Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Kelly: Floyd Mayweather is ready to complete his family’s legacy

A man from Brazil slides up and puts his arm around Floyd Mayweather Sr. He's holding a small camera in his other, outstretched hand, filming as he speaks. The elder Mayweather looks confused and uncomfortable. He doesn't know this person.

"Give me a hug," the Brazilian says. "You're the boss. Say just a message for [Conor] McGregor."

Floyd Sr. is trying to process this. Since he spent 17 years as a professional fighter, it takes longer than it would for most people.

Story continues below advertisement

Kelly: The lesson behind Mayweather-McGregor: The low road has high margins

"I will kick your ass …" the Brazilian suggests.

Video: Mayweather, McGregor stay somewhat calm in final news conference (Reuters)

"No," Floyd Sr. says, still processing, and irritated at being rushed.

Finally, he lifts a finger, conducting his own tiny orchestra. He's a thickly built man, but his hands are small and unusually delicate. Sugar Ray Leonard once suggested they're the reason Floyd Sr. was good, but never great.

"McGregor. Come on down … [another long pause] … your ass is whupped before you get here."

It's not pithy stuff, but the small crowd that's gathered laughs loudly. A few people reach out to pat the 64-year-old. Floyd Sr. looks around hopefully, a "Was that good?" expression on his face.

An hour later, Floyd Sr.'s son offers up his last thoughts before Saturday night's fight. He's working an obvious angle here – the quiet warrior.

Story continues below advertisement

In his career, Floyd Jr. has made several personality switchbacks. He was at first the humble aspirant. After he'd won a few, he became the preening cartoon. Then he was the misunderstood genius who would go unappreciated in his own time. Now, at 40, he's circled back around to the beginning – humble again, and wiser. He's a man redeemed by experience. That's his latest shtick.

His father is the key prop in that exercise.

Floyd Jr. begins his remarks with a long list of thank yous. Floyd Sr. gets the third mention, after God and The Money Team. Family ranks fourth.

Family is the long, frayed thread that runs through the entirety of Mayweather's career. This may be the rare case where the cliché is true – he was raised in a gym.

Both of his father's brothers were also professional boxers. One was a world champion.

At different points, all three men have been Mayweather's trainer. The lessons began when he was still in the crib. According to the well-tended legend, Mayweather first displayed his signature move – the shoulder roll he uses to shrug away blows – while in diapers.

Story continues below advertisement

"It was the only thing he knew and people were praising him for it," Mayweather's uncle, Jeff, once told The New York Times. He "almost didn't have a choice" about his calling.

Like so many of these sorts of up-by-your-bootstraps stories, there were several sad dips. A relative shot Floyd Sr. in a domestic squabble. He spent the final years of his son's childhood in jail. Once he got out, Floyd Jr. was a serious comer and had his own ideas. Their reunion was not a happy one.

"He acts like he made me by himself," Floyd Jr. said a decade ago. He "came back when I was 21, and he thought everything I had was his."

Floyd Sr. avenged himself by training his son's rivals. He threatened to give away his son's secrets to Oscar De La Hoya. There were several attempts at reconciliation before they got it right.

Floyd Sr. no longer trained his boy, but instead served as his more palatable, surrogate id. All the things Floyd Jr. did not want to say out loud, his father said for him.

Whatever physical gifts Floyd Sr. lacked, he was given in abundance as a charmer. Unlike his son, he can say awful things about people – McGregor is a "clown" and Saturday's fight is "a joke" – and they do not come off as malicious. The pounding he took in the ring has flattened Floyd Sr.'s aspect into one of gentle amusement. Very little seems to bother him.

A lot of things bother Floyd Mayweather Jr. You can tell that straight off. You suspect the reason he wears sunglasses indoors is to protect innocent bystanders from the sweep of his death stare. This is a man perpetually coiled in anticipation of an insult.

He doesn't field many of those on Wednesday. The final public meeting between the two fighters is an odd, celebratory affair. Everyone up on stage has a smug, just-won-the-lottery ease.

Since there is no belt on offer, they've made one up. It's called the Money Belt.

The Money Belt is a ridiculous thing made from "alligator leather that comes from Italy" (where there are no alligators), embossed with thousands of precious stones.

"As you can see, it's one full crocodile," World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman says, confusingly, as he strokes it.

Everyone comes over to give the phony belt an appreciative pet. Everyone except Mayweather.

He's here to offer a benediction to the sport and his family's legacy in it.

On the charge that he's spent 21 years avoiding the hardest fights: "It's called smarts. It's called having an IQ. It's called having patience."

On his outlook: "I was born a fighter. I will die a fighter."

On his advantage as a middle-aged combatant: "From Day 1, everything that my dad taught me, I still know to this day. Every combination I was taught, I know."

All this reflectiveness unsettles McGregor. As Mayweather gets deeper into his reveries, the Irishman begins furiously working his chewing gum. When Mayweather praises him as a "great fighter," McGregor does an excruciated shimmy in his chair and cranes his neck back. Three days early, Mayweather is already slipping McGregor's best shots.

Out in the audience, someone from the Mayweather retinue begins taunting McGregor.

From up on the dais, Mayweather tells his rogue teammate to "shut up."

McGregor pounces: "He told you to shut up."

When the guy shuts up, McGregor says gleefully, "Good [expletive]."

It's too crude for the room and McGregor realizes he's aimed wide again.

As the fighters go chest to chest for the final picture, McGregor tries to invade the thin wedge of personal space left to his opponent. When that doesn't work, he pulls off his sunglasses. McGregor's standing on tiptoes to exaggerate the height difference. He's clearly hoping for something to kick off.

Mayweather remains stock still throughout, arms hanging easily at his sides. This was always a mismatch, and is looking more so with each passing moment.

As it ends, the heckler is back at it, shouting unintelligibly. Before McGregor can say anything, Mayweather wheels toward his own loudmouth and says, "If you're going to be in here, carry yourself in according fashion. I told you that."

It's something you'd say to a naughty boy. Having spent so long playing the role of angry child who would not be tamed, Mayweather has decided he wants to be the father now.

Logic tells you this fight is it for him. When Mayweather wins it, he will own the roundest record in history – 50-0. No one will ever think of him as the best ever – too cautious in his choices, too cagey in the ring – but that record is unassailable.

He says his postfight plans are to "relax on my yacht and begin the counting game." He has tax problems, but you have to believe that a hundred or two hundred million – whatever the final number actually is – will take care of them.

If that's not enough incentive, Floyd Sr. has another odd job in camp – as cautionary tale. The elder Mayweather has the slurred diction and occasional lapses of someone who has absorbed too much punishment. The wheels do not turn as they should.

Both men have made serious mistakes. Both have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, their lives riven by anger and feuding. But the son did one thing differently – he learned to avoid being hit.

"I don't think he needs to do it no more," Floyd Sr. says, shaking his head with a vigour you can tell pains him. "I don't think it's a wise thing to do."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Sports columnist

  More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.