LOS ANGELES – Floyd Mayweather Jr. and promoter Bob Arum were at each other's throats for a decade, battling over the control and direction of the superstar's career. Then they went through a nasty split.
But Arum ratcheted up the animosity when he questioned Mayweather's sanity only a few days before the boxer will face Victor Ortiz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday for the World Boxing Council welterweight title.
Mayweather, who will end a self-imposed 16-month ring exile when he meets Ortiz in a fight broadcast on HBO Pay-Per-View, has repeatedly puzzled the boxing world with outbursts and mishaps in his personal life since his one-sided victory over Shane Mosley on May 1, 2010.
He's seemed so irrational at times that Arum, who took charge of Mayweather from the beginning of his pro career in 1996 until an acrimonious split in 2006, wondered during an interview with Yahoo! Sports whether the 34-year-old fighter is "losing it."
Arum saw the difficult side of Mayweather's personality during their time working together with Top Rank, and says he has been astonished by the fighter's recent rants, which have overshadowed the build-up to the Ortiz bout.
"He was never the easiest person to deal with, but he was a different person really to what I see now," Arum said. "All you have to go on is what you see and hear about him and the way he goes about his life. But it is very strange. It is completely bizarre some of these things that are going on. The things coming out of his mouth and the actions you hear about just don't make sense. You have to just wonder where it is all coming from.
"You act a certain way [and] you are going to be judged upon it. If you act like you are insane, that is what people are going to think. If you act responsibly and professionally, then people will treat you that way. I guess when you are dealing with Mayweather, you have to stop asking rational questions because maybe we are not dealing with a rational guy anymore. You just have to take it as it is."
Mayweather split with Arum following several years of feuding. Arum was outraged when Mayweather spoke of being paid "slave wages," and the two fell out further when they clashed about how he should be promoted, whether he should fight on pay-per-view and his refusal to take on Antonio Margarito.
Mayweather has aligned himself with Golden Boy Promotions, the chief rival to Arum's Top Rank. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy, said Mayweather is playing Arum for the fool.
"I will tell you what Floyd Mayweather is: the best showman in sports and a marketing genius," Schaefer said. "He knows how to make people hate him enough to want him to lose, and he knows how to make people admire him enough to want him to win. "When he is not in public, he is a great guy and he's very normal. It is like he can flick a switch and turn on the showman. He is obviously a very good one because he has Bob Arum fooled." Tensions have been further increased by the ongoing saga involving Manny Pacquiao, who is promoted by Arum. Mayweather-Pacquiao is the fight that all boxing fans want to see, but negotiations repeatedly broke down due to a disagreement over drug testing. Mayweather also blotted his reputation by launching into a disgraceful racist rant against Pacquiao that was broadcast online.
Mayweather remains one of boxing's two biggest drawing cards, along with Pacquiao, but continues to allow his mouth to get the better of him. In recent weeks, he even launched into verbal attacks on his own promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, much to Arum's amazement.
"Obviously, I am not involved with him now and haven't had that kind of close relationship with him for a very long time," Arum said. "He is now a bizarre character, and why that is, I just don't know. I worked with him from the very early days of his career and obviously he is one of the most talented fighters we have seen and a great boxer. …
"A boxer's reputation is his own and you have to nurture it. He is destroying it. What about the recent attack on Oscar? Why is he attacking De La Hoya? He is not fighting him – he is his own promoter. What purpose does it serve?
[Related: Mayweather, De La Hoya spar over legacies]
Mayweather insisted his comments directed at De La Hoya were due to the promoter's insistence that his recent opponents had not been fighting at their peak.
Whatever Mayweather's state of mind, if he takes care of business against Ortiz and Pacquiao does the same against Juan Manuel Marquez on November 13, the clamor for a mega-fight will once again ignite. Given the already-strained relationship between the rival camps, Arum's comments and Schaefer's response may add extra spice to boxing's longest-running soap opera.
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- Bob Arum
- Floyd Mayweather