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Interview: Floyd Mayweather Will Make $100 Million This Year

And he just might spend it all. A day in the life of the richest man in sports.


Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

Sometimes even America’s highest-paid athlete has to stand in line at the bank. Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is expected to earn about $100 million this year, is suffering the rare indignity of waiting for a teller at a nearly empty Bank of America in Midtown Manhattan. Boxing’s flamboyant pound-for-pound king travels by private plane, lives in a sprawling Las Vegas mansion, owns a fleet of exotic luxury cars, and regularly flashes thick wads of cash on the reality series that hypes his fights, so it’s somewhat surreal to see him silently waiting to step up to the glass. Mayweather’s friend and entourage mainstay Mack is holding a pink backpack that I suspect is filled with those money bricks Floyd is so fond of waving around on-camera, the kind you see only in movies featuring bank robberies, drug deals, or ransom payoffs. Two hulking bodyguards eyeball the exits, while several other beefy dudes in the money team jackets linger outside in front of an idling SUV.
 
I jokingly ask if he needs to make a cash withdrawal. Mayweather, wearing diamond-rimmed Louis Vuitton shades and a similarly iced-out chain and medallion, crisp blue jeans, and a long-sleeved graphic shirt, says, “Nah, I’m just taking care of some business for my family.” As if on cue, one of his bodyguards steps between us and repeats, louder and more menacingly, “He’s just taking care of some business for his family.” Mayweather retrieves a brick of cash from the backpack and approaches the teller window. He turns to me and shouts, with mock anger, “Why you asking me if I’m getting money out? Mind your own business!”


Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
 
The thing is, I’m not really supposed to be minding my own business. Maxim has asked me to tag along with the richest man in sports as he takes a media-heavy victory lap following his masterful dismantling of Robert Guerrero, once again showcasing his dominance as the most skilled boxer of his era. Mayweather says an injured right hand stopped him from knocking out the outgunned Guerrero, who, like Mayweather’s pre­vious 43 opponents, was doomed by the champ’s bewildering speed, accuracy, and defensive wizardry. Mayweather has since predicted that his September 14 megafight against 23-year-old Mexican sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, a fellow unbeaten super-welterweight titleholder, will end in a crowd-pleasing KO. 


Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
 
Mayweather-Alvarez—expected to be boxing’s biggest fight since Mayweather defeated Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 in the highest-grossing pay-per-view of all time—is the second bout in Mayweather’s ridiculously lucrative six-fight deal with Showtime, which pays him a guaranteed $32 million a fight, before the first pay-per-view buys are even tabulated. Mayweather, 36, says the 30-month deal will sound the final bell on his Hall of Fame career, thus far a flawless 44-0 with eight world titles across five weight divisions. As perhaps the most celebrated boxer since Mike Tyson, Mayweather, with his gaudy PPV hauls, has vaulted atop Sports Illustrated’s list of America’s highest-earning athletes, leaving LeBron James languishing in a distant second place.
 

Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
 
Mayweather wasn’t always the biggest draw in sports. Back when he was “Pretty Boy” Floyd, a slick, soft-spoken young fighter from Grand Rapids, Michigan, only diehard aficionados of the sweet science tuned in to his blowout victories. It wasn’t until he transformed into “Money” Mayweather, a brash and borderline villainous character worthy of Vince McMahon, in the run-up to his 2007 victory over De La Hoya, that the wider public caught on. His antics on HBO’s 24/7 made him a reality TV phenomenon, leading to a turn on Dancing With the Stars and regular appearances on the talk-show circuit. Soon even the most casual fans were paying to watch the obnoxious loudmouth in ostrich-skin trunks outbox his opponents, often entering the ring flanked by celebrity pals like Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne. The fact that they are still shelling out $69.95 a fight to see if someone can finally shut him up is just fine with Mayweather.
 
“Do I want people to root for me? Absolutely,” he says as we drive to an early-afternoon interview at the Huffington Post. “But there’s no difference between a fan who pays to see you win and a fan who pays to see you lose. A fan is a fan. All in all, they are the same person. If a person pays to see you lose 10 times…” His voice trails off as his personal assistant, a curvaceous young woman named Kitchie, begins massaging Mayweather’s bald head from the seat behind him.


Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
 
“My focus is just being the best that I can be. All I do is work hard, day in and day out. My goal is to win. I don’t focus on keeping the ‘0.’ I focus on just being victorious with whatever opponent they put in front of me. Always want to retire healthy with all my faculties. That’s the main thing. That’s why I’m not trying to go out there and take any punishment.”
 
While Mayweather does have an uncanny ability to avoid punches in the ring, his public image has taken its share of hard knocks. He spent two months in jail last summer after pleading guilty to battery and no contest to harassment charges involving ex-girlfriend Josie Harris, the mother of three of his four children, stemming from a domestic incident that he has described as “overexaggerated” and “trumped up.” The highly publicized stint behind bars, coupled with his uncompromising attitude, may have something to do with his making precisely $0 in endorsements last year, a surprising fact that Mayweather blames on not being offered enough money by corporate suitors. He will probably never join the elite ranks of pitchmen like LeBron, Tiger, or the Mannings, but that doesn’t mean Mayweather isn’t trying to branch out. He says that after retiring he intends to groom young fighters in the Mayweather Promotions stable. And while his now-defunct Philthy Rich Records label failed to spawn a single successful artist, Mayweather isn’t finished dabbling in show business just yet: He now says he wants to bring his trademark swagger to the big screen.
 

Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

In addition to the wine cellar and crystal chandeliers dripping from 24-foot ceilings, Mayweather’s 22,000-square-foot Las Vegas mansion has a two-story movie theater, he tells me, and his favorite films are Training Day, Troy, Gladiator, and Let’s Do It Again, a 1975 comedy starring Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, and Jimmie Walker as a wimpy boxer who is hypnotized to become a champ. And if J.J. from Good Times can do it, why not Floyd Mayweather?

“I’m real good friends with Joel Silver,” he says of the blockbuster action pro­ducer behind The Matrix and Die Hard. Would he like to do a movie with Silver? “Well, we talk. You know, I keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best… I could be in front of or behind the camera. I think I could act…”

And then, just when it’s getting interesting, Mayweather falls asleep. Apparently the lethal combination of my questions and Kitchie’s massage has done what no opponent has managed to accomplish: knocked out the best boxer in the world.

Later Mayweather’s adviser, Leonard Ellerbe, takes time to crow about his fighter’s legacy: “Floyd is the most domi­nant athlete in all of sports. Period. Hands down. You tell me another athlete more dominant than Floyd. Can’t say a golfer, a basketball player, a football player. There’s not one!”
 

Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

And it’s true. Love him or hate him, Mayweather’s undisputed dominance is indeed unmatched by any other contemporary athlete. But while Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard had Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns, Mayweather has yet to face a rival who can truly test him. Great champions are judged on how they respond to great challengers, and so far, with the exception of his controversial 2002 victory over Jose Luis Castillo, Mayweather has never been pushed to the brink, instead steadily plowing through outclassed opponents. 

The bigger, stronger Alvarez is believed to be his most dangerous opponent in years, but Mayweather’s freakish ring savvy and defensive supremacy still make him the favorite. Since there are so few active fighters who pose a threat, it is tempting to pit him against the legendary welterweights of bygone eras. It’s a fistic fantasy game that Mayweather prefers not to indulge in. “I’m not here to match my skills against other fighters’ of other eras,” he says. “Of course, I’ve never gone into any fight thinking that another man can defeat me.”


Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
 
Mayweather was born into boxing. His father and current head trainer, Floyd Sr., was a world-rated welterweight who faced Leonard during his 35-fight pro career, before spending five years in prison for cocaine trafficking. Floyd’s uncle Roger was the family’s first champion, winning titles in two divisions and training Floyd for 13 years until Floyd Sr. was reinstalled for the Guerrero fight. 
 
Their father-son relationship has been complicated ever since the day “Big Floyd” was blasted in the leg with a shotgun while holding up his one-year-old son as a human shield during an argument with Floyd’s maternal uncle. He trained Floyd for much of his son’s career before he was fired and replaced by Roger in 2000. But after Mayweather’s unexpectedly grueling battle with Miguel Cotto in 2012, in which he actu­ally suffered a bloody nose, May­weather decided to make a change, and the prodigal father returned.
 

Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

“It’s going great,” Mayweather says. “My dad is head trainer, and my uncle Roger is trainer number two. Roger has been fighting diabetes for a while, and he loses his vision sometimes. Sometimes his vision is there, and sometimes it’s not. And that’s very, very risky—dealing with vision in a competitive fight. So my dad’s happy and Roger’s happy that we’re all able to work hand in hand together.” 
 
In the lobby of the sleek high-rise that houses the Huffington Post, Mayweather leads the human centipede of hangers-on, including several bodyguards, Ellerbe, Kitchie, Mack, and his publicist, and notices me trailing behind. “Sorry I fell asleep, man,” he says. He grabs an Almond Joy at the snack stand and poses for pictures with two giggling young women. Mayweather sits down for 10 minutes with a HuffPo reporter, and then we’re off to the hip-hop station Hot 97, where he snaps a photo with rapper Talib Kweli before submitting to his longest interview of the day, with DJ Angie Martinez. This time there is a bag of Twizzlers in front of him.
 

Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
 
Mayweather deftly fields the same questions that he’s been getting all afternoon and counters with his regular talking points: He’s focused on “building the Mayweather brand, building the Money Team brand, just staying positive”; opines that “the Money Team is more about, like, being rich at heart,” and urges fans to visit its Web site and “go get a hat, go get a T-shirt”; downplays his prefight theatrics by saying, “That’s television. That’s training camp. That’s [Showtime’s] All Access. But it’s not really bragging or boasting if you can do it”; and heaps pity upon former archrival Manny Pacquiao, who suffered a devastating knockout in his last fight: “I wish him nothing but the best. A crucial knockout like that can mess you up for the rest of your life.”

An exasperated Martinez, unable to get Mayweather to switch into his full-throated “Money” persona, asks about his ex–best friend 50 Cent, who tried unsuccessfully to start a boxing promotional company with the champ before the two had a very public falling out.

“I’m curious about your relationship with 50 Cent,” she says. 

“I have a relationship with a female,” he snaps. “In business, people don’t see eye to eye. He went his way, and I went my way. He was my friend. I don’t know if I was his friend, but we had a close bond, and we didn’t see eye to eye.”
 
50 has needled Mayweather in the press on topics ranging from the collapse of a potential fight with Pacquiao to his supposed lack of business acumen, describing Mayweather’s financial planning as: “It’s fight, get the money, spend the money, fight. Fight, get the money, spend the money, fight.” The jab at Mayweather’s free-spending ways recalled the long list of successful fighters who have ended up broke, from a down-on-his-luck Joe Louis being forced to take a job as a greeter at Caesars Palace to Mike Tyson declaring bankruptcy in 2003 after earning hundreds of mil­lions during his Siberian tiger–owning, Lamborghini-hoarding heyday.
 

Photographed by Tim Soter | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

Mayweather may be the highest-paid man in sports, but like Tyson he is a ludicrously big spender. Besides the cars, the jewelry, the $10,000 dinners for his entourage, and the chartered planes, there is his love of sports betting, which is the stuff of Internet legend. Mayweather denied one widely disseminated report that he lost $3 million betting on the Michigan Wolverines to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in an NCAA football game last year, but while seven-figure bets may be rare, he certainly doesn’t flinch at making six-figure ones, often posting photos of his betting slips on Twitter. Ahead of the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals, he was even rumored to have bet $5.9 million on the Heat. “Gambling doesn’t define who I am as a person,” he says. “I didn’t gamble yesterday. I’m not gonna gamble today. It’s nothing I have to do. It’s not like I’m addicted.”
 
On our way to CNN, we stop at the 47th Street Diamond Exchange so Mayweather can get his diamond chain fixed. The proprietor of the Flawless Jewelers booth tries mightily to sell Mayweather on a tray of twinkling diamond watches as the $30,000 rope is being repaired, particularly pushing a bauble with a garish rainbow-hued band. “Who done this, my daughter?” Mayweather cracks.
 
Outside a crowd of gawkers snap cell phone pics through the glass. A delivery guy hands him a grease-stained sack of food. Mayweather pulls out a wad of hundreds, peels one off. The chain appears, and Mayweather announces, “I gotta do CNN, I’ll be back tomorrow,” and leads the centipede outside, where the mob surrounds his truck. Sitting in the car behind Mayweather, one of his bodyguards picks at fries in the greasy bag. “It happens all the time,” he says of the scrum. “They see us with him and want to know who it is.”

After a quick interview at CNN, we head to BET’s 106 & Park, the day’s last stop. We are ushered backstage, where a producer preps Mayweather as he sits on a couch next to his longtime fiancée, Shantel Jackson. “Y’all got lotion?” Mayweather asks. Minutes later he walks out to whoops from the high school kids in the audience and sits down to chat with co-host Bow Wow. And from behind his diamond sunglasses, Floyd Mayweather says for the umpteenth time that day, but almost certainly not the last time ever: “The Money Team is all about being rich at heart.” 

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