Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. ducked under a team member’s intruding hands well before they ever got into his vicinity and fired a pair of hooks into his faux opponent’s body protector.
The startling firecracker-like noise echoed through Mayweather Boxing Club Thursday afternoon and over Stevie Wonder’s “Love Light in Flight”, which blared after Mayweather sprinted through a mass of media to chastise the DJ to turn it up.
Mayweather might be playing up the fact that he’s 40 years old heading into his bout with 29-year-old Conor McGregor on August 26 at T-Mobile Arena, but there were no signs of his age bothering him at his media workout.
“Floyd has been training in the same way he’s been training forever,” said Leonard Elleberbe, the fighter’s closest confidant as CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “I know that for a fact. He’s taking Conor very seriously."
The exhibition felt like it could have been a replay of the same events he hosted in prior years, like before facing Manny Pacquiao in 2015 or as far back as Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009. Mayweather moved, looked and sounded as precise as ever while training despite doubling down on an ESPN interview where he reported age had taken its toll.
“What I’m saying is this: On paper, everything leans towards (McGregor),” Mayweather said. “We know he has a longer reach. We know youth is on his side, and I guess everyone is saying power is on his side.”
Mayweather’s mastery has always extended beyond boxing. He’s an equally brilliant promoter, as it famously wasn’t until he ditched Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions to strike out on his own that he became the biggest pay-per-view draw in the history of the sport.
“I didn’t want to be marketed in a certain way,” Mayweather said. “And a lot of people say, ‘He’s the bad guy,’ but it’s not so much that I’m the bad guy. It’s like, if we’re playing kickball, everyone can’t be on one team. Someone’s got to be on the other team, and take the other side.”
The team of those picking McGregor is thinning as the fight nears. After some initial excitement over the prospects of McGregor becoming the first fighter to beat Mayweather after crossing over from mixed martial arts, reality has prevailed as many realize the difficulty of such a task.
The bigger bets at sports books are beginning to surface on Mayweather, and no analyst anywhere is picking McGregor. Mayweather must now be attempting to even the sides.
That’s the only explanation for him suddenly discounting his chances against McGregor because of age — an attempt to tap back into that promoter vein. Don’t buy into it.
To be clear, that’s not a directive to save the money and pass on purchasing Mayweather vs. McGregor. By all means, plunk down the $100 for the high-definition pay-per-view or $15,000 for ringside seats if you can’t imagine missing the spectacle.
Just don’t do so counting on the ostensible fan-favorite McGregor to have a better chance because of Mayweather’s new narrative. While Mayweather appears to have lost little ability as a fighter, his job as a salesman is lacking.
There’s simply no way he would have come out of a two-year retirement if he had doubts over his capability, not even to face someone who’s never boxed professionally like McGregor. Mayweather will always be remembered for the brash manner in which he flaunted his wealth after becoming a superstar, but the height of that persona came roughly a decade ago.
His priorities changed as he approached the twilight of his career. He toned down, though never totally erased, the “Money” talk in his final handful of fights and declared his legacy as just as meaningful to him.
It deeply disturbed Mayweather that detractors deemed him a level below boxing’s all-time greats, despite his undefeated record. That’s why it was never believable that Mayweather would stay away from boxing and forgo a chance to surpass heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano by improving to 50-0.
He bided his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to not only maximize his moneymaking potential but also enhance his claim as “TBE”, his branded-acronym for the best ever. But he also prepared.
Mayweather never fell out of shape, and never became a stranger in his gym. His drill work is as spotless as ever.
Don’t expect him to be at anything less than his best against McGregor.
“I never said that I feel like I’m going to lose,” Mayweather said. “I’m not going to get involved in anything where I feel like I’m taking a loss.”