Floyd Mayweather Sr. contemplated the question carefully. It clearly wasn’t something he had spent time considering, but he has been on the losing side of fights before and knows how it feels.
How would he react if his son, unbeaten in almost 19 years as a professional boxer, loses the biggest fight of his life May 2 against Manny Pacquiao?
“Hmmm? What would happen?” Mayweather Sr. said.
His tone lowered as the recollection of how defeat feels — real, personal defeat, complete with an enduring sense of loss — seemed to grip him.
“I don’t know,” Mayweather Sr. replied. “I would continue to be myself. I would continue to be myself … and I would still deal with my friends and things like that. I’m gonna be honest with you, that would be a big … I have to say it would shock the (expletive) out of me. It would shock the hell out of me. But you’ve still got to live on, man.
“I’m not going to hide because it happened. But better yet, to be honest, I’m just saying that it’s God will, you know? I think that it’ll be all right.”
His 38-year-old son rarely has had to contemplate defeat before.
Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) is boxing’s undisputed pound-for-pound king as he prepares to face Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs).
He lost six times as an amateur, the last time in the 1996 Olympic featherweight semifinals as a 19-year-old.
Losing, he said, is “really not my focus.”
“I just feel like when you get to this level, you’re making nine figures in 36 minutes, you have to be a winner,” Mayweather said. “If a fighter lost before, losing is in the back of his mind. For me, all I’ve done in my career is win, so winning is always in my mind.”
Mayweather won a disputed 2002 fight against Jose Luis Castillo, though the decision was unanimous and not particularly close. They fought again later that same year, with Mayweather generally perceived as winning more convincingly the second time, though the unanimous scores were somewhat closer the second time.
Bob Arum, who promoted both fighters, went into the ring after the first fight and congratulated the combatant he presumed to be the victor.
“I went over to Floyd,” Arum recalled, “and I said, ‘Sorry you lost the fight.'”
History won’t recall it that way, and the three judges didn’t see it that way, but 13 years later, Arum said he doesn’t believe a loss would hurt Mayweather’s image and that “all the great ones have come back from losses, whether it was (Muhammad) Ali, or (Ray) Leonard, (or George) Foreman.”
“I really don’t think it will change at all,” Arum said. “I think it will make him more human and maybe increase his marketability and popularity. I always thought that idea — now, you don’t want to lose — but the fact that he would lose was not the death kind of thing that he thought it was, that he thinks it is. I mean, all the great ones lost.”
Of course, any image of defeat that Pacquiao’s side can plant into Mayweather’s psyche, where the latter so often wins fights before they are contested, would be a positive for the Filipino superstar.
Pacquiao’s trainer doesn’t exactly agree that a Mayweather loss would have no impact.
“His whole identity is that zero,” Freddie Roach said. “He’s still a great fighter if he loses, but people will look at him completely different, and especially at his age, I don’t know how he would come back from that.”