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Mayweather invites vitriol in other ways too. He has an almost obsessive concern with his undefeated record and flaunts it regularly. In the weeks leading up to his fight with Mosley, Mayweather ruffled more than a few feathers by claiming that he was the greatest fighter of all time. Not one of the greatest. The greatest. And although such alltime pound-for-pounders as Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns shrugged off Mayweather's statements ("A fighter has to think that way," said Leonard), their subdued response only underscored his negative persona.
Creating that persona has been, in part, a Mayweather strategy. When HBO came up with the reality series 24/7 to hype his 2007 pay-per-view showdown with Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather used the show to bash De La Hoya and creep under his skin. He took the same tack with Mosley. In the weeks leading up to their fight Mayweather intimated that Mosley, who admitted to having unknowingly used performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, had used steroids before many of his fights. He called Mosley an idiot while slamming him for firing his own father as his trainer before his '09 fight with Antonio Margarito. Irony, it seems, eludes Mayweather.
Of course, in part it is just an act. "Sometimes you just got to put on a show," says Mayweather. And you can't argue with the results: Mayweather is boxing's biggest moneymaker; his fights had generated 5.5 million pay-per-view buys before the bout with Mosley, which is likely to add at least another million to that total. The popular De La Hoya was expected to be the star of 24/7, but the cocky, foul-mouthed Mayweather and his dysfunctional family soon took over. "When we started getting the footage in, I almost fell off my chair," says HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg. "Floyd was tailor-made for this series. There is an uptick in the ratings whenever Floyd is on the series."
With Mayweather, however, it's unclear just what is image and what is reality. Take his GOAT boasts. "When he says he is better than Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, he believes that," says Floyd Sr. And is he? "Well," says Senior, "that's a matter of opinion."
No discussion of Mayweather is complete without delving into who's next. "The ultimate goal is to try to find a fighter who can beat me," he says. The 31-year-old Pacquiao, generally recognized as the only other claimant to the title of best boxer pound for pound, is at the top of the list. But Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, says blood testing for performance-enhancing drugs is not on the table, citing Pacquiao's discomfort with having his blood drawn during training. Mayweather, who submitted to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's random blood and urine testing before the Mosley fight, insists that all his future opponents will be held to that standard. "We must be on an even playing field," says Mayweather. "Too many fighters are dying. I'm a clean athlete. I'm doing it the old-fashioned way."
Mayweather's motives are suspect—there wasn't a peep from him about performance-enhancing drugs until he was faced with fighting Pacquiao, who has been dogged by rumors of steroid use—but the issue is real. Former boxing champions Frans Botha, James Toney and Fernando Vargas have all tested positive for steroids. Blood testing isn't perfect (there are designer PEDs it cannot yet detect), but it's the best resource available.
If a deal can't be struck with Pacquiao, there is another intriguing possibility. Last month Sergio Martínez defeated Kelly Pavlik for the WBC and WBO middleweight titles. Martínez is a natural 154-pounder—the same weight at which Mayweather fought De La Hoya—who moved up to 160 to face Pavlik. Martínez's promoter, Lou DiBella, says Martínez would "stand on his head" for the chance to fight Mayweather, and the possibility of adding a middleweight title (and another eight-figure payday) seemed to resonate with Mayweather. "Maybe," he said with a sly smile. "It's interesting."
A leap to 160 is a big challenge, but it is doubtful Mayweather has ever been stronger. The union between his father and uncle will never be blissful, but it has become civil, with both men accepting their roles in Junior's world. In the locker room after the Mosley bout an exhausted Roger slumped into a chair next to Floyd Sr., who looked down and nodded at his younger brother, a silent acknowledgment of a job well done.
And having the wisdom of the two experienced (albeit quirky) trainers seems to have fueled Junior's fire. Two days before the Mosley fight Mayweather's longtime friend and adviser Leonard Ellerbe was sitting down to dinner when his phone began to hum. It was Mayweather, calling to summon Ellerbe back to the gym for a late-night workout. Such workouts are highly unusual so close to a fight. As he left for the gym, Ellerbe leaned over to one of his dinner companions and whispered, "Floyd wants to be perfect."
For the moment, he is.