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FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. is a better businessman than we all thought. A better fighter, too. Last Saturday night's walkover against previously unbeaten Diego Corrales at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas made both points. He can do the selling and, equally, to our surprise, the shelling.
For his efforts Mayweather (25-0 with 18 KOs) not only retained his WBC 130-pound title but also earned a six-fight contract from HBO that will pay him $15 million. He is now on a career path that might lead to Oscar De La Hoya-level fame and riches, making Pretty Boy another Golden Boy. Promoter Bob Arum was already proclaiming Mayweather a meal ticket more nourishing than De La Hoya, who recently split with Arum, ever was. "This one," said the promoter after the fight, "has heart."
Mayweather, 23, who had earned a reputation as a prima donna, has brains as well. Though he has made a number of missteps in his brief career—replacing his father as manager with rap producer James Prince, bad-mouthing HBO for a previous $12.5 million, six-fight offer he termed a "slave contract" and looking uninterested in recent bouts with mediocre opponents—he now seems to see a bigger picture. He promoted the fight better than even Arum could, getting down and dirty when he had to, then delivered the goods with a magnificent show of defense and, stunningly, five knockdowns.
Of his aggressive p.r. work, in which he infuriated Corrales with reminders of Corrales's upcoming trial for spousal abuse (Corrales has pleaded not guilty), Mayweather shrugged good-naturedly. "Controversy sells," he explained. Indeed, immediately after Corrales's corner waved a towel to end the fight in the 10th round, Mayweather embraced his fellow fighter and urged that they put the prefight trash talk behind them.
Apparently there is little of Mayweather you can take at face value. His estrangement from his father, who thought his son crazy for refusing that HBO contract and got fired for his opinion, was not as serious as anyone thought either. Sure, Mayweather evicted his dad from a house he had bought him and knocked him off the payroll (Floyd Sr. now trains De La Hoya), but that's as far as it went. When Mayweather said he had a ringside ticket for his father, everyone assumed it was a stunt just as when he said he had a ringside ticket for Corrales's wife (and would put on a show for abused women everywhere). Yet there was Floyd Sr. at ringside and, at fight's end, on the dais with his son. "He's my dad," Mayweather said. "I'm always going to love my father."
He's got to love his father's advice. Although Uncle Roger is the trainer of record, Mayweather said a phone call from his father last Saturday morning not only brought tears to his eyes but also put sense into his head. Floyd Sr. told him to stick and move, show lots of feints and go to the body.
Mayweather probably had sussed that out, recognizing the 6-foot Corrales as a straight up-and-down boxer, "a robot, no special effects." His father's words nonetheless inspired him. Corrales, a former super featherweight champion who had moved up to 135 pounds until this opportunity arose, was increasingly baffled by Mayweather's gun-and-run attack. Determination seemed to evaporate as he indifferently stalked Mayweather, who proved untouchable. For all his height and reach advantage over the 5'7½" Mayweather, Corrales connected on only 60 of 205 punches.
When Mayweather began flashing left hooks to Corrales's head, knocking him down three times in the seventh round, it was clear he'd decided to put on more than just his usual defensive exhibition. Two more knockdowns in the 10th, the latter of which left Corrales splay-legged and his stepfather running up the steps with a towel, capped off a pretty nice evening for Mayweather and for boxing.
Afterward Arum was ecstatic about his new star. "Better than Sugar Ray Leonard," he gushed. "And did you see him at those press conferences...?"