NEW YORK — The names Chavez and Mayweather are featured prominently together on the marker board which keeps everyone apprised of upcoming dates and fights at Top Rank headquarters — just not the Chavez and Mayweather one might expect, without reaching two decades into yesteryear.
Roger Mayweather, 44 years old, six years removed from his last prizefight, is doing his daily roadwork again, his appetite for being on the other end of the handpads whetted by an offer for an August fight against Julio Cesar Chavez in San Antonio.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will appear in separate bouts on Saturday's pay-per-view card in Atlantic City, N.J., where the younger Mayweather faces a pitched showdown against WBC super lightweight champion Arturo Gatti. For now, the Gatti fight has all of Roger Mayweather's attention — save for those minutes each day, devoted to grinding out miles traveled so much more easily in the 1980s, and pondering the elder Chavez.
He says it's a done deal, and now we're not talking specifically about Chavez-Mayweather III. Gatti-Mayweather is the springboard to what could be pay-per-view riches for both fighters, said HBO PPV boss Mark Taffet, who suggested the most marketable fights for both lie ahead, regardless what happens Saturday.
Roger Mayweather has his own ideas about what that outcome will be.
“Fight plan? Yeah, we've got one,” he said. “I'm gonna throw some rocks in there and hit him in his face, because you can't miss him.”
One of the many underlying subplots of Gatti-Mayweather is the long-running rivalry Roger Mayweather had with Gatti's promoter, Main Events, under the company's original makeup of the 1970s and 1980s.
Roger Mayweather was unbeaten and considered a rising pound-for-pound star when he made his third defense of the WBA junior lightweight title in 1984. He was a cocky 22-year-old, with enough pure punching power to go into Puerto Rico and lift the title from the legendary Sammy Serrano on an eighth-round blitz, then added knockouts in his first two defenses.
Rocky Lockridge was Main Events' workmanlike answer to Mayweather.
The champion entered the ring wearing sunglasses, something the media made a big deal out of at the time, but which seems trivial given some of today's glitzy ring entrances.
Less than two minutes into the first round, Lockridge made Mayweather's sunglasses unnecessary by putting his lights out.
“The bottom line, if a guy wins, he wins. However he won, I have to deal with it. That's part of my career,” Mayweather said.
Three years later, no longer the young prodigy, with questions about his chin dogging him after a second-round loss to Chavez in 1985, Mayweather fought Pernell Whitaker in a 1987 fight at Norfolk, Va.
That was when the bad blood between Mayweather and Main Events became apparent. Dan Duva and Lou Duva were only too happy to remind everyone of Lockridge-Mayweather. The night before the fight, during pre-fight physical examinations in a small hotel conference room, Mayweather sparked a shoving scuffle with the only-too-willing Whitaker, started by their mutual acid tongues. Mayweather was removed from the room, and allowed to reenter only after Whitaker's exam was completed. However, the weigh-in was not conducted until the morning of the fight, a feature of that era, and Mayweather had to run off more than a pound to make the lightweight limit for the NABF title bout.
Other than Whitaker winning virtually every round, the fight is remembered best for Mayweather's drawstring breaking, causing his trunks to sag far below his protective belt, and prompting Whitaker to try yanking them down, a move which brought howls from his home fans at The Scope Arena.
Moments later, Mayweather knocked down Whitaker, a short-lived triumph which reminded everyone how dangerous “The Black Mamba” could be, but only briefly affected the fight's flow.
Later that same year, Mayweather won his second world title, the WBC super lightweight crown. His successful defense of that title was against another Main Events fighter, Vinny Pazienza, in a dominant performance and near-shutout, punctuated by two 12th-round events. First was an uppercut which dropped Pazienza. Second was an after-the-bell scuffle between the fighters, one of many such late exchanges during the fight, except the last one at the end of a one-sided fight prompted Lou Duva to surge into the ring in pursuit of Mayweather, who promptly fired an uppercut which gashed the irascible trainer's cheek.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was seven years old when his uncle fought Lockridge, ten when the Whitaker fight happened, eleven when the Pazienza fight occurred. They are among his earliest childhood boxing memories.
“I remember him beating Vinny Pazienza,” he said. “I remember the Rocky Lockridge fight, first round, brushed him off. And I remember when he fought Whitaker. He fought him on his turf in a no-win situation.”
Now a new Mayweather is going into a vibrant opponent's home turf, though as a heavy favorite this time. Today's Mayweather had his own flirtations with some key former Main Events players too. Shelly Finkel and Lou Duva were in hard pursuit prior to the 1996 Olympics, before Mayweather decided to go with Top Rank.
When Gatti-Mayweather was made, and Roger Mayweather asked the assembled media in New York for a show of hands of those who predicted a Gatti win, he got one response — from Kathy Duva, who was quick with a reminder about how the Main Events of two decades ago had noteworthy success against Mayweather, and that a new fighter for today's restructured Main Events could do the same against a different generation of
“She said, 'Oh, we had fighters whip you.'” Roger Mayweather recalled. “And I'm thinking, so what? I'm not fighting. Beat me, so what? My career's over.”
Before contemplating his senior-tour event against Chavez, to whom he lost in 1985 and again on a 10th-round TKO when he quit on his stool and lost his second world title in 1989, Roger Mayweather has a big weekend to get through.
He likens Gatti to a poor man's version of the tougher fighters of his own 1980s prime. It was as close to a compliment as Gatti can expect from Team Mayweather this week.
“Gatti's like a Bobby Chacon,” he said. “He isn't that tough, but I'm saying he's like a Chacon, Bazooka Limon, (Cornelius) Boza-Edwards, a blood-and-guts warrior. He ain't like them, he ain't fought them kind of guys, but he's a throwback to those days.”
He said the difference between Gatti and his nephew is the timelessness of Floyd Jr.'s talent.
“Floyd is a throwback to any era,” he said. “He would dominate any era.”
So how about Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. in a generational dream fight?
“Floyd would outbox him. Chavez hung in there, undefeated, for a long time. But Floyd would be able to outpoint him,” he said.
In lieu of that time-tunnel matchup, an older version of Chavez-Mayweather, if the fight can be made, may have to suffice.
“It's pretty much a done deal,” said Mayweather, who last fought in 1999. “We've already done it twice. After I get done training Floyd, we just have to get the money right, and we'll get it on again.”