Before his September 2009 comeback against Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather gave me a rare in-depth interview on his future fight plans and potential opponents. This interview humorously sparked a fight outside the ring, as Rick Ross retaliated with an actual diss track over Mayweather’s retort here regarding a harmless line from Ross’ “Mafia Music” (“That Mayweather money looking funny in the light”). Despite his dismissal of Shane Mosley, I knew they would eventually clash. Hopefully the Manny Pacquiao fight follows. This interview took place in August 2009.
Admit it, you’ve missed Floyd Mayweather. His trash-talking and lavish lifestyle aside, “Money” Mayweather is one of the most skilled and gifted athletes sports have seen in the last 25 years. In boxing, pound for pound talent like him comes around once in a lifetime, and has guided Mayweather so far to a perfect fighting record of 39-0.
Mayweather retired in 2007, and left fans and critics wanting him back to face a handful of final challenges in the welterweight division. On September 19, 2009, Floyd will face number 2 pound-for-pound fighter, Juan Manuel Marquez in a bout to be televised on HBO PPV and live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Now that he’s returned, Floyd is on record as stating “everyone can get it,” one by one. But in his early 30’s, does the self-professed GOAT still have what it takes to be boxing #1 pound for pound?
Ismael AbduSalaam: Welcome back, champ. About a month ago when the fight was postponed due to your rib injury, you stated you physically felt fine but wouldn’t know for sure until you started having physical contact. How are you feeling now that you’ve been sparring?
Floyd Mayweather: I feel great. Once you engage in combat, you try to focus on offense and mixing up your arsenal to take as less punishment as possible. I’ve been working on a lot of offense [for Marquez] but my defense has always been tight. With everything in the sport of boxing you’re always trying to be a better fighter overall.
Ismael: Since you mentioned the focus on offense, how has your timing been since you’ve been out for nearly two years?
Mayweather: My team uncle Roger [Mayweather], Leonard Ellerbe, Rafael Garcia, Nate Jones, and Juan Blake has stated my timing has been tremendous, and it looks like I never even left the sport. I’m working extremely hard and pushing myself to the limit to come back better than when I left. The point is to come back faster, stronger, and be a complete, intelligent fighter. And this time of course an exciting fighter for the fans, because I want to bring [that] excitement to the sport. Of course for myself first, but the fans do count. The performance has to be there for them.
Ismael: As this fight shows, the field is open to you as far as fighters ranging from lightweight up to welterweight. A lot of people still bring up how good you looked at 140 pounds against DeMarcus Corley, Henry Bruseles, and Arturo Gatti. With guys like Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley at 140, do you feel you could still make that weight, or is your comfort level at 147 pounds?
Mayweather: I feel that all roads lead to Floyd Mayweather, so we’ll take one fight at a time. Marquez is one of the best fighters pound for pound, and Mexico’s best fighter. Mexicans have always produced exciting fighters and champions going back over a hundred years. My main focus is Marquez, you can’t overlook guys. I think when fighters tend to overlook guys they come up short. We’re going to execute the gameplan, get him out the way, and see where we go from here.
Ismael: This will be one of the biggest matchups of the year. Usually, you wage a lot of psychological warfare on your opponents to rile them up. But with Marquez, you’ve really laid off that. Is that because of your respect for him as a fighter?
Mayweather: No, it’s not that. That’s just versatility. Every fight can’t be approached and marketed the same. Some fights we’ll talk trash and other we’ll just go out there and do what we have to do.
Ismael: Just based on resume, do you feel Marquez will be the most skilled fighter you’ll have faced in your career?
Mayweather: [Pauses] Uh, I can’t really say since we’ve never engaged in combat before. Some I’m able to tell [beforehand]…of course he’s a very good counter-puncher and boxer. He’s solid, but I can’t give him the best until we have battle. Then I’ll tell you where he ranks.
Ismael: Even in retirement you were still present at a lot of boxing cards, and you co-signed light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson as one of the future stars in the sport. When you look at him and other young stars like Andre Berto and Paul Williams, how do you think they carried the sport in your absence? And how was the overall health of boxing?
Mayweather: I have nothing but respect for all fighters going out there and working hard to put food on the table. But there’s only one Floyd Mayweather. I don’t believe everybody was born to be a flashy entertainer and sell tickets. And sell PPV’s like I’ve done. I think Dawson’s a hell of a fighter, and so are Berto and Paul Williams. You have to realize we all come from the same background and had to work our way from the bottom to the top. I have respect for these fighters trying to reach the highest level you can possibly reach, and that’s the Mayweather level.
Ismael: You made a profound statement during your last run in regards to marketing fights. You said that a lot of times you approach fights akin to a rap beef because that’s what people want to see and confrontation always sells tickets…
Mayweather: Well, boxing is entertainment. I’m in the show business. But also look at this; I’m in the check-cashing business! As far as PPV, I hold the record, and the highest grossing gate. [Writer’s Note: The 2007 bout with Oscar De La Hoya sold 2.4 million Pay-Per-Views and posted $120 million in revenue]. I’ve won six world championships, and did that all in a decade. So I’ve brought a lot to the sport of boxing. I took care of things inside the ring, and now have added a tremendous team outside on the business end.
Ismael: We can look at the 2005 Gatti fight as the beginning of your ascent to superstardom being that it was your first PPV. Is that when you began cultivating the “Money Mayweather” persona that you’ve been presenting to fans over the last few years?
Mayweather: I think I was just held back. I could have been a bigger quicker if I wasn’t held back from PPV by [my former promoter] Bob Arum. I feel that my first PPV fight should have been with Angel Manfredy. Bob Arum is biased against black fighters; he leans towards Hispanic fighters and keeps them on PPV. He tried to install in our minds that blacks can’t sell PPV or sell out arenas. But that’s not true; we are known for having the best entertainers and the best athletes. That’s been known for many years. But you live, learn, and keep striving.
Ismael: Let’s switch gears to your music label Philthy Rich Records. How has that been going being that you’re managing it simultaneously with your ring career?
Mayweather: Yeah! People want to know why we really never came out with any artists or albums. In the beginning we were working with a cousin of mine whose rap name was Sacrifice and [another artist named] Jumbo, but he had problems back home. And with my cousin, sometimes family and business get mixed up. So they never got off the ground.
The next artist was real underground, and at the time there were really no underground artists that were taking off. We moved on to H-Flow, and H had manager problems and everyone felt like we owed them something. The next one, Lombardi, he fell in love with a girl. Things just kept happening.
Then we started Mayweather Music. Tasha White was running that, and I think it was too much for her. She was more like a mid-level manager instead of an executive. We needed someone who had been around the game and knew the ins and outs to run Mayweather Music, which was more for R&B.
We were working with an artist named Freck Billionaire. When he came aboard we asked if he had any contracts and he said no. Come to find out he was signed with somebody. The guy was trying to sue us and Freck stole one of our watches and left. So we’ve been looking for Freck Billionaire but he’s been ducking and dodging us. He stole a diamond watch and left.
So that’s what has been going on. The business is so dirty.
Ismael: What all that said which do you see as more difficult and cutthroat, boxing or the music business?
Mayweather: Which is more cutthroat? Both!
Ismael: Since your good friends with 50 Cent, did you consult him for advice being that he’s probably went through similar issues with his own label?
Mayweather: We just talk on a friendship level. I don’t ask him about music, but I’m sure he would give me advice if I asked for it.
Ismael: You already have a Hip-Hop collaboration under your belt with the Ludacris song “Undisputed.” With what has happened with the label so far, do you think you’ll now take a more visible approach ala Diddy or keep yourself in the background?
Mayweather: I love music, and right now the most talented artist I’ve come across is Freck Billionaire. But he does business so dirty we couldn’t work with him. We let him walk in our studio for free and put him up in a hotel free of charge. Anything he needed he got, he was comfortable. It’s the people around you. They all end up being the same way. Leonard Ellerbe, Al Haymon, James McNair, and the rest of my team have never let me down. Everybody else comes and goes while feeling like you owe them something. But they never get in the ring for you and throw the punches, or run on the ropes, the roadwork, hit the heavy bag, they don’t do anything.
In the Hip-Hop world today, everybody is a gang-banger. It’s a fad. It’s so crazy; you got Blood and Crips in New York City. I see a lot of things in Hip-Hop that aren’t cool. I just like to hear good music.
Ismael: On that note, your popularity has caused rappers to mention your name on occasion. When you have an instance like the Rick Ross line on “Mafia Music,” (“That Mayweather money looking funny in the light”) does that bother you or do you feel flattered at any type of crossover recognition?
Mayweather: Nah, they say Rick Ross was throwing shots at me. I feel like this, Cassidy already did “I’m a Hustla,” [and] he’s an East Coast rapper. That’s already been done. Freeway already came out with the beard look. And then the real Rick Ross was really getting it as a hustler. I don’t have to take no shots at Rick Ross. I don’t think he’s making $20-$30 million every time he goes out there to perform. I got my own name, Floyd “Money” Mayweather. That’s original. With his rap career, I wish him nothing but the best.
[His] stats and credentials don’t rhyme. One minute he said he wasn’t a CO or cop, next minute he is. He can learn how to get money from me. If he’s a cop and rapping about selling drugs, I guess he was a dirty cop! You know me, I’m not ducking and dodging no one, it’s not hard to find me. I’m in Miami all the time, Atlanta, everywhere.
It’s crazy because me and my manager Al Haymon were the ones that did Lil Wayne’s last tour. So when I seen Rick Ross in Miami on the first show, he broke his neck to speak to me. Rap has truly changed. He was at my Hatton fight, cheering me on. I guess he got upset because I’m cool with 50 Cent. But like I said if I need someone arrested I’ll call him.
Ismael: I know you’re focused on this fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, but I wanted to have you verify something [Golden Boy Promotions CEO] Richard Schaefer said about you having a potential “hit list” of opponents which is rumored to include Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, and Shane Mosley. Is that true or something that’s solely contingent on what happens on September 19?
Mayweather: Man, I don’t have to have a hit list because I’m on everyone else’s hit list! And I’m on the “pay list” [laughs]. You can make a tremendous piece of change against me and that’s why I’m constantly called out. But you can’t knock them. Every boxer’s goal is to get to the pinnacle.
Ismael: Do you feel you’re in De La Hoya’s position now, regarding how everyone used to chase him for a big payday?
Mayweather: No, De La Hoya’s a cool guy but I love doing business with Richard Schaefer. When Al [Haymon], Leonard [Ellerbe], and Richard Schaefer get together they do tremendous business for me, you can’t go wrong. So for those reading this article right now, you got to get with Team Mayweather. And it’s not hard for find us, except for Al [laughs]. Again, a “hit list” for me isn’t necessary.
Ismael: You’re always thinking a few steps ahead regarding your career and never focused on just the present. I remember in 2003 when you were a lightweight and called out De La Hoya, everyone thought it was a joke. But we saw over a 4 year span all your steps focused on building your mainstream rep and you got him in the ring…
Mayweather: I think I could have been a big as Oscar De La Hoya, too. But we were both under [Top Rank promoter] Bob Arum. Bob Arum was handpicking his opponents. He was paying to get De La Hoya in certain positions. With me, they kept me underground like UGK. I was beating everyone they put in front of me, and I knew eventually they’d have to take notice that I’m good at what I do.
Ismael: Is it true that you tried to make a fight with Miguel Cotto at 140 pounds and Arum blocked it when you were both under the same promotional umbrella?
Mayweather: Of course, because he knew I wasn’t going to be with him for much longer. That fight would be great, Cotto’s a good fighter. I think Pacquiao’s a good fighter too and one of the best fighters out there. The difference with me is that I’m a good fighter too and also an extraordinary businessman. I chose to have great businessmen around me to further my career.
Ismael: You mentioned Cotto, how do you feel he fared in his last fight with Joshua Clottey?
Mayweather: Oh yeah, I thought he lost that one. Doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fighter, though. So is Clottey. What I feel so bad about is that we were working on signing Vernon Forrest to Mayweather Promotions. Right now we’re working with Zab Judah, he’s fighting on our undercard. We have a tremendous undercard so the people cannot miss it. September 19 will be a part of history. We’re going to bring the A-listers out. Everybody must tune in.
Ismael: There’s one rival we forgot to mention. He’s a fighter you had initially been chasing or calling out until around 2005-2006. After that it seems like you kind of dismissed it from ever happening…
Mayweather: Shane Mosley! I would say that Shane Mosley represents the 90’s. Now all of sudden after he got 5 or 6 losses now he talking about “yeah, I want to fight Floyd!” Well your career is almost over and now you want to fight me. They all want to talk about Shane’s last fight [with Antonio Margarito], but he beat De La Hoya twice on steroids. So did he win all those championships? Absolutely not, he was on steroids. Now he talks about wanting to fight everyone out there? Shane, your career is over. You’re almost 40! Give it up, Shane!
Ismael: It’s interesting you mention the steroids issue from Mosley second De La Hoya fight. He’s mostly been given a pass on it because it’s only happened once. But I doubt you’d get that same benefit if it happened to you.
Mayweather: If that was me doing steroids the media would have crucified me. Ah man, they would have thrown me in the fireplace with gasoline draws on. It’s okay when someone else does it, but it’s always taken to the extreme when anything happens with me.
Ismael: You’ve had a lot of great performances from a strategic standpoint, in regards to shutting down an opponent’s best assets. We seen that when you switched to the high guard and walked Zab Judah down, and beating Hatton at his own game on the inside.
Mayweather: True, even with De La Hoya the thing people don’t know is that he chose the gloves for me. And when I knocked Hatton out, I dropped him with 10 ounce gloves. When he fought Pacquiao, Pacquiao had on 8 ounce gloves. So basically I beat the guys all up and when Pacquiao puts the finishing touches on them, he gets praised for it. When I beat De La Hoya he’s washed up. Pacquiao gets him and it’s amazing.
Ismael: One thing you didn’t mention is that you fought De La Hoya at 154 pounds, a weight that put you at a disadvantage.
Mayweather: And De La Hoya chose the weight he was comfortable at. When he agreed to fight Pacquiao at 147 pounds, he hadn’t fought there in 8 years and was drained. He was training to simply make weight and not for the fight.
Ismael: You were also fighting in a smaller ring, correct?
Mayweather: Yes, they chose everything from the weight, ring, and my gloves. And you never hear that talked about by the media. When have you ever heard of a fighter picking another guy’s gloves? They had me in some 10 ounce heavyweight gloves.
Ismael: With all that said, which performance would you rate as the best of your career?
Mayweather: [Pauses] I really don’t know which one I’d consider the best. That will be for the fans to decide. I just go out there and try to be the best I can be. I’ve went out there 39 times. Out of them I can honestly say I have maybe 9 duds. But on the flipside I can say I gave them 30 exciting fights. I can only be honest.
Ismael: I will say this. When I ask people about your fights, most cite the Diego Corrales fight as your best win.
Mayweather: Yeah but some will say the Arturo Gatti fight was my best performance. Then others will say the Ricky Hatton fight because I carried the U.S. on my back. I conquered a country with one check hook! They booed our national anthem! It was very, very disrespectful and rude. But they’re my fans also. The U.K .fans love me.
Ismael: That fight won a lot of people over.
Mayweather: Sometimes it takes a performance like that, and you’ll see another on September 19.