by Nima Zarrabi// Images Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Floyd Mayweather Jr. wants to ball.
A member of Team Mayweather has found a basketball and has Floyd’s attention. A smile widens on Floyd’s face as he rushes over to the nearby court with members of his team in tow. Trash talk begins and a few wagers will likely be placed as Floyd starts dribbling the ball in excitement. We’re standing near the NBA TV studio setup at the Dallas Convention Center, right smack in the middle of Jam Session. It’s loud as hell in here, with obstacle courses, shops and various booths throughout the massive room set up for various All-Star weekend activities. Before Floyd can get his makeshift game going, a few Jam session officials cruise over and stop the party. Apparently, the court is set up for some type of fan event and Floyd and his crew will not be allowed to do their thing. He’s a little disappointed and shocked, but the smile will creep back soon. No matter how angry or upset he gets, the smile can’t be denied. He’s ferocious, on edge and determined to prove to the entire world that no fighter on the planet can touch him. Through it all, that smile will flash because the thing to know about Floyd is this: everything will be done on his terms, and his terms only. He’s earned that right thanks to a magnificent career that is still headed for new heights.
Back over on the NBA TV set, Floyd patiently waits for his call time. Fans and employees of the convention center approach him for photos and autographs. He happily fulfills every request. When Floyd begins his NBA TV interview, his manager Leonard Ellerbe asks me about my plan for the interview. I tell him that we can get the interview done anywhere and it should be no problem. He’s hardly impressed and I suddenly realize why. The convention center is extremely loud as all types of activities continue to begin around us. Basketball games, shooting contests, free tacos from Taco Bell—soon enough this place is a madhouse and finding a private spot where I can shoot Floyd on a Flip camera and conduct our interview becomes harder than I thought.
When I first got this assignment from Editor-n-Chief Ben Osborne a few days ago, I was stoked. I’ve always been impressed with Floyd both as a fighter and entertainer, especially after watching HBO 24/7. Boxing doesn’t have the same vehicles as the NBA to showcase its talent. There aren’t 82 games plus to promote their product or a popular platform like SLAM where one can get an in-depth view of the boxing life on a consistent basis. But 24/7 changed the game. It gave us an inside look into the life of a champion boxer, both in the ring and off. When I watched the 24/7 leading up to the Mayweather— Oscar De La Hoya bout, it was a wrap. I was captivated by Mayweather or the “villain” as he was beautifully portrayed in the show. While Oscar showcased time with his family and a carefully crafted image, Floyd gave us a stream of consciousness flow that was absent of a filter. He spoke candidly about his relationship with his father, flashed scrilla and jewelry while talking all kinds of shit during training sessions. I was drawn to that. In a world filled with athletes full of shit (see Tiger Woods press conference today), it’s always refreshing to see a guy who doesn’t give a fuck what critics or media think about him—he’s going to say whatever’s on his mind and do as he pleases.
My plan for the sit down with Floyd was simple. I was going to fly in from SoCal to Austin, TX, on Thursday of All-Star weekend, spend the day visiting one of my best friends from college—Andy Cannon—over some incredible BBQ from Rudy’s and then make the three-hour drive north to Dallas early Friday morning. Mother Nature pulled a jack move on me and forced some changes. Dallas was hit with some record snow fall and traveling there had all of the sudden become dangerous according to the news. Rather than waiting until the next morning to drive to the D, I decided to knuckle up and drive that night, through the storm. I didn’t want to risk missing my call time with Floyd and since most of the storm had already passed through, my biggest obstacle became slick roads. Against the wishes of Andy, I jumped in my rented Pontiac G6 and began one of the most difficult drives I have ever attempted. Once I hit Waco, the roads changed as snow was present, forcing everyone to drive about 30 mph. abandoned cars lined various parts of the roadway and the snow was still coming and sticking in certain pockets. I decided to draft behind a huge big rig, hoping it could clear the path ahead. Although there were a few scary moments, I ended up making it to Dallas in a little over four hours, getting in about 1:30 am. I made a quick stop to Lakers scout and LA Defenders GM Bonnie-Jill Laflin’s party at Hotel ZaZa to give her the word, then headed back to the hotel to continue my prep for Floyd.
I do a decent amount of research before each interview I conduct, but I rarely if ever bring written questions to a sit down. I’ve always felt that if I kept my eyes on the subject and not the pad, I could engage in a much better discussion, essentially moving from interview into a conversation. Floyd was a different beast. As much as I love boxing, I don’t know the sport like I do the NBA or NFL. Furthermore, I had seen the interview Floyd did with Brian Kenny on SporsCenter early last year. It was an incredible back in forth that got heated on many occasions. This is not where I wanted our interview to go, so I decided to write down some questions. I don’t know what I was thinking.
While Floyd did his interview with NBA TV and a radio station, I went to work trying to find a private spot for our interview. I convinced a few security guards to set up my Flip cam behind a stage in a far corner of the massive room we were in. I pulled two chairs from the empty stage and hoped it would be quiet and decent enough for Floyd. It was an area that fans had no access to and the security guards nearby went out of their way to help me. After Floyd wrapped his radio spot, he was escorted over to my makeshift area, flanked by many members of Team Mayweather. Floyd was also wearing a wireless mic and being followed by a cameraman shooting for 24/7. He walks up and asks where he needs to sit. I point at my pitiful setup and he immediately sits down and is ready to go.
It becomes apparent that Floyd is a huge NBA fan. Gambling is our first topic and Floyd loves to bet on NBA games. I ask him if the Tim Donaghy scandal deterred him from betting and he’s unfazed, citing a $43,000 loss in the infamous game in 2007 where referee Joey Crawford ejected Tim Duncan during the 3rd quarter of a game against the Mavs for simply laughing/staring at him from the bench. Floyd had money on the Spurs that night, who went on to lose a close game. Tim Donaghy was old news in his book. Our chat quickly shifts to more pressing NBA topics. “I can tell you about any player, all you got to do is ask me about him,” Floyd proclaims. I try. But Floyd doesn’t have patience for my slow flow, so he takes over. “I’m going to tell you what’s good with the NBA and what’s wrong with the NBA,” he says proudly. “What the Atlanta Hawks need is this: we need to let Bibby come off the bench and let Jamal Crawford start. Anytime a guy can come off the bench and score 50 points in a game—he needs to be starting! He might be putting up 30 a night if he’s starting! The Hawks need to pick up Stoudamire. Phoenix is talking about getting rid of him. Steve Nash’s main go-to-guy is Stoudamire. That’s going to mess his chemistry up. His assists will drop a lot. We’re talking about—and I still like Steve Nash—but we’re talking about six assists.”
After more player breakdowns, our discussion moves towards the ring. Floyd assures me that the Manny Pacquiao fight will eventually happen. It’s the fight we’re all waiting for and is likely to become the most lucrative boxing match ever. But there is more money to be made before this epic showdown. Floyd is hoping to gross over $100 million over his next two fights. Next up, a May 1st showdown at the MGM grand in Las Vegas against Sugar Shane Mosley in a Welterweight showdown that should prove to be a great fight. Mosley has angled for his chance to fight Floyd for quite some time. He will now get his wish. Floyd will put his perfect 40-0 record on the line to face Mosley, who has won seven of his last eight fights dating back to 2005, including an impressive win over Antonio Margarito in January of 2009.
The Mayweather-Mosley tilt will likely be the best boxing event of 2010. Floyd’s critics—who are endless—will never be satisfied until he meets Manny. While I can’t wait for that day to come, I must admit that I’m also interested in seeing Floyd battle Sugar Shane. The only boxing match I ever attended was De La Hoya-Mosley at Staples Center in 2000. It was an incredible win for Mosley, who later admitted taking a banned substance in preparation for the fight (EP0)—both Mayweather and Mosley have agreed to Olympic style testing for their upcoming bout. Floyd describes the bout as speed and power versus timing, comparing Mosley’s power and speed to Zab Judah, who he deposed of several years back. “We’re two Hall of Famers meeting at a legendary weight class, which is Welterweight,” Floyd says. “Sugar Ray Leonard. Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns—the list goes on and on.”
Floyd will tell you that timing beats speed and that nobody can hit what they can’t see. Mayweather’s speed, technical skills and footwork are second to none. He is the Kobe of the fight game: a champion with supreme knowledge that has mastered the skills and movements needed to dominate his sport for many years, while doing so on his terms. Detractors call him a money whore and accuse him of dodging and ducking fighters. He will respond by reminding you that he fought his first 90 fights for free as an amateur and that he’s been dominating the sport for too long to be concerned with the newest flavor in your ear.
When our time together ends, I thank Floyd for the conversation. He pulls me aside and says, “I be knowing my basketball, huh?” We share a laugh and say our goodbyes after a quick photo op. You can check out some our discussion in the attached video and in a future edition of Dime Drop. Our discussion would have never occurred without the help of a few people behind the scenes. Many thanks to Floyd’s manager and CEO of Mayweather Promotions Leonard Ellerbe, Jeremy Silkowitz of Swanson Communications and Tzvi Twersky at the SLAM dome for all of their efforts. Cheers.