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Mayweather now has pound-for-pound claim

5/20/2004

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.

"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."