In addition to the skills that have made Floyd Mayweather Jr. the pound-for-pound king of the ring, the 35-year-old Las Vegan possesses pipes that have made him a world-class shit-talker. That gift is on full display during a sparring session at his gym, some eight days in advance of his Cinco De Mayo showdown against Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“Look at your own blood, bitch!” Mayweather screams through his mouthpiece, having just opened a cut on the mouth of his sparring partner. Just seconds earlier, Mayweather had danced a little jig after sidestepping the bigger opponent’s overhand right. The move was met with a roar from 75 onlookers, a crowd that included cameramen from HBO’s 24/7 and his cash-flashing best friend, 50 Cent.
The circus-like atmosphere has become second nature for Mayweather (42-0), the sport’s highest-paid fighter and top pay-per-view draw. Love him or hate him, he doesn’t care—so long as you don’t turn away from him.
Lurking in the shadows, however, is a different Mayweather, one few outside his tight inner circle ever see—someone who generously donates to charities (he recently made a commitment to the national Golden Gloves, a junior boxing organization), who offers to pay for boxers’ funerals, who helps the homeless. During multiple interviews leading up to the Cotto bout, “Money May” provided a glimpse of this alter ego—though the familiar arrogance was always close by.
How do you explain your charitable side?
It’s always been a dream of mine to someday be a very, very good man—a good person, a good father. If I was ever in a position to give back, I always wanted to give back.
I was feeding the homeless out of my personal U-Haul truck for many, many years without any media coverage. I did that ’cause I thought it was the right thing to do. As long as I’m here on this earth, I’m going to give back to people.
But then you also have this flamboyant “Money” persona. Is the real Mayweather somewhere in between?
Everything I do as far as talking trash, saying bad things about my opponent, the flashing money—all that stuff is a character. That’s “Money Mayweather,” a character. I’m Floyd Mayweather, a person who loves my family, loves the American citizens. Money don’t make me; I make money.
As part of a plea agreement on domestic-violence charges, you’re scheduled to serve a 90-day jail sentence starting June 1. Have you thought much about what jail life will be like?
I try to be positive, keep my fingers crossed and only hope for the best. Just like in the sport of boxing, there are bumps and there are bruises. … Even when I go away, the only thing it can do is make me grow mentally stronger as a person. Certain things you go through in life are obstacles. It’s all part of life; you have good days, you have bad days. But the main thing is to grow mentally.
How much has your fiancée Miss Jackson changed your life?
[Long pause] I stay in a lot more. I’m really more of a homebody. To become a champion, or to become the best at whatever you want to do in life, something has to suffer. That goes for any entertainer, or any athlete. To be the best at what you’re trying to do, either your relationship is going to suffer, your family or something. Your job can’t suffer.
You’re a 7½-to-1 favorite against Cotto. Why should people buy this fight?
Miguel Cotto (37-2), in my eyes, is an undefeated fighter. He fought one guy at a catch weight [Cotto lost to Manny Pacquiao at 145 pounds in 2009], and he fought another guy who got in trouble for cheating [in 2008, Cotto lost to Antonio Margarito, who in his very next fight was caught using an illegal substance on his hand wraps]. He’s strong—a big knockout puncher. He always comes out and fights in a pleasing way.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t already know?
I just started doing yoga for this fight. Also, I’ve never taken vitamins [before a] fight. I never ate healthy. I never stretched. I just made the impossible possible. Everything they said you can’t do and be at the top, I did—and I’m still at the top.
Will it haunt you personally or will there be a void professionally if you never fight Pacquiao?
No, I don’t worry about that at all. If it really was all about Pacquiao then [apparently] I didn’t have to fight all 42 [previous] opponents. I guess the 42 guys that I’ve [already] faced didn’t count. All I had to really do was come into the sport of boxing and train for just one fight, just train for one 12-round fight, beat that guy, then I was going down in history as the best? Now all of a sudden people come from out of nowhere and say, “Well, Floyd, you’re not the best because you haven’t beat this guy yet.”
Floyd Mayweather has to live his life for Floyd Mayweather, and I’m happy. I could care less what Manny Pacquiao is doing. He’s with Bob Arum, and Bob Arum lives his life the way he lives his life, and I live my life the way I live my life.
You can live anywhere in the world. Why Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is the capital of boxing. It’s a city that’s 24-7. You can get up and get a five-star meal at any time. There’s always lights, cameras, action. I’m a person who truly believes you can sleep when you die. You gotta live your life when you’re here—enjoy it and have fun.
Where did the nickname “Money” come from?
I was just joking with 24/7 and throwing money into the camera like I was making it rain. They started calling me “Money Mayweather,” and it stuck.
What happened to “Pretty Boy Floyd”?
You can’t be in your 30s and call yourself “Pretty Boy.” Out with the old and in with the new. It’s like the WWE; you have to come up with a new character every time.
Are you OK with being boxing’s bad guy?
When I go into an arena, if the fans are cheering, that’s a great thing. If fans boo, they boo, that’s a great thing, because they’re letting me know that I’m relevant and they’re letting me know that they do know who I am. If they didn’t make a noise, then I would have a problem with that.
How many more fights do you have left?
Of course I want to give you guys more than just a few more fights. I want to do this fight, plus five more if I can.
Are you a better fighter now than when you were younger?
I’m getting better with age, actually. I’m still sharp, I’m still hungry. I know there’s no fighter in the history of the sport that’s dedicated like I’m dedicated. There’s no fighter that’s going to work as hard as Floyd Mayweather.
Who’s the toughest guy you’ve fought?
I’m going to rate Emanuel Augustus first. He didn’t have the best record in the sport, he has never won a world title, but he came to fight, and of course at that particular time I [was returning from] a long layoff.
Do you have a favorite fighter?
Larry Holmes was the best heavyweight of all time, one of the best fighters of all time.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I really can’t say. Hopefully my children have graduated from high school. That’s very, very important. My mother, I want her to still be happy and want to be able to go over to my mother’s house every Sunday, like I do. I want Mayweather Promotions to be a very, very huge company, which I truly believe will happen. There's so many different things that I want, but everything takes time. I believe in just taking one day at a time, and eventually my goals will get accomplished.
How do you think you’ll be remembered?
I will be really appreciated probably 15, 20 years from now. It’s crazy, every day I look at the sport and I’m very, very happy that I basically got my own style. When a fighter’s fighting, they be like, “Oh that’s Mayweather style,” and I think that’s a great thing. You got southpaw, you got orthodox, and you also got Mayweather style.
How will you fill the boxing void after you retire?
There’s a lot to do at the gym. There are so many fighters under the Mayweather banner that can carry the torch. I just have to show them the business side. A lot of them have the skills on the boxing side, but it’s also a business. You have to teach them about self-promotion.
For the most part, you’ve kept your children out of the spotlight. What activities do you enjoy with them when the cameras are turned off?
I like to take them to the San Diego Zoo. And we go to Disneyland.
How big of a role has 50 Cent played in your life the last few years?
He’s not just my friend, he’s not just my best friend, he’s also one of my business partners, and very, very, smart. One of the smartest guys I know. But we don't just have a friendship; we have a tremendous bond. 50 was raised by his grandmother; I was basically raised by my grandmother. He lost his mother; my mother wasn’t really in my life. He never knew his father; my father only spent time with me in the gym. We kind of had a similar upbringing, so that led to the connection.
You own a fleet of exotic cars, including a handful of models in both white and black, where you keep the black ones in Miami and the white ones in Vegas. Do you have a favorite?
No. After you’ve been doing it for so long, you just look at it like it’s a car. Money is just comfort, that’s it.