Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a creature of habit. He operates under the extremely rare combination of God-given physical weapons, mutant-like speed, endurance and agility, and explicitly intimidating cerebral intuitiveness. In other words, Floyd out-boxed, out-classed and out-thought every opponent he has ever faced. The last time Floyd Mayweather lost a fight was August 2, 1996. Then 19 years old, Floyd squared off against Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov in the semifinals of the Olympic featherweight tournament in Atlanta. Even then, Floyd appeared in control.
The decision to award Todorov the fight was controversial, one the United States protested but eventually lost. Also, it was a bout Mayweather quickly put behind him, making his professional debut two months later.
Repeated for emphasis, the last time Floyd Mayweather lost a fight was August 2, 1996.
Tupac Shakur was in the midst of his last full month on Earth. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were the newest Los Angeles Lakers. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were campaigning for re-election. And Independence Day was proof Will Smith’s life after Fresh Prince wasn’t the end of the world — figuratively speaking, of course.
Eighteen years later, Floyd is the most dominant (and richest) athlete in any sport. The argument can be made he’s the most charismatic, too. Todorov became a footnote in boxing history while Mayweather has come to stamp himself as one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen.
Yet, 2014 has felt different. It's almost as if Floyd, despite outrageous paydays and a goose egg in the loss column standing next to 46 consecutive wins, has been on the defensive all year. That’s partially because he has been.
His alleged involvement in a violent kidnapping and beating of two former employees who were believed to have stolen jewelry from Floyd’s Las Vegas homes was an unwanted pre-fight distraction. Winning the all-around statistical battle against Marcos Maidana in their May fight wasn't enough to pass the eye test for many. A sweeping sentiment preached that Floyd appeared sluggish, a step slower and showed the first crack in a historically impenetrable armor. His "dress how you want to be addressed" PSA was viewed as hypocritical given Money's love of strip clubs. When Power 105’s The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God played a clip of Floyd struggling mightily to read a radio drop, it was the latest in a series of bad public relations moments. The clip was damning for Mayweather.
It was uncomfortable and embarrassing. It was also a result of former friend 50 Cent’s months-long Instagram taunting, this time betting Floyd was incapable of reading a page out of a Harry Potter book. To make matters worse, G-Unit's head honcho isn't the only rapper who Floyd has been at odds with this summer.
Mayweather and T.I. nearly came to blows over the rapper’s wife, Tiny, and throughout the summer. Floyd’s played devil’s advocate, going as far to reportedly claim he “f*cked his b*tch.” Nelly being involved with Shantel “Miss” Jackson, Floyd’s ex, could be viewed as the dynamite that ignited the string of bad 2014 publicity for the world’s most talented boxer.
After uploading salacious pictures to his social media accounts detailing Jackson’s lost pregnancy with Floyd’s kids, the reaction was quick and venomous.
Was Floyd really that petty?
Was he stooping this low because she had moved on?
Did Floyd hate being told "no"?
Why exactly did she move on?
What was he attempting to prove by revealing a woman he claimed to had once been in love with aborted their children?
In typical Floyd fashion, he played it off. It didn’t bother him, or so he said. It was just “Floyd being Floyd.” Months later, however, it wasn’t. Floyd’s feelings were hurt heading into his first bout with Maidana. A legendary prized fighter who had shown vulnerability only a handful of times in his career had exposed his cards.
"The way little Floyd was that day, and the way, in talking to him — I mean that stuff was definitely in his head, I'm telling you," his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., said recently. "I sat down and talked to him and he was asking me, man, what was wrong. And I said, 'Shoot, what I can I tell you? I don't know.'"
The most damning moment of the summer came in the form of Deadspin’s explosive article detailing Floyd’s alleged past as a serial domestic abuser. The details ranged from cruel to outright cringe-worthy with little slack in between. Floyd was not only intimidating inside the ring. He was painted in the light of an unequivocal, modern-day Las Vegas mob boss who ruled through violence, mental intimidation, deep ties with law enforcement and loyalty purchased in cash.
“Heel Floyd” has long since been one of the more entertaining and engaging personalities in sports. Check the build-up for his May 2007 fight with Oscar de la Hoya and the verbal evisceration of “The Golden Boy” months before the first punch was thrown. That was "heel Floyd" at his peak.
In the 18 years since his Olympic defeat, Mayweather has all but controlled the narrative around him. He’s boasted the savvy and uncanny ability to bring the discussion back to the one location he holds rank over every living, breathing human on Earth: the ring. It’s not that now. The conversation revolves around whether or not he slept with a married man’s wife. Or if he regrets outing Miss Jackson’s abortion. Or if he's privately beating every woman who comes in and threatens to leave his life. Or if 50 Cent — rap’s most notorious instigator — is destroying Floyd at his own mental game. Or who can create the funniest meme or gif at the expense of his reading abilities.
His lighthearted, more positive moments are devoured by the negative spotlight. He was one of the first to provide hospital bedside assistance to Paul George following his horrific injury. The undisputed champion even consoled crying kids who lost games of musical chairs.
Last week, my friend Tiffanie emailed an invitation to an end-of-summer barbecue, pool party and Mayweather/Maidana watch party.
“Well, damn,” instantly triggering the mental response. “Floyd sure as hell does fight in two weeks, doesn't he?”
The talk is about everything but Marcos Maidana and September 13. Despite what social media is currently having a field day with, Floyd Mayweather is no dummy. He understands his importance to boxing and what large pay-per-view draws mean for his bottom line. And he understands what remaining undefeated means to his legacy, one he protects with a sense of urgency and awareness of a Fort Knox solider.
Not since perhaps his 2002 fight against Jose Luis Castillo has doubt shrouded over Floyd. Many pinpoint their first bout as the one blemish on Floyd’s career. The crowd vehemently disagreed with the pro-Mayweather decision. Longtime nemesis Bob Arum called the scoring edge in favor of Floyd “ludicrous.” Castillo said, “Running away, like Mayweather did, is not the way to win a world title.”
Floyd walked away victorious, but the stream of conversation wasn’t dictated primarily by him, much like it hasn’t been in 2014. Several more outside distractions — or what could be perceived as distractions — are prevalent now as the Maidana rematch looms, but therein lies an unheralded gift in Floyd’s arsenal: his razor-sharp focus and dedication to his craft.
By the time Castillo and Mayweather fought again three months later, a much different tune was sung as The Associated Press awarded the rematch to the man then known as "Pretty Boy" 116-112.
“I told you it would be easy this time,” Floyd said following the fight.
We're more than halfway complete with Floyd's gargantuan six-fight, 30-month Showtime contract. The Maidana redo is Floyd's fourth, with presumably the final two fights of his illustrious, controversial and, at times, vitriolic career concluding in September 2015. Similar to the theater encompassing his every move, here stands the most accomplished athlete of his generation with points to prove, vendettas to address, amends to make and thorns to pluck from his chiseled core.
“I never figured him out. I think he fought a more intelligent fight this time. I never felt I did anything this time,” Castillo admitted after their rematch.
"He's a great fighter. I did not know how to get him. He is very intelligent. He's got a lot of experience. Honestly, I couldn't find him," Canelo Alvarez said in September 2013.
If Marcos Maidana says anything of the sort following their September 13 bout, that's a start in the right direction.
Stopping 50 Cent's Instagram barrage? That's another issue altogether.
@JustinTinsley is stuck halfway between a dream and reality. The plan? To make that dream a reality.