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Undefeated, Unafraid, Unpopular
RICHARD HOFFER
June 27, 2005
This Saturday night, the ultratalented Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight Arturo Gatti for the super lightweight title. It's his biggest bout yet. Few will be rooting for him
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June 27, 2005

Undefeated, Unafraid, Unpopular

This Saturday night, the ultratalented Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight Arturo Gatti for the super lightweight title. It's his biggest bout yet. Few will be rooting for him

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Floyd Sr. fought six more years before retiring, then devoted himself to the instruction of Floyd Jr. in the art of boxing. He also dabbled in the distribution of cocaine in detergent boxes. By the time Floyd Sr. was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1993 and sentenced to 5 1/2 years, Floyd Jr. was already a star in the making at 16, headed for the '96 Olympics (bronze).

Don Hale, a Grand Rapids businessman who managed fighters, took Little Floyd in while Big Floyd was in the Big House. It struck him as odd that no Mayweathers protested the move, not even Floyd Jr.'s beloved grandmother, who was helping raise him. Hale treated him like one of his sons, albeit a slightly wayward one, and continued the grooming of a future champion.

"Floyd [Jr.] had a lot of issues," Hale says, "but I believed we were making headway." Hale says he worked to keep him in school--got him within a credit of an adult education degree--and ironed out every scrape he got into. He even took Floyd Jr. to see his father in prison. "He didn't want to go," says Hale. "Their relationship was all boxing, nothing else."

Hale would have loved to have been Mayweather's manager when Floyd Jr. turned pro after the Olympics, but Arum and competing manager Shelly Finkel wooed Mayweather hard in Atlanta, and the fighter ended up with Arum.

Say what you will about the Mayweathers, but they are not greatly discouraged by upheaval. Floyd Sr. got out of prison in 1997 and pronounced himself his son's trainer. That arrangement lasted about three years, until the father's overbearing ways wore down Floyd Jr., who by then was the family breadwinner. "Lasted longer than I thought," says Hale. Undeterred, Floyd Sr. morphed into a trainer-poet, hooking up with Oscar De La Hoya and enlivening many a press conference with ridiculous and self-congratulatory rhymes. "I'm proud of him," says Floyd Jr., "but always remember: I put my dad in the position he's in."

Their relationship is not exactly estranged--they talk, and Floyd Sr. sees his grandchildren--but it's not the final reel of a Hollywood movie either. Little Floyd, who rarely resists making a crack at his father's expense, ensured another generation's worth of familial fissures by naming his uncle Roger (Floyd Sr.'s younger brother) his trainer.

And in an attempt to reach the urban audience, Floyd Jr. enlisted rap-album producer James Prince as his manager late in 1999, but that ended after four years. He then threw in his lot with a couple of Philadelphia businessmen who made a fortune selling the Scrunchie. That ended quickly. However, Mayweather has not despaired of achieving greatness, or even love, or maybe lots of money, but will simply do it in his own time, his own way.

Later in the evening, at midnight actually, a call goes out through the gym, rousing Mayweather's hangers-on, sparring partners, trainers, hand-wrappers, drivers. Mayweather suddenly wants to run, and so he does, eight miles in the cool desert air, the moonlight on his back.

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