Mayweather now has pound-for-pound claim

Updated: May 20, 2004, 2:04 PM ET
By Thomas Gerbasi |

NEW YORK -- With the boxing world still reeling from Antonio Tarver's one-punch knockout of Roy Jones Jr. last weekend, another Jr., Floyd Mayweather, prepares for what he hopes will be his official coronation as boxing's mythical pound-for-pound king on Saturday, when he leaps to the junior welterweight division to battle DeMarcus Corley.

Yet if Corley plans on joining Tarver in issuing a double whammy to the pound-for-pound ranks, Mayweather isn't playing along.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather Jr. has held belts in the lightweight and super featherweight divisions.
"I don't even want him to think that he's Tarver and I'm Roy Jones," said Mayweather at the final press conference. "It ain't nothin' like that. If he gets that in the back of his mind, that's gonna get him clipped real quick."

It's the typical bravado from Mayweather, 27, who is finally starting to see the light at the end of a tunnel that has seen him sparkle in the ring, yet flounder in the court of public opinion. Now, with Jones' defeat, the boxing world (namely promoters and television networks) has no other choice than to deal with "Pretty Boy" Floyd.

"What I was telling them six years ago, they're finally seeing," said Mayweather (31-0 with 21 KOs). "It's been a long road, but everything is going to play out like it's supposed to play out. I truly believe that."

It's a shame it's taken this long. Blessed with not only an amazing skill set, Mayweather is known for his work ethic and for his willingness to fight all comers, not just talk a good game.

"Certain fights, if I feel I want to box and move, that's what I'm gonna do," he said. "But I'm gonna win. With experience I know how to win. I can throw 10 shots and win a round. I beat fighters with smarts. To be the best in this game you gotta have smarts, conditioning, and heart. If you got those three things, you can reign on top for a long time."

As the class of the class of 1996, the Grand Rapids native has reigned among the best in boxing for a number of years now, but call it neglect, call it dislike for a flashy kid with a big mouth, he's never truly gotten the recognition commensurate with his talent.

The recognition should have come after his two fights with Jose Luis Castillo, or even more recently, after his impressive stoppage of South African bomber Phillip Ndou, where all the promise was captured in a time capsule performance that should have left no doubts as to his place in today's fight scene.

"With Ndou, I told the people what I was gonna do," he said. "He's got 30-something knockouts. I told you I'll stand toe-to-toe with him and bang it out with him. And I showed you what I can do."

But now, after the loss of Jones to Tarver, Mayweather's claim as boxing's best has to be acknowledged, with the only other fighter holding a valid claim to the top spot being middleweight king Bernard Hopkins

"I feel that I'm No. 1, and I've got to put Hopkins No. 2," said Mayweather. "I knew that there was gonna be one day when everybody who used to have me No. 2 pound for pound was gonna eat their words. I knew it and I knew the day was gonna come when they would come to me and say 'Floyd, you're No. 1 pound for pound.' I appreciate it, but then it makes me look like I was playing second to somebody."

In the ring, Mayweather has yet to play second fiddle to anyone. He even brushes off his toughest fight to date, a decision win over Castillo in their first fight in April of 2002.

"I really didn't have a tough fight with Castillo," he said. "I'm being honest. I went into the fight with a torn rotator cuff and things happen in boxing. A true champion can fight through anything, and I've proved myself over and over again. I tore my shoulder on the Thursday (of fight week) and I knew I had to make weight the next day. I really didn't want to back out of the fight because these opportunities only come once in a lifetime, and you really don't know what can happen.

"With Castillo I was fighting the commentators," Mayweather continues. "If you were at the fight and not listening to the commentators, you wouldn't even look at it like that. If out of 12 rounds I win 10 and he wins two, does that mean he won the fight? No. If I win eight and he wins four, or if I win eight straight and he wins the last four, that doesn't mean he won the fight. Just like a couple of weeks ago, how is a guy (Juan Manuel Marquez) gonna get knocked down three times (by Manny Pacquiao) and still win 115-110? I just don't understand that. I could see him winning by a point, but 115-110 after being knocked down three times?"

Yet for all his in the ring brilliance, it's outside the ropes where Mayweather has struggled, not only in terms of mainstream acceptance, but also in legal terms, where he has had a number of high-profile court cases and disturbing reports haunt him for the last few years.

And through it all, he maintains his innocence, and to his credit, he has not hidden from the media like other athletes in similar situations have.

"At the end of the day I don't really have to answer to anybody but the big man upstairs," he said. "When I go to sleep at night and I know I've done what I'm supposed to do physically in the gym, and my kids are happy, I'm happy. Good press or bad press, press is press. Write about me."

We have, and we will continue to, but is the rest of the world reading? Does the rest of the world care about the brash virtuoso? We're going to find out soon enough, as Mayweather's future outside the ring is about to take an interesting turn.

This week he signed with Philadelphia-based management company NraGE, led by the two gentlemen who created the Scrunchie hair accessory, and after the Corley fight the 27-year-old finishes out his promotional contract with Top Rank.

What this means for "Pretty Boy" is that he's going to test the free agent waters from a position of power, assuming he wins on Saturday. It also means that all the past promise may finally be fulfilled. Dare it be said that Mayweather may be maturing through this whole process?

"A kid still in his 20's, flashy, loves hip-hop, likes jewelry, I can't help it," he admits. "It's a stage that you go through. But as I get older, I'm not so big into the Bentleys like I was when I was 21 or 22. I'm happy with just a nice house for me and my family and a nice car. I'm happy with that now. When I was younger, I loved all the flashy jewelry and all the fine cars. I still like to be flashy with my boxing, that's what I love, and this sport helped to get me where I'm at today."

Where he wants to be, as he said at the press conference announcing this bout, is on billboards in Times Square. Well, he's got the huge posters on the outside of the newsstands on 42nd Street, that's a start. He also talked of negotiations with Sean John and Rocawear, as well as a photo shoot as a Tommy Hilfiger underwear model. A SpikeTV documentary is also in the works. So things aren't too bad for a guy who has made a habit in the past of walking under storm clouds.

Now he just has to keep winning. But if you ask him, that won't be a problem.

"I told them before, no matter how I got there, I'm here," said Mayweather. "No matter how I won, I won. I'm good at what I do. You've got to respect it. They may say I'm cocky, they may say I'm arrogant. Say what you want to say. Floyd Mayweather's a winner."

The Floydian Future
Both Mayweather and Corley have their eyes on Arturo Gatti, who battles Leonard Dorin on July 24. Mayweather doesn't see a megafight with the human highlight film ever materializing.

"He don't want to fight for real," said Mayweather of Gatti. "HBO needs to go and make the fight. They know they can make the figh,t and they don't like me to say it. They don't want it because they know they can take Gatti and let him fight these other guys who are not A-class fighters, but I've got to fight A-class fighters. He can fight these B- and C-rated fighters, and they can milk that and they can get good ratings. Y'all can keep doing good ratings with Gatti and keep putting him on there, but let me take his belt from him to show what type of fighter he is. HBO knows it, and Gatti knows in his heart that he can't beat me. Just like DeMarcus Corley knows. He's a good fighter, but he's beat already in his heart."

And while there is plenty of talent at 140 pounds, Mayweather has made no bones about jumping up as high as 154 pounds to challenge Oscar De La Hoya, who blew off such talk from the 1996 Olympian. But in between is welterweight champion Cory Spinks, who jawed with "Pretty Boy" after "The Next Generation" decisioned Mayweather pal Zab Judah in April.

"Cory Spinks is a good fighter, but he's scared of me," said Mayweather. "I know it. I know when I've got a fighter beat. I beat you mentally before I beat you physically. It's the fight that he wants. He's trying to get to the seven-figure level. My goal is to get to the eight-figure level for one fight."