GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Floyd Mayweather drama du jour, now that the various errant reports about missing yet another court date have been put to rest, is that he better show up in court soon anyway, or forget fighting Arturo Gatti.
Gatti promoter Main Events has set an end of week deadline for Mayweather to resolve the misdemeanor assault charge he faces here, which would be easy if everyone were raising their right hands and swearing to tell the truth today. It won’t be a long trial, but it can’t start without a jury, and Mayweather’s dozen peers won’t be selected until February 25.
That’s way too late for Main Events’ taste, with the Gatti Mayweather pay per view event proposed June 11.
So the deal is simple. Mayweather shows up within the next very few days to plead no-contest to a charge he denies, in a case which would have been resolved in December if he had shown up for trial. Or he bids bye bye to $5 millionish in base purse and pay per view percentages.
Other pressures could be brought to bear. The good old World Boxing Council lists Mayweather as its top-ranked contender at 140 pounds, which is a whole lot more legit than listing Gatti as champion. Nonetheless, those dual recognitions make Gatti Mayweather more than mere suggestion, and the WBC could hold some sway over the matter.
More likely, the decision comes down to Mayweather’s decision. Plead no-contest and risk up to 93 days in a local jail, since there is no plea arrangement on the table – or lose the Gatti fight.
The charge stems from a December 2003 incident in which a security worker at a Grand Rapids tavern was badly beaten. William Morris claims several people assaulted him. Two have been charged. Mayweather stands accused of kicking Morris after the victim was knocked to the floor. An acquaintance of Mayweather’s, Jackie Ray Jones, remains at large on a felony charge for allegedly breaking a bottle over Morris’ head.
Morris is no alleged victim. The photographs of his injuries are disturbing. His upper torso was blood covered and his white shirt stained red. The skull deep gouge in his scalp, with shards of broken glass protruding, could not be closed with stitches, so doctors used staples. Morris says he felt some of his deepest lower back bruises for months.
Morris is prepared to testify that Mayweather participated in inflicting his injuries.
Regardless, the immediate question is not Mayweather’s guilt or innocence. It is how much trying to establish innocence is worth to him.
Mayweather denies assaulting Morris but apparently will lose the Gatti fight if he doesn’t cop a plea.
Mayweather also must consider the lawsuit Morris filed against him in connection with the incident. A no-contest plea, while it carries the same criminal penalties as a guilty plea, cannot be used against a Michigan civil defendant, and therefore would not disadvantage Mayweather in civil proceedings like a guilty verdict at trial would.
Mayweather did not return telephone messages seeking comment.
His attorney, Todd Perkins of Detroit, reiterated that Mayweather maintains no wrongdoing but added that right and wrong are not the essence of the case anyway. Perkins noted that Morris retained a civil attorney more than two months before criminal charges were brought against Mayweather, and that the Gatti negotiation has loomed over the case since he took it over in December from another attorney.
That other attorney, Larry Willey of Grand Rapids, is one of Michigan’s leading defense attorneys, as is Perkins. When Mayweather failed to show up for the December 16 opening of trial testimony, Willey quit on the spot. Mayweather showed up in court with Perkins 11 days later, copped a guilty plea to contempt and had the trial rescheduled.
“Larry Willey’s advice to Floyd was to resolve the case with a no-contest plea,” Perkins said. “I haven’t formally provided Floyd with any advice because I haven’t received any discovery information yet. Given Larry Willey’s position in the community, and in the legal community, I suspect I might give Floyd the same advice myself. But I don’t know that. And I probably can’t determine that within the constraints of this false deadline. Personally, I don’t believe Gatti’s people want the fight, which is why they’ve set these unreasonable guidelines.”
Perkins said speedy resolution, not guilt or innocence, could be what drives Mayweather to take his chances with sentencing.
Perkins also said he was unaware of the source or sources of last weekend’s widespread reports that Mayweather failed to appear at another scheduled court date last Friday.
There was no court date. There is no plea bargain. Carl Moretti, Main Events’ vice president of boxing operations, said someone representing Mayweather assured HBO officials, who in turn assured Main Events that Mayweather planned to resolve the case Friday. But Perkins said he provided no such information. The prosecutor, Blair Lachman, was caught off-guard by rumors of an impending plea. Mayweather didn’t show up because he wasn’t scheduled. Then he was widely misreported as going AWOL on another court date.
“I would like to think this is a joint effort, that everyone is working together on their side,” Moretti said. “But I also know the promoter (Bob Arum) is frustrated with the lack of communication. So that may not be the case.”
Arum said he understands but does not share Main Events’ perspective on the promotional timing. He said if Mayweather’s legal situation is cleared up by early March, the lead time of more than three months is sufficient. Main Events’ time frame is only about three weeks briefer than Top Rank’s – but could be enough to sink Gatti Mayweather unless Mayweather enters a new plea this week.
If Gatti and Mayweather never fight, the overwhelming bulk of the blame will be assessed to the aborted challenger.
If Mayweather had shown up in court in December, when he had the opportunity to prove his innocence, the Gatti fight would be a done deal.
Now, he has to show up in court and waive the opportunity to prove his innocence just to make sure the Gatti fight deal gets done.