ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown wrote a terrific feature on Floyd Mayweather which is in the latest issue of the Mag, out on newsstands now. It is the one with Floyd on the cover.
Part of ESPN since 1999, and the author of six books, Keown was kind enough to shed some light on the process of writing the story, and share a few juicy tidbits on the boxer, in this Q 'n A.
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Q) Can you tell TSS readers what sort of access you received to Floyd, how long you were around him?
A) I spent two days with Floyd. He is nocturnal, so a day for Floyd begins around 4 p.m. with a workout at his gym, and the first day I spent about four hours there. The second day was the focus of the story, and I had unlimited access to him from the beginning of his 4 p.m. workout to the end of the photo shoot at his house -- almost 4 a.m. His terrific publicist, Kelly Swanson, made sure I was able to go to dinner with Floyd, 50 Cent and his crew. At a time when access to major sports stars is getting harder to get, Floyd is unprecedented. He loves the attention.
Q) Was he what you expected? Did you come in with a preconceived notion of the man?
A) I did a cover story on Floyd before his 2007 fight with De La Hoya, so I knew the routine. This time, though, my access took me more places, allowing a fuller view of the man and his world. Floyd's in a different place now than he was then; in 2007 he was trying to prove that he could make it on his own, and this time he was eager to show how well that gamble paid off.
Q) Did you find yourself, as I do, psychoanalyzing Floyd, trying to figure out the roots of his behavior?
A) Oh, yes. He's a dime-store psychologist's dream. There's so much wrapped up in his background -- his tempestuous relationship with his father, his constant need for affirmation, his ridiculous work ethic. He's really a guy who went into the family business and is determined to prove himself both financially and athletically.
Q) Based on the extra insight you have of him, can you hazard a guess if he will truly push to make a fight with Pacquaio happen? If no, why not, do you think?
A) When I was with him, I left thinking it would happen, but I have to admit his latest comments -- that he wouldn't risk fighting Pac because of the steroid thing -- caught me off-guard. Agree with him or not, Floyd's argument concerning the money split makes sense if you put yourself in Floyd's place. If he can make $80-100 million fighting Cotto and another non-Pacquaio, then he doesn't really need the fight for anything other than legacy. And that means more to the fans than it does to him. To him, being undefeated is the legacy. That said, I think it will happen. I don't have concrete reasons for it, but I think the pressure will eventually force both guys to make it happen. Wishful thinking, maybe.
Q) Is there any juicy stuff left on the cutting room floor you can share?
A) Not really. There's so much excess in his life that it's hard to exaggerate. There was a moment in the car when we were sitting at a red light and Floyd turned to 50 Cent and said, casually, "This is the intersection where Tupac got shot." "Surreal" is an overused word, but in this case I think it fits.
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(Disclosure note: In addition to TSS, Woods also does work for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com)