Golden Boy vs. Pretty Boy
Can Saturday's showdown make the average fan care about the sport again?
Posted: Tuesday May 1, 2007 8:55AM; Updated: Wednesday May 2, 2007 9:17PM
Oscar De La Hoya, the most acclaimed boxer of his era, has a loving family and a budding business empire. He needs one more victory to gild his Hall of Fame career -- and wants one more whopping payday.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth, has a chaotic family, an impish sense of humor and a willingness to play the bad guy. What he craves now is the world's recognition.
In a Las Vegas gym, far from the boardrooms, Floyd Mayweather Jr. chops at a heavy bag, slowly circling it, punch by punch. "I like [whomp!] having [whomp!] $10,000 [whomp!] in my [whomp!] pocket." His personal videographer, who has eight years' worth of film to edit so far, revolves with him, trying to keep out of the way of Mayweather's personal photographer, who is in similar orbit. "I like [whomp!] having a [whomp!] cook [whomp!]. I like [whomp!] having [whomp!] a driver." Two assigned punch counters (one is counting by hand -- "seven, eight, nine, 2,000!" -- the other clicking on a small device for backup) move with him, adding to the effect of a small but needlessly complicated planetary system. Mayweather chops away, narrating his lifestyle, as if his work here requires explanation. "I like [whomp!] having [whomp!] a big house." The entourage shuffles along in cycloid congestion, documenting and affirming, until Mayweather suddenly drops his arms, not so much because they are tired as because he has begun to repeat himself. Above all, it seems, he likes having (whomp!) $10,000 in his pocket. Everyone is pleased with the drill, clapping and whistling. The man with the clicker shows me the count: 6,261. I remember now that Mayweather had, altogether spontaneously, set out to "crack off" 1,000 straight punches, to the delight and astonishment of the crowd gathered near the ring. He has (whomp!) overshot.
As he moves off, a dozen people trailing in his gravitational wake, I marvel at such wonderful desperation. You see this only at the highest levels of performance. Mayweather's drive is so deep-seated that at first it's hard to see the doubt that inspires him, and he tends to come off as heedless, irrepressible and, above all, childish. He never seems at work, but rather at play. In fact, the day's training is in jeopardy when somebody produces a giant jar of Twizzlers. The camp has taken on Mayweather's attention-deficit persona and is impossible to keep on track for very long. Everyone dives into the jar. Crazy. How much is at stake here? How many hundreds of millions? Then again, didn't Mayweather, at 3 a.m. this very day, spring upright in bed and send out a call to gather everybody at the gym? I imagine that gloomy phone tree. It was, however, by no means the first time that the gang had assembled in the Nevada moonlight. Indeed, like firefighters wired to answer alarms, they do it all the time, only these men are chronically attuned to whim.
1 of 5