Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd Mayweather Jr is at once one of the most infuriating and admirable figures in the history of boxing. His public persona of a high rolling, loud talking, ‘bling bling’ product of his time masks the sort of skill and dedication rarely seen in sport.
The facts bear testimony to this point. In a perfect career spanning 38 fights, all ending in victory, with 24 knock-outs, Mayweather has taken on and beaten the best. Moreover, his achievements have come while moving through the weights, having picked up six world titles at five different weight classes – from super featherweight right through to super welterweight.
However, it is the manner in which he has managed such success which both startles and yet repulses. The endless smack talking which precedes and follows every fight has brought him plenty of detractors, but the man’s talent ultimately shines through. More importantly, his abilities are such that the line between self-confidence and arrogance has arguably not been crossed yet, despite Mayweather’s own assertions that he truly is the best ever. At the end of the day, whether you love him or hate him, Mayweather has made his mark on the sport forever.
The amateur leagues
Born on February 24th 1977 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mayweather Jr. was always destined to enter the ring at some stage in his life. His father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., competed at welterweight, one of his two uncles, Jeff Mayweather, was a former IBO super featherweight champion and the other, Roger Mayweather, was a two-division world champion in his own right and would prove a fine trainer for Mayweather Jr. himself.
This strong pedigree manifested itself early, coupled with the young Mayweather’s own prodigious talent. Carrying an amateur career of 84-6, Mayweather Jr. won the Golden Gloves amateur national championships at three different weight classes in 1993, 1994 and 1996. He was subsequently a shoe-in for the USA’s Olympic boxing team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and duly picked up a bronze medal in the featherweight division at just 19 years of age, only losing to Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria in what was a highly contentious (and possibly incorrect) decision.
Despite his loss in the semi-finals of the Olympics, Mayweather Jr’s star was unquestionably in the ascendancy and he turned professional almost immediately after. Although Mayweather Sr. had previously retained an iron grip on his son’s training during his amateur career, his own imprisonment left a void which Roger Mayweather filled in the meantime. The change had absolutely no effect on Mayweather Jr. who set about blowing away the opposition in the Super Featherweight division, first on October 11th 1996 against Roberto Apodaca with a second round knockout.
Correctly eased into the professionals with a series of easy bouts, Mayweather Jr gave signs that his amateur record was transferable when he took out former champion Tony Pep on June 14th 1998. This was followed soon after with a world title of his own, the WBC Junior Lightweight championship, after an eighth round technical knock-out of Genaro Hernandez. It was to be the first of many.
However, by this point, the cracks in the relationship with his father had begun to show, and Mayweather Sr. was duly sacked as manager and trainer, with the latter responsibility falling to the eminently qualified Roger Mayweather. Again, the change in his team had no effect whatsoever in the ring, as Mayweather Jr. took his finest victory yet on January 20th 2001 against Diego Corrales. Although Corrales was easily Mayweather’s toughest opponent, the latter put on an exhibition showing, knocking down his adversary no fewer than five times. By the time of the fifth knockdown in round 10, Corrales’ corner acknowledged Mayweather’s supremacy by throwing in the towel and the young fighter from Michigan was undoubtedly one of the stars of the sport.
Rolling through the weights
Although Mayweather went on to take two more victories at junior lightweight, including a painful contest with Carlos Hernandez (in which Mayweather Jr suffered his first technical knockdown, as damage caused to his left hand while delivering a left hook meant he dropped to the canvas briefly), the time had come to move up a gear. As such, in 2002, Mayweather made the transition to the lightweight division and made even quicker work of establishing his dominance.
Dispensing with preliminary bouts, Mayweather Jr. focused solely on championships, first taking down Jose Luis Castillo twice to pick up the WBC championship (although the first bout was the closest Mayweather came to defeat). This was followed by far easier victories against Victoriano Sosa on April 19th 2003 and a powerful showing against Phillip Ndou in November of the same year.
Having collated championships and defeated the best, Mayweather set his sights elsewhere again, this time on the junior welterweight division. His first victory, a hard-fought contest, came against DeMarcus Corley via a unanimous decision in 2004, and was followed by a decisive victory against Henry Bruseles at the start of 2005 to place him in line for Arturo Gatti’s WBC championship.
The Gatti fight represented Mayweather Jr’s first opportunity to put himself forward on a worldwide stage and, needless to say, he didn’t need a second. Dismissing Gatti in none too kind words, he backed up the smack talk with an imperious performance. Despite controversy over a knockout to Gatti in the first round, Mayweather Jr’s performance was simply irresistible and Gatti’s corner stopped the fight after round 6.
With Gatti out of the picture, Mayweather’s achievements ensconced him as the pound-for-pound champion and he sought to further solidify his status by moving up yet again to welterweight. Taking down Sharmba Mitchell with relative ease after a sixth round knockout, Mayweather’s biggest challenge was then in the shape of Zab Judah. Fighting for Judah’s IBF title, as well as the vacant IBO championship, the contest on April 8th 2006 was notable not just for Mayweather’s brilliance, but the stupidity of his corner. With Mayweather well in control by the tenth round, Judah landed a blow below Mayweather’s belt which was followed by a rabbit punch.
Remarkably, Roger Mayweather responded by entering the ring after its conclusion, and attempted to confront Judah (although he was restrained by the referee). The matter came to a head when Judah’s father and trainer also entered the ring and a scuffle ensued. The result for Roger Mayweather would be a 1 year suspension and a fine, but his ejection from the fight at the time made no difference to Mayweather Jr, who coasted to a comfortable points victory – he had established himself as the man yet again and this was confirmed just a few months later when he took down the WBC champion, Carlos Baldomir, over the course of twelve comfortable rounds.
Corrales, Castillo, Judah, Gatti… a stream of big names had fallen to Mayweather, but there was one individual with a bigger profile, and thus a bigger scalp – Oscar De La Hoya. The superfight required Mayweather to move up to light middleweight but that proved no hindrance and, with De La Hoya’s WBC title on the line, the most anticipated match up for years was set for May 5th 2007.
The contest itself was a remarkable contrast of styles. De La Hoya exploded out of the chair in the early stages and his bluff and bluster seemed to put Mayweather on the ropes. However, the man with the perfect record found the answer yet again, weathering De La Hoya’s storm without suffering any real injury and delivering some painful blows in the middle rounds to take the advantage. Nevertheless, the bout was hotly contested and still up for grabs by the final round, but it was Mayweather who took a split decision and improved his record to 38 victories with 0 defeats. Mayweather’s dominance of the sport was clear and his response was to retire, citing the absence of any further challenges.
However, this declaration proved hollow, as expected. When Manchester’s Ricky Hatton called out Mayweather, the latter responded. Moving down to light welterweight again and relinquishing the title he captured from De La Hoya, Mayweather stepped into the ring to face the Great British hope Ricky ‘the hitman’ Hatton on December 8th. The fight was promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and saw a rabid influx of Brits to the Las Vegas strip. Mayweather outclassed and out-boxed Hatton. Referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight in the 10th after Hatton was dropped to the canvas for the second time in the round.
Brash, loud and forever in your face, Mayweather’s personality is there for all to see. However, he has been surprisingly restrained in his celebrity lifestyle, choosing only to really flaunt himself outside the ring in the Dancing With The Stars television series. Participating while actually training for the fight with Hatton, Mayweather was eventually the fourth celebrity voted off the show.
Mayweather Jr’s relationship with his father is well-documented, with the two currently not on speaking terms. Indeed, the younger Mayweather has cited his father as a negative influence, providing him with the knowledge of what not to do when handling his own four children (although he is separated from their mother).
Although Mayweather’s image is of a free-flowing, big puncher, the reality is decidedly otherwise. He retains the teachings during his amateur years, basing his entire performance around a strong defensive base, using an orthodox stance and the ‘shoulder roll’ (technique where the right hand is raised up high, while the left hand is nearer the waist and the right shoulder rolls around to cover the chin). It is little surprise that his ‘Pretty Boy’ nickname derives from the fact he never seems to take any damage.
However, Mayweather is more than just solid defense. Taking this as his basic stance, he launches his offence by capitalising on his opponents’ mistakes and susceptibility after his attacks have been blocked or deflected. Indeed, Mayweather has shown the propensity for decisive attacks throughout his career, most notably in his demolition jobs on Phillip Ndou and Diego Corrales, and his counter-attack on DeMarcus Corley.
- WBC Champion – October 3rd 1998 – April 20th 2002
- WBC Champion – April 20th 2002 – May 22nd 2004
- WBC Champion – June 25th 2005 – March 23rd 2006
- IBF Champion – April 8th 2006 – June 20th 2006
- WBC Champion – November 4th 2006 – Present
- WBC Champion – May 6th 2007 – July 4th 2007