More to Mayweather than his motor mouth

Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s marathon training sessions help him cash the checks his mouth keeps writing.

Originally Published: June 21, 2005
By Thomas Gerbasi | MaxBoxing.com

NEW YORK – Try this at home. Don't do too many, just see if you can do one.

Get in the sit-up position, have someone grab your ankles, and do a sit-up.

Simple enough?

Floyd Mayweather
AP Photo/Richard DrewMayweather waltzed in front of the dais during Gatti's news conference Wednesday.

Now when your elbows hit your knees, stand up. No hands to help you, just stand.

Thought so.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked out a bunch of these bad boys Tuesday at the Kingsway Gym in midtown after going close to 30 minutes on the pads with his uncle and trainer Roger. It's one of the most amazing sights you'll see in the fight game; the type of display that stops every boxer in a busy gym in his tracks and makes seasoned vets of the sport shake their heads in awe.

But ask "Pretty Boy" Floyd about what his fight with Arturo Gatti will be on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and his answer will simply be "easy work," though when Floyd says it, it's more like "eaaaaaaaaasy work."

There's nothing easy about it, though, and for all of those who think the 28-year-old just dropped out of the sky as the perfect boxing machine, think again.

"He's not only the best fighter in the world, but he's the hardest worker that's out there," said Mayweather's adviser and conditioning coach, Leonard Ellerbe. "What impresses me the most about him is that I can come to the gym after working with him for nine years and see him working harder than he did before he became champion."

Storm Rising: Arturo Gatti vs. Floyd Mayweather
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• Mayweather chat| Deportes: Gatti | HBO PPV

For all the flash, bling and cockiness, there's a lot of sweat that went into making Mayweather a fighter, and as he enters the first pay-per-view fight of his career, the former junior lightweight and lightweight champion isn't slacking off to face a man he called a "C-plus fighter." He's pushing himself to the limits, even Tuesday, just days before the bout.

Beating out a staccato rhythm on the mitts held by Roger Mayweather, Floyd is in his own world, most of the time not even looking at the pads. It's like listening to the kids who turn over five-gallon plastic drums and pounds out a beat for loose change on city streets – if you close your eyes, you can hear an almost jazz-like progression to what's happening in the ring when Mayweather works.

"Pound for pound," a member of his camp yells out.

"Best in the game."

"Gunsmoke."

"He's a machine, ladies and gentlemen."

"Last man standing."

"Too pretty, too fast, too slick."

After a long run, it's Roger who gives out first, adjusting the mitts as his nephew paces the ring. There are no conventional rounds here – no three minutes followed by a one minute break – it seems like Mayweather could just go on all day.

"I'm ready whenever you're ready Roger," Mayweather said.

Roger steps back into the fray, and another pattern emerges, followed by another.

ARTURO GATTI-FLOYD MAYWEATHER FIGHT CARD
HBO PPV (Saturday, 9 ET)
Boardwalk Hall Atlantic City, N.J.

• Jr. welterweight: Arturo Gatti (39-6, 30 KOs) vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (33-0, 22 KOs), 12 rounds for Gatti's title
• Tape: Gatti-Mayweather | MaxBoxing: Weigh-in
• Jr. welterweight: Vivian Harris (25-1-1, 17 KOs) vs. Carlos Maussa (18-2, 16 KOs), 12 rounds for Harris' title
• Mini flyweight: Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (22-0, 5 KOs) vs. Gerardo Verde (13-1, 10 KOs), 12 rounds, for Calderon's title
• Jr. welterweight: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (19-0, 14 KOs) vs. Ruben Galvan (21-6-2, 9 KOs), 6 rounds

The trainer slaps his fighter on the shoulders – left, right, left, right. Mayweather chirps along with each shot – "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa."

Then comes a sweeping left – Gatti's money shot. Mayweather ducks precious inches under the mitt.

"Whooooaaaa," Floyd said.

"He likes working," said Roger, "and you don't have to tell him certain things."

Like when to go to the gym. Ellerbe recalls more than a few early morning calls from Mayweather.

"You never have to push him to do anything," he said. "He's the one calling me at 4 in the morning, 'Come on, I'm ready to go.' And that's when we're not training for a fight."

But when a fight is on, that's when the real work begins. In Camp Mayweather, there are no shortcuts, and if you're brought in to work with the former 1996 Olympian, you're going to work.

"It's always tough to get guys to give Floyd different looks, but we always manage to get the job done," said Ellerbe, when asked if it's tough to find Mayweather sparring partners.

And once they're in camp, it's on.

For this fight, we boxed 17 rounds [at a time], 15 rounds, 13 rounds. Sometimes we box 30 minutes straight. One sparring partner gets out, another one gets in.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. on preparing for Arturo Gatti

"They know what they're getting once they come," said Ellerbe. "They already know. Floyd is the best fighter out there, and it's a war zone. That's what hell is all about."

For Mayweather, hell means rounds that start at five minutes. When Floyd says you're done, you're done and not a second earlier.

"He'll do longer than that," said Roger, who said that eight- and nine-minute rounds were not out of the question. "It depends on how bad he wants the guy he's sparring with. A lot of times they'll go more than five-minute rounds, and they're getting paid, so they have to stay in there."

Said Floyd of his training camp for Gatti, "For this fight, we boxed 17 rounds [at a time], 15 rounds, 13 rounds. Sometimes we box 30 minutes straight. One sparring partner gets out, another one gets in."

The old saying goes, "The more you sweat, the less you bleed," and Team Mayweather seems to subscribe to this school of thought. Roger says it's a family thing, passed down from the fighting brothers (Floyd Sr., Roger, and Jeff) to the new generation.

"Thatıs how I started him," said Roger, a former junior lightweight and junior welterweight world champion. "We all did that – me, him, his daddy, and my brother. Remember one thing, if you can fight five-minute rounds, what does that tell you a three-minute round can do? Your mind only gets conditioned to what you're used to. If he's conditioned to fight five-minute rounds with only 30 seconds rest, what's gonna happen the night of the fight when you only get three-minute rounds with a minute's rest?"

You're gonna be one well-conditioned athlete, able to go 12 rounds with little difficulty. But how hard is it to go a five-minute round?

"Easy," said Roger.

Maybe it is when you've been boxing since you were in diapers, like Floyd Mayweather Jr. has.

"Floyd hasn't just got groomed to be one of the best fighters in the world," said Roger. "Floyd's been groomed from birth to be the best fighter in the world. Boxing is second nature to him. He was born with gloves on."

Mayweather used to go to the gym with his father – a welterweight contender who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard – when he was just a toddler and was given a chair to stand on to be able to hit the speed bag. There was little discussion about what Floyd Jr.'s vocation in life was going to be. He was going to be a boxer, and a world champion at that. But that was a long way away when he first put on the gloves.

To many, it might have appeared that Floyd was an overnight success when he won his first title from Genaro Hernandez at the age of 21, but that wasn't the case.

There were a lot of lean years in between the diaper days and the day he finally strapped a title belt around his waist.

"There was hard work when he wasn't getting paid – that's when fighters become fighters," said Roger. "The hard work didn't start today; it didn't start five years ago – the hard work started when he was 2 years old, when he was groomed to become world champion. That's why he is where he is today.

"He's used to winning. He ain't used to losing."

Through 33 pro fights, Mayweather has never tasted defeat, with the names Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez dotting his spotless ledger. And what was clearly evident in those bouts is that while Mayweather obviously has natural talent and a Spartan work ethic, he also has an incomparable boxing brain. He believes this is what truly sets him apart from his peers.

"It's a mental game," Floyd said. "I just don't feel that any fighter can match me mentally. I'm like a student that's at college trying to get a master's degree. Up here [pointing to his head], it's hard to match me."

It's also hard to match him physically and in the gym. That's why he's entering Saturday's fight as a big favorite, with any Gatti picks coming strictly from an emotional place.

"He can't beat me, and I know it," said Mayweather. "I've got the will to win and I'm a much smarter fighter than he is. The less you get hit, the longer you last in this sport. The smart fighter always prevails."

And he's not afraid of Gatti's "thunder."

"You can try to depend on those big shots all you want to," he said. "While he's depending on those big shots, I'm gonna be steady, pile up points, and before you know it, either his eye's gonna get closed, he's gonna bleed, or I'm gonna put him down. Whatever he wants, that's his choice."

Gatti could have never been in my time. He wouldn't have been in the top 100 in my time."
Roger Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s uncle, trainer and former pro (1981-99)

The buildup to the fight (which really needs no advance hype) has been filled with trash talk, most of it coming from Mayweather's side. He didn't back off from any of his proclamations Tuesday, and even got in a zinger when asked about Gatti's statement that he was willing to die in the ring.

"He don't really want to die," said Mayweather. "But once I get on that ass he's gonna wish he was dead."

Roger Mayweather is also dismissive of one of the most popular fighters of this generation.

"Gatti could have never been in my time," said Roger, who faced Julio Cesar Chavez (twice), Pernell Whitaker and Kostya Tszyu during his 18-year career. "He wouldn't have been in the top 100 in my time."

Harsh stuff, but it's been frustrating for Mayweather to wait this long for a pay-per-view bout, and when he gets it, he has to go to Gatti's backyard of Atlantic City to do it.

Granted, "Pretty Boy" Floyd hasn't helped himself with his out-of-the-ring indiscretions, but this isn't how the script was supposed to go for a guy believed to be the next Sugar Ray Leonard.

"I didn't want to be the next Sugar Ray Leonard, I didn't want to be the next Muhammad Ali – I want to be the first Floyd Mayweather," he insists. "Judge me for how you want to judge me – I know one thing; when I get in here, I'm the best at that. I know that for a fact."

It's hard – maybe even impossible – to argue with that. And he knows Saturday's bout could be a career-defining fight for him. So he works, and works, and works some more. C-plus fighter? Mayweather is training like he's fighting King Kong. That could be a problem if he leaves his fight in the gym.

"The hard part about working with a great athlete is that they overwork themselves," said Roger Mayweather. "And that's what I stop him from doing when it gets close to a fight You basically save your legs. Floyd don't have a weight problem, he don't get up to 180 pounds. We're probably 140 now, so why should you kill yourself after you already did the hard work? You have to conserve yourself after you did the hard work and save it for the fight."

And as an ex-fighter who has fought on this level before, Roger knows precisely when to pull in the reins.

"Me boxing, me training for fights, and me being around title fights, I know the things you have to do when it gets close," he said. "The things you do towards the end make a great deal of difference. When you get close, your body's already primed to fight, so you don't want to overwork yourself. You ain't trying to get in shape again, and if you work too hard, your body will fall flat. You want to peak at the right time, you want to be focused at the right time, and you want everything to be there at the right time. You're gonna know when the right time comes because you're gonna feel it."

As Floyd shadowboxes, doing his own form of the violent ballet that has been a part of his life since he came into the world, he's expressionless, lost in the subtle movements that keep him out of harm's way and in position to fire back deadly blows with frightening precision. It's second nature as he jabs, hooks, moves his feet and rolls his shoulders, all the while staring through the people gathered around the ring to watch him do what he does best.

He's Floyd Mayweather Jr., he's feeling it, and when you do what he does, the last word you'd associate with it is "easy."

In fact, Roger Mayweather was ready for his nephew to give him a familiar call after he finished working out.

"Get my stuff; I'm gonna run."




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