LAS VEGAS - For Floyd Mayweather Jr., independence
is paramount. The man they call "Money" has discovered that enormous
wealth is indeed secondary.
Freedom holds a lot of new
possibilities for the undefeated welterweight champion, 36, as he puts
the finishing touches on preparations for his title defense against
Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It's Mayweather's first fight since last May. Despite becoming one of
the world's richest athletes, he has averaged one fight a year over the
last six years.
Recently, Mayweather signed a lucrative,
mega-fight deal with Showtime, potentially worth $200 million; he has
reunited with his estranged father, trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., 60,
who is suffering from sarcoidosis (an incurable lung disease); and the
reality TV star is receiving nibbles about a potential foray into acting
after he retires, probably by 2015.
It is quite a
counterpunch from his life nearly a year ago. Last June, with the world
seemingly at his feet, Mayweather pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of
misdemeanor battery domestic violence, and no contest to a pair of
harassment charges. The case involved a violent struggle between the
fighter and former girlfriend Josie Harris as two of their children
watched in September 2010. Mayweather is the father of four.
was sentenced to 90 days and found himself incarcerated with convicted
murderers and other serious offenders in Clark County Detention Center.
With the exception of attorney contact, he spent 23 hours a day alone in
his cell in maximum security.
The detention center deemed it in
his best interest for safety, said attorney Shane W. Emerick, who did
not represent Mayweather in the case but visited him every day at the
behest of the fighter's legal team and manager Al Haymon. Mayweather
believed the location of his incarceration was unjust, Emerick said, but
his request to be added to the jail's general population was turned
down. Mayweather's bid for house arrest also was denied. He served from
June 1 to Aug. 3.
"Was being in jail very bad, very rough for me?"
Mayweather told USA TODAY Sports as he sat this week in the expansive
living room of his $9 million, 22,000-square-foot mansion overlooking
the city. "There is nothing cool about saying, 'I've been to jail,' or
'I've been to prison.' That's a place I won't go back to."
'It's about being classy'
in a dysfunctional, drug- and alcohol-saturated home, Mayweather had
been arrested numerous times during the last decade for violence-related
cases in Nevada and Michigan, his home state. But he always seemed to
avoid serious punishment, receiving suspended jail sentences and fines.
17 years as a professional fighter, Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) has never
tasted losing. This time, it felt as if Judge Melissa Saragosa landed
one to his jaw. He also received community service and was ordered to
complete one year of domestic violence counseling. He attended a session
on the same day of his May 5, 2012, fight against Miguel Cotto.
I learned from my jail experience was that freedom is very, very
important," he said. "You can have money but no freedom. It's just like
you're poor, you're broke. It's like you have nothing. I found out that
freedom is more important than money."
Wednesday, at the final
major news conference to promote the Guerrero fight, Ruben Guerrero -
father and trainer of the challenger - called out Mayweather.
going to beat up that woman-beater - the one that beat up his
(ex-girlfriend) in front of his kids," Ruben Guerrero said from the
podium. "He must have learned that from his dad. We're going to eat that
woman-beater (and) see how he's gonna like it, and he's gonna get it
from a real man."
No one from Mayweather's
camp, including the champion, responded at that juncture. Later, the
fathers of both fighters began jawing at each other and had to be
separated. Mayweather Jr. kept his cool when asked about the name
"My thing is, I'm a lot older and I'm a lot wiser," he
told Showtime analyst Steve Farhood. "If I did or didn't do a crime ... I
served the time. It's about being classy. I was wild when I was
Those who know Mayweather well say confinement gave him a
dose of reality, and that he is a changed person. They say he has made
strides to become more introspective, show greater restraint and sought
to be become less volatile in his personal relationships. He shares his
home with fiancée Shantel Jackson.
"Is Floyd Mayweather
misunderstood? Absolutely," he said. "But, you know, that's life. You go
through certain obstacles. Only thing I can do is continue to live and
try to become a better person every day."
Twice a week he was
permitted to engage in a video visit with family or friends. At times,
it was humiliating for the former U.S. Olympic star.
strip-search you whenever they want - just because," Mayweather said.
"This officer already was giving me a hard time. I took all my clothes
off. You have to open your mouth (to be searched for possibly concealed
items), lift your testicles and other things that are very flagrant -
squat (and) cough.
"After he searched me, I reached for my
clothes. He said, 'Stop! Put them back.' Then the whole search (began)
again. I'm like, 'Man, (are you) for real? Is this really worth it?'
That's all I said."
Emerick, a retired criminal
attorney, told USA TODAY Sports, "In my 25 years in town, I've never
heard of a misdemeanor inmate being held in administrative segregation
in maximum security."
Mayweather said he controlled any urge to become angry.
have to stay mentally strong; I knew I was coming home," he said. "Why
put yourself in a position where you have to stay longer? I conducted
myself as a gentleman."
An explosive person
hasn't always been the case for Mayweather, who was raised in a
fractured boxing family, one that includes Roger Mayweather, a former
world champion who is his uncle and ex-trainer. The Mayweathers not only
challenged others but famously rumbled among themselves.
youngest days growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., Mayweather said his
life was consumed with fighting, most of it done inside the ring. By the
age of 3, his father, a former fringe welterweight contender and
defensive specialist who was knocked out by Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978,
had laced oversized sparring gloves on his son's tiny hands.
did was study boxing from day one," said Mayweather Jr., a high school
dropout. "That's the first thing I ever knew. Before I knew anything
about life, I knew about a boxing gym. I knew how to throw punches."
To this day, Mayweather sometimes wonders how he managed to persevere through a difficult childhood environment.
feel like I beat all odds being where I am today with my mother
(Deborah Orr) being on drugs, my father going to prison (for drug
trafficking), no stable home," Mayweather recalled. "At one time, (we)
stayed in New Brunswick, N.J., (with) seven people in one bedroom."
days, the father and the son have repaired their relationship to a
degree. They will reunite for the first time on fight night since the
father worked his son's corner in 2000, shortly before he quit.
son and I have had collisions," the elder Mayweather told USA TODAY
Sports. "But since he got out of jail, I've seen a better change in
"I always had a bond with my son but not like now," said the
father. "He'll grab me and hug me; or I will grab him and hug him.
He'll tell me that he loves me."
While the elder Mayweather
battles sarcoidosis, Roger, 52, has diabetes and is trying to fend off
deteriorating vision. He is co-training his nephew but will not be in
the corner on fight night. He also has served time relating to violence
against women in battery incidents.
Others have tried to fill the void as a male role model for Mayweather Jr. Some have been more successful than others.
Mitchell was the head coach of the USA Boxing team at the 1996 Olympic
Games in Atlanta, site of Mayweather's last defeat - a hotly disputed
10-9 decision to Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria. But despite the young
amateur's talent, Mitchell, considered a no-nonsense coach, says, "I
thought Mayweather probably wouldn't go anywhere (professionally)
because of his attitude."
Today, Mitchell can't help but beam when he looks at how Mayweather persevered.
year, I've seen him change and adjust," Mitchell said. "I pulled him
aside (one evening) and said, 'Mayweather, you really surprised me.' He
really has matured. He's not the same guy I knew. He's got smart people
around him with Al Haymon and (adviser) Leonard Ellerbe.
"People don't realize that to hold an explosive person like that in check is hard."
made in-roads with the fighter during their many visits last summer.
Despite his educational background, Emerick found he had more in common
with Mayweather than the fighter initially suspected: He, too, had come
from a broken home where he lived in public housing with his mom, a
single mother of five. He later served as an Army helicopter pilot and
as a public defender.
"I was like anybody in the public in my view
of Floyd Mayweather Jr., and what his reputation was. To me, it wasn't
good," he said. "But after I got to know him, I realized he was smart,
had a good heart and is an amazing person.
"I do believe the
incarceration had a profound effect on him. He really took it as God
working in mysterious ways. He focused on his family.
was released, you could see a change in him. He knows what's important. I
now see him as a very calm person. I think he is well on his way."