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In days leading up to fight, Floyd Mayweather Jr. reminisces about his early career

Both Mayweather and Marquez remember fighters they looked up to


Steve Marcus

Floyd Mayweather Jr. questions from the media inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena Tuesday. Mayweather Jr. is facing Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday, Sept. 19.

Mayweather, Marquez grand arrivals

Juan Manuel Marquez smiles as he answers questions from media members inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena Tuesday. Marquez is set to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. this Saturday. Launch slideshow »

One for the "Money"

Floyd Mayweather Jr. talks with the media as he prepares to come back to boxing for the first time in two years. Mayweather Jr. fights Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday, September 19th at the MGM Grand.

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Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr. is always quick to remind everyone he’s the most successful pay-per-view boxer in the sport’s history.

He often refers to himself as the "cash cow", and his lavish lifestyle has been well documented on the HBO series, "24/7."

There was a time, however, when all he wanted was the first-place trophy.

“I can remember my first amateur bout, I still have the trophy on my dresser,” Mayweather Jr. said. “I was 64 pounds. I didn’t care who I was facing I just wanted to fight. After the fight, we stayed at the Red Roof Inn. I slept with my trophy in the car all the way home.”

For young boxers in the beginning of their careers, the ultimate goal is the Golden Gloves championship, which hosts regional and national tournaments.

In 1993, at the age of 16, Mayweather Jr. won the Nationals tournament for the first time as the youngest member of his team. He would win it again in 1994 and 1996.

“I felt bad when I won the Nationals because I was beating guys much older than I was,” he said. “I rode home in the van with this big trophy almost touching the roof. They said, ‘Floyd, you want to go in the store?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want nobody bothering my trophy.’

“When I was 16, you know what made me fight hard? I looked over and seen that big trophy and was like, ‘Wow, we getting that? Oh man, I’m gonna fight hard.’ And that was it. It wasn’t about the money.”

Those were simpler times.

On Saturday, Mayweather Jr. makes his return to boxing after a 21-month layoff with plenty more than a trophy on the line.

While there are many theories on the reasoning behind Mayweather’s return, the 32-year-old fighter says that the same competitive drive he had as a young fighter is still the reason he’s here.

“Nobody sees the hard work I put in, when I go to the gym at 3 a.m. in the morning,” he said. “I put the tape around my own hands and train by myself; mentally, physically. A lot of fighters, once they go home, they’re done. I go into overtime to be the best.”

His opponent, Juan Manuel Marquez, also remembers his amateur career — one that is now 55 professional fights in the past.

“I remember, they were great moments for me,” Marquez said. “My nerves were going all the time. When I fought amateur fights, I was always pretty nervous.

“But when I finished the fight and they gave me the trophy, I would feel very happy. It would feel great.”

Along with reminiscing about their respective beginnings in the game of boxing, the two fighters also answered questions about the fighters they looked up to during their grand arrivals Tuesday at the MGM Grand hotel.

For Marquez, his inspiration came from one fighter in particular — Julio Cesar Chavez.

“My idol is Chavez for only one reason: He fought with the best fighters,” Marquez said. “He never said, ‘No, he’s a good fighter. I don’t want to fight him.’ He fought everybody.”

As a boy growing up watching boxing, Mayweather Jr. says he could never pick a favorite from the loaded welterweight division.

“Back in that era, I liked Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Haggler and Thomas Hearns,” Mayweather Jr. said. “It was crazy, I used to get chill bumps watching them because I didn’t want them to fight each other but they had to.”

“Boxing has been a blessing my whole life.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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