Boxing’s first family got into the sport in the most cliched fashion possible: Floyd Mayweather Sr. saw some Grand Rapids South High School bullies regularly shaking down classmates for lunch money, and rather than become one of their victims, he fought back and became a boxer.
So was his largesse years later, after his own boxing career, after his federal prison stint, after the breakup with his son, after Oscar De La Hoya hired him as trainer and made him rich. Four years they worked together. But Floyd Mayweather Sr., like the son who bears his name and will fight Manny Pacquiao in a titanic May 2 event, had weaknesses. Clothes and jewelry were the biggest. Loans became giveaways. He had two cars and one house too many.
The challenges of being broke, he knew. The challenges of big, quick money were foreign.
“The first time, the million dollars got gone,” Mayweather Sr. said.
He had trained De La Hoya for a couple of years, making low- to mid-six-figure windfalls each fight. He questioned his financial adviser. There was, indeed, mismanagement going on, but not by the professional, who accounted for everything.
“He said, ‘Floyd, you kept coming up here, man, getting money,'” Mayweather Sr. said. “And then, I had to learn how to get smart.”
He got his finances straightened out and earned the next million well before his working relationship with De La Hoya ended in 2006, when the first serious rumblings about a Mayweather-De La Hoya fight the following year began, and the father opted not to work against his son by placing a $2 million bounty on his services, knowing and certainly hoping that De La Hoya wouldn’t accept.
“Blood money,” he called his own request. And when De La Hoya offered one-fourth that amount, Mayweather Sr. happily bowed out from a job he held for four years.
Whether handling money or “Money,” the lessons learned have led the 61-year-old trainer to this, a peace with his son which led to their reunion in the trainer-fighter workforce four bouts ago, and with it a financial security that should see him into his golden years.
Mayweather Sr. sat in the living room of his luxury home in a gated community as he discussed where his journey has taken him.
Thirty years ago, he lived in a rented multi-tenant home on Dunham Street, on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.
Twenty years ago, he was serving time on a drug charge at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.
His son, while working out in preparation for Pacquiao, recalled that he could do 150 push-ups without interruption after his own jail stint in 2012, which prompted an impromptu exchange about life on the inside.
“How long did you do?” the younger Mayweather asked.
“I did 3 1/2 years,” Mayweather Sr. replied.
“But I did my time in the hole,” came the retort.
“If you do 3 1/2 years,” the father said, “it’ll kill you.”
The same day as that exchange, Mayweather Sr.’s financial adviser came by for a visit. He still has the same one, all these years later. The message, that Mayweather Sr.’s years of work have set him up for life, especially with another payday coming from what figures to be the richest fight in history, just 24 days away.
The attention crush and time demands are unique to this fight. The telephone, wired to speakers throughout the home, rings endlessly.
It has prompted some changes. Mayweather Sr. has a publicist, Californian Mark McCoy, for the first time. He has a Twitter account, though the likelihood he actually is the one punching a keyboard is not great.
His job is to prepare his 47-0 son to win the most important fight in decades, and to that end, he said the 57-5-2 Pacquiao’s tendency to hop actively on his toes then leap in with a quick combination could work against the Filipino superstar.
“You can’t just do that with Floyd, because, I mean, Floyd’s going to time him,” Mayweather Sr. said. “At some point, Floyd’s going to catch him.”
Early in the promotion, Mayweather Sr. said his son asked him to cool it on the trash talk. The only ones who seemed inclined to engage it in the first place were the trainers, Mayweather Sr. for his son, Freddie Roach for Pacquiao, who have been at each other for years.
Mayweather Sr. agreed to abide the request but said he wouldn’t retract anything said previously.
“This is a fight. It’s warfare,” he said. “It’s war on my side, it’s war on his side. So I’m not saying I’m sorry about nothing.”
In the spirit of non-trash talk, it was suggested that perhaps Mayweather Sr. — a professional contemporary of Roach’s when they were active fighters, though in different weight divisions — might have liked watching his all-action rival trainer in the ring, as many did.
“He got beat up all the (expletive) time,” Mayweather Sr. exclaimed. “Him getting his ass kicked, that’s what his name should be, ‘Kick My Ass.'”
On May 2, the fight will make many of the principals richer than they ever could have imagined.
Only one side will come out of it with a victorious legacy, and the stakes in that regard are immeasurable. They will follow all those involved for the rest of their lives.
Regardless how it turns out, Mayweather Sr. said he will continue to train fighters after his son’s career is complete.
“It’s not that I’m greedy for money,” he said. “It’s not that. I’m just saying the money I would be doing then would be for my grandkids. It wouldn’t have nothing to do with nothing else.”
For the grandkids of his other children, that is.
“Floyd,” he said, “I ain’t gotta do nothing for his kids.”