What’s this? The champ with the fast hands, the quick tongue and the hall-of-fame moves sounds almost like a nice guy, someone you might want to sit down and have a beer with.
But just one.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. has always been a complicated, gifted fighter, but he’s never been known for his affable nature when talking about an upcoming opponent. Outside of the ring he’s always been more sass than substance, more strut than stroll.
So why does he suddenly sound so genuine, so gracious, so unMayweather-like? Where’s the punk attitude, the trash talk, the “kiss-my-butt” demeanor? Why is he giving former world champion Sharmba Mitchell all this respect, all this attention?
“[Mitchell] has fought some of the best guys out there,” Mayweather (34-0, 30 KOs) said on a conference call this week. “There’s no need for me to badmouth the guy. His record speaks for itself. All the negative comments, I’m leaving that stuff in the past. I’m doing all my fighting in the ring.”
This is a good time to pause and catch our breath. Let it sink in.
Could you repeat that Floyd?
“I’m not overlooking Sharmba Mitchell. I look at every challenge as the biggest challenge of my life. Just to be in this position, I feel I’m truly, truly blessed.”
Yep, it’s the same Floyd Mayweather Jr. we’ve all grown to love or hate. But maybe he knows his fight with Mitchell (56-4, 30 KOs) on Saturday night at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. (HBO) could use a little help on it’s way to the TV ratings.
But that can’t be it. Mayweather sounds – gasp – sincere, honest, candid, like he actually means what he’s saying.
Here’s a few more Mayweatherisms from the conference call.
“At the end of the day, it’s about making money, but it’s also about being a (boxing) legend. As a fighter, I’m just happy to be mentioned among some of the best fighters in the world from the past and the present. I used to always tell the media and the people that I was the best out there. It wasn’t bragging or BS. It was just the way I felt in my heart.”
Will the real Floyd Mayweather please stand up?
Still, there are some signs of the old Pretty Boy. He still occasionally refers to himself in the third person, saying stuff like, “The better the competition, the better Floyd Mayweather looks.” Or there’s this one concerning his promoter of the future, whether it will be Bob Arum at Top Rank or Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions, which is promoting Saturday’s fight: “We don’t know what the future holds for Floyd Mayweather right now.”
We do know this third person stuff is as annoying as hell, and it’s usually used by people with huge egos. But you can’t fault Mayweather for his healthy slice of braggadocio. Without it, he wouldn’t be the great fighter he is.
“My body looks tremendous,” he said. “And I’m in excellent shape.”
How do you argue with that?
As for Mitchell, he must feel like the Marx Brother no one remembers.
“Being the underdog, I don’t worry about it,” he said on the same call. “I know it’s going to be a tough fight, but that brings the best out in me. I’d rather be the underdog. I don’t always want to be the one favored to win because then you overlook things.”
Apparently, Mayweather isn’t overlooking Mitchell. But he’s also thinking about the move up to fight at 147 pounds for the first time and about maybe taking over the division. It's all about legacy.
“Everybody’s goal in boxing is to make a lot of money, to leave a mark in boxing and to be a legend,” he said. “It’s all about being a legend, man. Thirty years from now, when my career is long over with, I want them to say, ‘Floyd Mayweather? That was a real fighter. He fought everybody. Never ducked or dodged any challenger.’”
Maybe they’ll say he wasn’t such a bad guy, either.