelling at me for cheering Floyd on. Victor had it coming after that headbutt. He cracked under the big lights and we all got to watch it unfold.

J’Leon Love, middleweight contender, Mayweather Promotions fighter, fights Gabriel Rosado on Saturday’s pay-per-view undercard

The first time I saw Floyd in person was against Ricky Hatton. It was amazing, the crowd was crazy. It was ridiculous when Floyd caught him with that check hook and put him out. It was crazy and it gave me a great deal of motivation.

Ron Borges, sportswriter for the Boston Herald

It was at the Olympic Trials. Back then, Lou Duva asked me who I liked and I said that the guy he needed to sign is Floyd Mayweather Jr., which they tried to do but were unsuccessful.

A funny story from the Olympic Games regarding Floyd. Getting into the Olympic venue for the medal fight, the line was taking forever. Floyd didn’t have a credential with him and the security guard basically told him he didn’t give a damn who he was, he wasn’t getting through without a credential. I tried explaining to the security he was a fighter. Someone ended up having to run back to get it and he damn near missed his bronze medal fight.

I remember the first time I knew he could fight as a professional was against Emanuel Augustus in Detroit. He had a tough time in the early going but he proved to me that night he could fight as well as box and get through some things, as Floyd was roughed up a little bit.

 

 

Photos / THE RING, Frederic J. Brown-AFP, Ethan Miller-Getty Images, Jed Jacobsohn-Getty Images

Around the web