Ross Greenburg, the ace documentarian who ran HBO's boxing program from 2000-2011, and was with that network for 33 years, put together a doc for CBS-Showtime called “Mayweather,” which ran on Saturday night on CBS, in primetime.
Much of the material wasn't breaking news for boxing fans, but nevertheless, as a fan of the sport who seeks the sweet science to be accepted and revered by the masses as it should be, it was good to see the sport on in primetime, on a network.
LL Cool J narrated, as Floyd kicked things off by talking about how his mom told him he was special. “You're different from the other kids,” the fighter recalls his mom saying. “I never knew what she meant,” he said, until he finally did.
The program, written by Steven Stern, featured some superb stills, and interviews with top drawer pugilists and non-fighters like Oscar De La Hoya and Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant.
We see video of Floyd dancing and grinning, and also buying jewelry and throwing money.
“No other athlete on the planet was better at cashing in on his talent and his personality,” LL says as we see highlights from Money in recent years. NY Daily News writer Tim Smith admits he finds elements of the Mayweather persona distasteful and realizes that he acts up usually around PPV time.
Kobe talks about Floyd's drive, and we see the boxer in action against Miguel Cotto, and the fighter talking about how he's happy if you buy his fights, love or hate him.
LL then talks about the upbringing, about growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Floyd's cousin says that Floyd used to go rollerskating, and that he was “obnoxious” to the other kids. Another cousin recalls that Floyd used to win her cash shooting dice, when he was 11.
Floyd Sr. says Floyd used to throw a pro type hook and uppercut as a toddler. Dad was called “Joe Jackson,” because he pushed the boy so hard, we're told.
Mom did drugs, though, and dad was also prone to misdeeds, so Floyd didn't have it easy emotionally. Floyd Sr was shot when Floyd was a year old, and was holding the boy. Floyd said he saw his dad sell his mom drugs, too. When Floyd was 16, Sr. got nailed for dealing; he did 3 1/2 years in prison. Floyd says he had to become a man at 16. “I had to provide for myself,” he says. He kept going to the gym, however.
We see home video of pre-teen Floyd, being playful on his block. His grandma Bernice raised him, he says, so he happily bought her a big house when he got some pro cash.
He went to the Olympics in 1996 but he lost in the semis. We see him debuting as a pro, with Roger in his corner, in October 1996. He tells Al Bernstein after an early bout that he showboats to entertain, to sell tix.
We skip to 2006 and his skills, what makes him special, is discussed. Floyd talks about the Top Rank years, and how Oscar was the focus. Smith says Floyd always chafed at his second tier status. He left Arum, and his publicist Kelly Swanson says he recast his image. No more “Pretty Boy,” now he was “Money.”
We see him fondling stacks, kissing wads, which of course I don't care for at all. The glorification of money sends a horrid message and reinforces maybe the worst element of our culture every day. Leonard Ellerbe insists Floyd is playing a character when he fixates on money.
We see Floyd needling Oscar before their 2007 fight. Smith recalls that his oldest daughter, not a fight fan, was interested in that tussle. That fight was the most lucrative in boxing history of course, so she wasn't alone. Oscar says that Floyd got inside his head, and that made him want to KO Floyd. “That took me out of my gameplan,” Oscar says. Floyd took a split decision and Oscar says that it was a bittersweet memory, because the event was so huge, but he lost and that stings.
Next, we see footage of the Ricky Hatton beating. The Manny Pacquiao non-fight is referenced, interestingly. LL says that the drug testing issue derailed The Fight, which is a simplistic reduction, many would say. Oscar says that the non-fight isn't Floyd's fault, which is also up for vociferous debate, if you're not bored of the topic, and most are. Floyd says peoples' minds are made up and Smith says it was an opportunity missed.
Floyd then handles Juan Manuel Marquez. Next, we see Shane Mosley buckling Floyd but the unbeaten man collects himself and cruises to a win. The Victor Ortiz victory is touched upon. The “two-piece” payback is seen and Oscar concedes some bad sportsmanship was on display. Michigan based writer David Mayo fully defends Floydf and blames Ortiz for not protecting himself at all times.
Footage of Floyd in handcuffs plays next. His jail stint, for a domestic assault charge against his ex, is touched on. Ellerbe says Floyd sucked it up and did his time, while Floyd says there “is nothing cool about losing your freedom.” He says he doesn't want to repeat that pattern.
Floyd says that his dad being back in the fold is a good thing. Dad helps him tighten his D, and “only wants the best” for him. We then pivot to Robert Guerrero, and his back story. His wife Casey's battle with cancer is discussed. He says they learned from each other, from boxing and from fighting cancer.
Guerrero says that Floyd doesn't scare or intimidate him.
LL wraps up with a synopsis of Floyd's reign. “When you come into my domain, it's a different world,” Mayweather says. “Don't make no mistakes, and always bring your A game,” he says, as a warning to Guerrero.
Note: I am told that Greenburg was able to use footage of Mayweather fighting on HBO because rights were negotiated for footage to revert to the fighter and promoter Golden Boy after a span of exclusivity for HBO. That practice has occurred more in recent years and is not an automatic. Rights can revert from between 12 to 18 or so months, I'm told.