Boxing Champion Floyd Money Mayweather Is Winning His Way
Tim Keown’s ESPN The Magazine cover story on Floyd Mayweather who is still undefeated after defeating Miguel Cotto:
“THE SCENE in the parking lot of the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas has devolved into an extended documentary on the perils of celebrity. There’s a betting slip on the loose worth $80,000, earned on the merits of the Miami Heat’s first-half performance about two hours earlier on this Friday night, and the quest to find it has everything but a circus-music soundtrack.
It’s not about the money. Really, it’s not. Floyd Mayweather Jr. bets a lot, both in frequency and amount, and this betting slip is not extraordinary in any way. Just the night before, he lost $50,000 on the first half of the Thunder-Lakers game before doubling down on his beloved Thunder and winning $100,000 in the second half. This is a man who later that night will put on a pair of pants he hadn’t worn in a while and pull four grand out of a pocket the way you or I might find a five in the dryer. Trust me: Eighty grand won’t change his life.
Mayweather is standing next to his sleek four-door black Mercedes, one of the more sedate of his roughly two dozen cars, and is wondering out loud how many people he might have to fire over this debacle. A few leggy, extravagantly dressed women watch laconically, waiting to follow the champ to dinner. Curtis Jackson, publicly known as 50 Cent, sits in the passenger seat of the Mercedes, watching the events unfold with passing interest. Several members of Mayweather’s loosely defined payroll are shuffling about in an unreserved panic, particularly those who were at one time in possession of the bag, the slip’s last known residence.
The bag is important. The bag — or The Bag, more like — is a small leather duffel home to Mayweather’s walking-around cash and gambling slips. Everyone must know where The Bag is at all times, for it is not unusual for the spirit to strike Mayweather and cause him to ask, with no warning, “Where my bag at?” The chain of custody is stricter than most evidence rooms.
The Bag is being scoured vigorously by Tom, one of many men who help Mayweather train by handing him his jump rope or tying his headgear or merely shouting compliments during a workout. He is at least the fourth person to riffle through The Bag, and he relays to his boss the obvious: no slip. The Mercedes trunk is popped, and a second bag is searched. This bag holds nothing more than 20,000 Mega Millions lottery tickets (prize: $656 million) bought by one of Mayweather’s minions after he stood in line for more than two hours outside a convenience store in California. Imagine being the guy standing behind Mayweather’s guy, there to buy maybe 10 tickets, waiting in line half the damned day only to watch the guy in front of you haul $20K in hundreds out of a bag. There are many Mayweather stories like this. It’s easy to get sidetracked.
But back to the scene at hand. Because right now — with the trunk open and the car doors flung wide and a now-silent Mayweather choosing to direct search operations with nothing more than a glare — is as good a time as any to ask a few important questions: What are we to make of Floyd Mayweather Jr.? What should we see when we see him? Is he to be denounced for his singular brand of narcissism, ego and greed, or praised for his clear-eyed ability to maximize his worth in the sports marketplace? Can you do both?
The history of boxing is a history of broken dreams. Young men, mostly black and Hispanic, start with nothing and appreciate anything. They’re told when, where and how much, and they never look closely at the money generated by their sweat and risk. They accept what’s offered because they are beholden to those doing the offering. It’s an enterprise fueled by paternalism: I was there for you when you had nothing. The most successful live well for a short period before ending up broke and befuddled, their money taken by unscrupulous managers and unchecked spending, their brains taken by the rigors of the sport. Their lives travel a road from subservience to dependence before they can identify either one.
“I was in that position at one time,” says Mayweather. “Not anymore. Now they” — meaning the promoters who have long dominated the sport — “don’t like Floyd Mayweather to enlighten a fighter. I don’t like it when they take a third from a fighter, then he has to pay his trainer 10%. After Uncle Sam, the man putting his body on the line gets less than 50 percent.”‘