After a teasingly protracted negotiation, a no-contest plea to an offense he vehemently denies, an imposed deadline which seemed to render moot the purpose behind his plea, intervention by Jose Sulaiman, and finally confirmation Thursday that he indeed will fight Arturo Gatti this June, Floyd Mayweather Jr. vented.
And friends, if there's anything outside a boxing ring that Mayweather can do with the best of them, venting is it. I've known him since he was 10 years old, and the only thing faster than his hands is his tongue.
June 25 in Atlantic City – two weeks later than the originally proposed date – Mayweather and Gatti will meet on HBO Pay-Per-View for Gatti's WBC super lightweight title.
Mayweather sounded less interested in the stakes than in putting Gatti on a stake.
“When June 25 gets here, I'm going to knock him out, and I'm going to cut up his face before I do it,” Mayweather said. “I'm going to slice that scar tissue of his to pieces. I'm going to make him pay for this.
“You've seen some fights in the past when guys made me take it personally. Henry Bruseles, he made me take it personally, and he paid for it. There were some others, no reason to bring up names now. But Arturo Gatti – I've never wanted to beat a guy so bad in my life. Never, ever, in my entire life, have I wanted to hurt a guy so bad.”
One of those names there's no reason to bring up now is Diego Corrales, one of many tools used in this negotiation, whether he knew it or not. But when Arum got wind of Main Events' hints to substitute Jose Luis Castillo for Mayweather, Arum arranged Corrales-Castillo for May.
“In order to take the Castillo temptation away, I took that temptation off the table,” Arum said.
Main Events, after months of irritation by and leniency toward Mayweather, imposed a 5:00 p.m. deadline last Friday, after which it sent a press release declaring Gatti-Mayweather dead.
That's where WBC president Sulaiman stepped into the talks. Gatti is overdue for his mandatory defense. Mayweather is the top-ranked WBC contender. Without delving too far into suspicion about the role sanctioning fees play in such decisions, Sulaiman suggested he might have to enforce the WBC rules and order a purse bid. Mayweather is available and wants the fight. Gatti had a June date. Sulaiman wanted a better explanation for why a deal wasn't struck, and when he didn't get it, the fight got made under the threat of purse bids.
Mayweather created the initial atmosphere of uncertainty about the fight by failing to show up for his December misdemeanor assault trial in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Gatti and Mayweather signed contracts last year to fight June 11, contingent on Mayweather resolving the legal issue. But when Mayweather failed to show for trial, it set off a sequence of events leading to his Feb. 7 change from a not guilty plea to no-contest – not an admission of guilt, but treated as one for sentencing purposes – followed by a Feb. 23 sentencing in which he avoided jail time.
“I pleaded no contest to something I didn't do to get this fight, then after I pleaded no contest, they said they didn't want the fight,” Mayweather said. “I want my fans to know that before my no-contest plea, my contract was already signed. This was never about a contract. I've been wanting this fight for the longest. I've been chasing this guy since 1998.”
Mayweather said he grew so dismayed recently that he personally left a message on the answering machine of Gatti's manager Pat Lynch.
“I just asked him if they were going to take the fight or not,” Mayweather said.
Lynch did not return a telephone message seeking comment, nor did Main Events attorney Pat English.
Mayweather, 33-0 (22), targeted Gatti, 39-6 (30), in his criticism, even though Top Rank acknowledged all along that Gatti's desire for the fight often was the only thing keeping the negotiation afloat. But Mayweather can't punch out the promoters, so he focused on the one he intends to punch out.
“Arturo Gatti wanted to fight mediocre fights and milk his contract,” Mayweather said, citing Gatti's admission upon signing a three-fight HBO contract in 2003 that he wanted to complete that deal before facing Mayweather. “But that's OK. Arturo Gatti, he does what he does. And I do what I do.
“The guy didn't have no choice but to fight now. The guy can't keep ducking and dodging that kind of money. It's a big fight, big money, a big pay-per-view date.”
Arum said the “essence” of his deal with Mayweather was that the fighter accepted a restructured contract, with a lower guarantee than their original fight contract of last year ($3.1 million, rather than $3.6 million), in deference to any damage done to the promotion. In turn, Arum increased Mayweather's percentage of telecast profits.
“I really believe it's all going to be moot in the end, that the fight will do well, and that Mayweather will make just as much as he would have originally,” Arum said.
For Mayweather, the essence of the deal, besides the obvious financial gain, is an opportunity for vengeance against the man he contends forced him to cop a plea to an offense he denies.
“I hear Gatti's already getting ready for training camp,” Mayweather said. “That's almost four months. I don't know. Does he really think that gives him enough time?
“Maybe I should start getting ready for training camp too. Let me see, what do I need to know to prepare for Arturo Gatti? Wait, let me study for a minute. Didn't he lose twice to Ivan Robinson? Oh, OK. Didn't he lose to Angel Manfredy? Oh, OK. Wasn't he in three bloodbaths with Micky Ward, and didn't he lose one of those? Oh, OK. That's all the preparation and study I need. Arturo Gatti is easy work.”
Mayweather mused about how to celebrate getting the fight he expected all along. He couldn't decide whether to cruise Las Vegas in his Rolls Royce or his convertible Ferrari. He contemplated where to spend an exotic weekend of revelry. And he insisted Gatti can't be as giddy.
“Gatti's going to have me in his head this whole weekend,” he said. “But he doesn't have to worry yet. I won't really be there. I'll be in Hawaii, walking on the beach.”