Floyd Sr. not letting family ties get in the way of his job
The vast majority of us could not even conceive of it.
But Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Sr. both say that it will be just another day at the office when the father trains Oscar De La Hoya to fight the son on May 5, 2007.
|De La Hoya|
Yes, the father, Floyd Sr., will be in the corner across from his son, whispering tidbits of knowledge as his fighter, De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs), attempts to dethrone Floyd Jr. (37-0, 24 KOs) from his perch as the best pound-for-pound pugilist in the sport today.
Maybe another day at the office, if you're Tony Soprano and Company ...
Mayweather Sr., 53, trained his son as a youth, and again later in his pro career before the son split off from the dad.
The son and the father split in bitter fashion, in 2000, and Junior asked his father's younger brother, Roger Mayweather, 45, to take over tutorial duties.
Floyd Jr., 29, and his father have engaged in a caustic back-and-forth since they parted ways. That verbal sparring is certain to intensify in the coming months between boxing's best pound-for-pound practitioner, and the last remaining megastar in the sport, De La Hoya.
Both Mayweathers were reached by phone on Tuesday, and each was asked about his attitude toward the unprecedented tableau that will unfold in May.
"The fight is going to happen," the elder Mayweather said. "It will be my brother and my son in the other corner."
Will there be any mixed emotions? Floyd Sr. was asked.
"There will be no mixed emotions," he said. "I'll be calm, cool and collected. I've been in this world so long, I've seen it all."
Junior said that his mind, too, will be firmly on De La Hoya when the bell sounds. The fractious dealings with Dad won't impede his performance, he said, evidence that the father and the son do share traits of concentration.
Senior understands that people will be talking about the setup, and chattering that it's unnatural that a father would train a fighter to defeat his own flesh and blood. He has trained De La Hoya for the last six years, and he doesn't think this May outing is all that different from the eight preceding it.
"This is my life," he said. "It's my world, my way of living. I don't let anybody take my living away from me.
"I mean, who instigated this? I was training Oscar before this fight came about. All I do is my job."
Couldn't Floyd Sr. excuse himself from the case, as it were, citing conflict of interest?
"If I do, I'll lose," he said. "Then Floyd and Oscar and my brother will get the proceeds."
A rivalry between the brothers as to who is the most accomplished of mentors in the sweet science has percolated for a few years, and this bout is sure to up the ante to a boil. (Roger Mayweather is currently in prison in Nevada serving a six-month sentence for battery, and attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.)
"I'll do my job," said Floyd Sr., who retired in 1990 with a 30-6-1 mark. "I'm the best at it and the night of May 5, we won't have to talk about it."
Roger, nicknamed the "Black Mamba," enjoyed more acclaim as a pro, winning a junior welterweight title in the late '80s. But Floyd Sr. says his methods as a trainer are superior, and that claim will be borne out when his top student and his son square off.
"When I'm in the corner, it makes a big difference," he said. "It will make a big difference if Oscar listens. If he doesn't, he'll make it a problem. But he hired me, and he wants to listen. I know what to do to get the job done."
His son disagreed.
"My father can say whatever he wants to say," the WBC welterweight champion said. "He's said he taught me everything I know but not everything he knows. I'm glad he didn't, because then my record would be like his."
"He lost to one legend, Sugar Ray Leonard [by 10th-round TKO in 1978] but his other losses were to journeymen and cab drivers."
De La Hoya will be 34 years old come fight time, having fought only once in 2005 (a ninth-round knockout loss to Bernard Hopkins) and in 2006 (a sixth-round TKO win over Ricardo Mayorga).
The Golden Boy will enter the bout as an underdog, against a man knee-deep in the prime of his career. Floyd Sr. concedes that his son will hold an edge in the speed department, but insists that won't rule the contest.
"Speed means nothing, there's something called timing," he said. "You can be three or four times faster and it means nothing if you don't hit the target. You will see, at 34, it's all about timing."
Senior expects his son to try to score while retreating, in order to minimize the intended damage coming from the larger De La Hoya (who last fought as a welterweight in March 2001).
"L'il Floyd can't just run backward," his father said. "He thinks he'll run, but he's got to throw. And Oscar will throw and he'll do it with bad intentions. Oscar will come straight forward and we'll make sure his hands are up good and he'll block punches."
Not to worry, Junior said. Come May 5, there will be plenty of toe-to-toe action.
"The last fight will be toe-to-toe," he said. "Oscar won't have to chase me, I'll be coming forward."
Regarding Junior's last bout, the father said, one should be overwhelmed with Floyd Jr.'s victory, a unanimous decision over Argentina's Carlos Baldomir on Nov. 4.
"Baldomir's as slow as ketchup coming out of a bottle. Heinz ketchup," he specified, "because that's the slowest I know. Floyd should've looked like Sugar Ray Robinson against Baldomir. He's nothing but a punching bag with a swivel on top."
Senior implied that a loss to Oscar would take L'il Floyd down a needed notch, give him a healthy slice of humble pie.
The son dismissed such talk as the grumblings of an elder.
"My dad is a grumpy old man," he said. "I respect him as a man and a trainer, but he wishes his career went like mine."
The trainer promised that his expertise will speak loudest next summer.
"I don't have to whip his ass," Senior said, "but I'll still spank him. That night, he will respect me even if we don't speak again, he will respect my skills. He'll know he shouldn't have been on the other side of the fence."
The son concedes that there is a chance, even if it's slim, that his unblemished record might go in May, and that Dad will pass on a few telling tidbits of wisdom that might turn the tide to the Golden Boy.
"My father should win trainer of the year if Oscar beats me," he said. "I know when we win, Roger will get trainer of the year."
This fight will feature a stunning plot, the Golden Boy against Pretty Boy Floyd, and sizzling subplot, the father vs. the son. All due respect to the Mayweathers, but this fight, and this family dynamic, is unlike any day at the office most of us have ever experienced. And the pay-per-view numbers, we suspect, will reflect that.
Michael Woods, the news editor for TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and the New York Observer.