Floyd Mayweather on how to make -- and spend -- a buck
Boxing nicknames can be funny, sometimes to the point of parody. There are "Dominators" with losing records, "Destroyers" with little punching power, plodding "Ghosts." But Floyd Mayweather's nom de guerre, "Money," fits perfectly. The man makes more coin than any athlete in the world and tops the 2013 incarnation of SI's annual Fortunate 50 list. By our estimates, even if he fights only twice a year, Mayweather will earn in the neighborhood -- a decidedly upscale neighborhood -- of $100 million. This is mostly on account of an unprecedented Showtime deal that guarantees him $32 million per fight before the first pay-per-view buy is tabulated.
But Mayweather also spends money as heroically as he earns it. There are the fleets of luxury cars on both coasts. (The white ones are in Vegas; the black ones in Miami.) There's the private plane. There are the gambling sprees, small fortunes lost and gained on the halftime scores of Horizon League games. It was 50 Cent, Mayweather's frenemy, who recently summed up Money's financial planning this way: "It's fight, get the money, spend the money, fight. Fight, get the money, spend the money, fight."
Not so, says Mayweather. On the eve of his May 4 bout against Robert Guerrero -- an easy decision that pushed his record to 44-0 -- Mayweather sparred with SI on the topic of his finances.
SI: I want to talk about money.
Mayweather: Well, let's talk about it.
SI: You're number one on our Fortunate 50 list, ahead of LeBron, Tiger, the Mannings, Kobe —
Mayweather: Tiger Woods, LeBron James, all the guys you just named, all of them are amazing athletes. It's really not about the money.
SI: In this case, it is about the money.
Mayweather: It's about legacy. It's about legacy. It's about breaking records. Of course you want your name to live. You want your name to live on forever in a sport that you're involved with. You want your name to live on forever in entertainment, no different from a guy like Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, my icons. So I'll keep my fingers crossed. Hopefully someday my name will be mentioned among some of the best, not just athletes, but entertainers.
SI: Your income will more be more than that of any other athlete this year. What do you think that says?
Mayweather: Surround yourself with the right team. It takes brains to make the money. Surround yourself with brains. Leonard Ellerbe [a Mayweather advisor] has a Masters in business. Al Haymon, you know, of course, Harvard. Both are shrewd businessmen and they bring a lot to the table. I wasn't fortunate enough to graduate from high school, but I wanted to make a way for my family, so I went to the 12th grade. I was in the 12th grade. And my mom, she was in a rough situation. My family was in a rough situation. She didn't have health insurance and things like that... we actually lived in a project building, seven people in a one bedroom apartment with no hot water. You know, my dream was always to be -- I always knew I would be huge someday. So I said, whatever it takes to put my family in a good position. So that's what I did. I always knew I would be huge.
SI: When did you first feel rich?
Mayweather: You've got to be rich at heart first. You gotta be rich at heart, because you can't chase the money. You really can't chase it. It's not about chasing money. It will come to you if you're doing what you're supposed to do.
SI: What's the adjustment to go in a fairly short amount of time from that kind of poverty to this kind of wealth?
Mayweather: You've got to realize this. My dad hustled. My dad used to box, also. So, you know, my dad had street money, so it was cool.
SI: What does money mean to you?
Mayweather: Money is just comfort. I'm very, very thankful for where I'm at, because I'm able to put my family in a comfortable position. I was just having a talk with my fiancee about that, because no relationship is perfect. We go through ups, we go through downs. I was just telling her, Money is just comfort, I said. But, of course I want to have the finer things in life, and I want you to have the finer things in life.
SI: Stop saying that. It's your nickname, man. Come on.
Mayweather: Yeah, Floyd "Money" Mayweather. Well, it's out with the old, in with the new. When I left the sport, when I took a couple years off, it was a two-year vacation, just resting up. Just like in WWE, you know, I left "Pretty Boy Floyd." I had a nice little haircut. I came back, bald head, Floyd "Money" Mayweather. You've got to change. You know, you have to show your versatility. You have to be able to adapt and adjust. So that's what it is.
SI: How do you wrap your brain -- we were just doing the math, and it's something like, $10,000 an hour.
Mayweather: I don't really like to -- a lot of people like to say, Well, you make more money than --
SI: A CEO?
Mayweather: They say, Take five top basketball players and you make more money. I don't like to. Love and loyalty is more important than money, because you want to be able to share your wealth with a person that you love and a person that's loyal to you. So that's what is really important.
SI: You're known for flash, the cars, the planes, you're tweeting [photos] of your gambling slips. How much of that is part of your persona and how much --
Mayweather: It's just more like to say, OK, I'm guaranteed over $30 something million. That's a guarantee, but we ain't talking about how much money I could potentially make. I could go out there and potentially make $60 million a night.
SI: But I'm saying, some of the flash --
Mayweather: When it's all said and done, no matter what no one says, I did it my way. Nobody was -- you're not forced to watch me. Nobody is forced to watch me. I want them to watch, but they're not forced to watch. It's all about entertainment.
SI: That's kind of my point.
Mayweather: Just like when you interview certain basketball players and certain football players, it seems like it's rehearsed. Everybody gets basically the same interview because it's just because certain things they cannot say because they will get fined. When it's dealing with my company and my situation, it's a little bit different because I'm the CEO of my company. Well, I'm not the CEO. Leonard Ellerbe is CEO. But I'm the president of my company, and basically I call the shots. What I want is what I get at my own company.
SI: You're a good-looking guy. You've never lost. You're at the top of your sport. Are you surprised more endorsements haven't come your way?
Mayweather: I am endorsed by the Money Team.
SI: Coke, Nike, Pepsi?
Mayweather: So with not having endorsements, that don't define who I am. I look at the situation like this: Look at every athlete that has a large, long-term endorsement and tell me, have they been at the top longer than me and have they accomplished what I've accomplished? You look at certain guys, they got certain cases, they take a lot of losses and Nike endorsed them. Like I said before, I'm not just any athlete. I feel like I deserve to get the line this year. So I'm not saying that I don't want to be with Nike. I'm not saying I don't want to be with adidas or Reebok or Under Armour or nothing like that, no Pepsi or Coca-Cola, but you got to pay. You have to pay.
SI: Now that the ink is dried, if you're Showtime, do you make that deal with Floyd Mayweather?
Mayweather: I went to HBO and just tried to negotiate the best deal for myself, something that was going to put me in a long term good predicament for me and my family. I'm not just thinking about me. I'm not always thinking about the short term. I'm thinking about after my career is over. What is the best situation for Floyd Mayweather after my career is over? Showtime gave me a deal that I couldn't refuse. They gave me everything I asked for and even more. The things that CBS can do and Showtime can do, it's truly amazing. As far as when I say things that they can do, like, you have never seen a boxer at the Final Four with 20 million people viewing in on the Final Four. Basically, that was a small commercial right there promoting the fight, which is a great thing. Those are the types of things that's CBS can do.
It was so crazy that the head guys from CBS came to me and said, Floyd, after 30 months we want to do another deal with you. I was like, Hold on. Just slow down. First let's get past this. If I do another deal, by that time, I'd probably made a billion dollars with you guys. So like I said before, when my career is over in 30 months, my main focus is just the up and coming young fighters under my banner, taking them to the next level. Like I said, I like my name to be involved with things that are successful. It's all about involving your name with things that are successful, because that's long term.
SI: When a business is successful here, first thing they want to do is expand globally, whether it's Coca-Cola or cigarettes. How much of a priority is that?
Mayweather: One thing I think is so crazy is that I'm the most paid athlete and I endorse myself. Themoneyteam.com, of course, is where you can go and get hats, shirts and just different gear. Like I said before, it's not about the money, though.
SI: So LeBron is tight with Warren Buffet; Roger Federer is tight with Larry Ellison. Are there any captains of industry billionaires that you look up to?
Mayweather: I've got billionaire tycoon buddies, but I keep that separate, to the side. You know, I do good business and I have good investments. Good investments. Money is put up good and I'm comfortable and I'm very happy.
SI: You've seen the whole litany of athletes, Tyson...
Mayweather: Well, I'm not here to talk bad about Mike Tyson. Everybody is always here to judge Mike Tyson, right? Nobody can say how Mike Tyson feels. Nobody can say what they would've done if they was in Mike Tyson's shoes. You know, he did it his way, and I'm going to do it my way. Like I said before, I've got a lot of money, but money is made to be spent. You know what I'm saying? What's the use of making hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars but you can't enjoy it, you know?
SI: I didn't mean Tyson specifically. A lot of athletes, when they stop performing, the finances are rough. What is the end game for you here?
Mayweather: We'll see. We'll just have to see.
SI: How do you provide for your children -- give them what you didn't have growing up -- and still keep them grounded?
Mayweather: I try not to make the same mistakes with my children [that my father made]. I try to give them the finer things in life, but I also try to teach them about having manners and being very, very responsible and having responsibilities. My job is to keep a roof over your head and keep food in your mouth, and your job is to go to school....I feel like of course people are going to respect me more than they respect my children because I'm self made. I did it from the ground up. They're going to feel like my kids had it handed to them, handed down to them; whereas myself, I built it from the ground up.
SI: How did [prison] affect your view toward money?
Mayweather: I got different offers and huge deals when I was locked up with CEOs from different companies writing me, wanting to do business with me, Fortune 500 companies wanting to do business with me. But my main focus was just coming home and being free. Because I was feeling like this: You can have all the money in the world, but if you're not free, you need your freedom to be able to enjoy it well. Because if you're locked up and you're rich, it's like being poor because you can't do anything.
SI: Money, power—
SI: What's your choice?
Mayweather: All three.
SI: You gotta pick one.
Mayweather: I can't.
SI: You're saying they're interwoven?
Mayweather: I feel like this about the money: Money can put you in a powerful position to meet powerful people. And the thing is this, if I give you respect you have to give me respect. If you've got money, you could put people in powerful positions. Like I said before, my fiancee and I were talking about this. I wrote her an email and basically told her: seven years ago you were Shantel. When they see you now they don't even call you by your name. They just say that's Ms. Jackson and you're labeled as Floyd Mayweather's fiancee. So you've always got to be careful how you move and where you go, because if they define you with money, if somebody sees you as desperate, they do crazy things. So every move you've got to be smart and you've got to make the right moves.
SI: Tell us about your best investment.
Mayweather: I don't want to put that out there. I don't want anybody taking the blueprint of what I do. I keep that to myself. Just know that I'm in a good position.
SI: I'll be honest with you, I think people would be surprised if they heard this interview. What happened to the flashy --
Mayweather: See, you had a chance to meet me so now you understand. You're like, Hold on. What the hell? No, you just see that on TV. I'm not just all flashy, no. When life comes to action, you gotta give them what they want to see. It's entertainment. I'm far from a dummy.