LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather was on his back on the mat in his gym, ready to move on to another exercise several hours after he began, and four days short of two months from his bout against Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 14 at the MGM Grand Garden.
Rafael Garcia, the wise sage of The Money Team, is 84 years old and perfectly willing to tell the boss when enough is enough. Garcia has spent more than 60 years of his life in boxing and understands the toll a hard training camp can take on a fighter's body.
Mayweather frequently pushes himself beyond normal limits, as if he were an 18-year-old hoping to catch the eye of the local promoter and not the biggest star in boxing on the homestretch of his career.
"One of the things that amazes me all the time about Floyd is that he works and trains like he's never made a dime in boxing," said Leonard Ellerbe, the fighter's close confidant and the CEO of Mayweather Promotions. "It's incredible to see a man who has made a couple of hundred million dollars in this business pushing himself the way he does. He's a perfectionist.
"An off day for him is when someone might catch him with a jab. And if they do, he's angry, and he's got to figure out why and fix it. He's so hard on himself."
Mayweather said when he compares himself against the greatest fighters who ever lived, he believes his advantage is conditioning. Someone mentioned Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, and Mayweather quickly interrupted.
There is, he said, a big difference between himself and those all-time greats.
"I've seen all those fighters get fatigued," Mayweather said. "All those fighters got fatigued [at one point in their careers]. They're all legends, and I take my hat off to them. They paved the way for me to be where I am.
"But one thing about me, of course I'm a 15-round fighter. I've shown I got a granite chin; I've never hit the canvas. I've been in there with the best of my era, and I made A- and B-level fighters look like D-level fighters."
Garcia has worked for Mayweather for 13 years, and knows that someone needs to tell him that he's done enough work for one day and that it's time to call it quits. This is just the fourth day of Mayweather's training camp, but he weighs just 147 pounds.
Garcia leans in and whispers something to Mayweather, who nods and quickly heads off to the locker room.
Across the ring, former world champion Cornelius Boza-Edwards, who runs the gym, sidles up to a familiar face. He watched the last few minutes of Mayweather's workout with an almost stunned look on his face.
"Did you see that?" Edwards said. "I've been around boxing for many, many years, and I've never seen anything like it. I'm totally serious when I say this, but he's ready to fight tomorrow.
"He started on Monday, and it was like he'd been here for six weeks already. I honestly can say that in all my years in boxing, I haven't seen a thing like it."
A short while later, Mayweather is seated on a bench in his locker room, happily talking about the sport and his career, when Boza-Edwards brings him a pair of boxing gloves to autograph.
As he signs the gloves, a thought occurs to him and, without knowing it, he may have revealed the secret for his success.
"It makes me feel good when a guy like him tells me, 'Floyd, you are a very, very hard worker,' " Mayweather said, nodding in Boza-Edwards' direction. "Of course, anybody on my team, everybody who is in this room, I want to impress them. Every day I want to impress them. I want to get better. That's the truth: I want to impress everybody around me.
"It's self-preservation: I want to impress myself, first. But I really want to impress everybody around me."
The truly great ones have an ego, and Mayweather certainly has one. But taking care of his ego doesn't require him telling everybody how great he is, though he does plenty of that when he's in fighting mode. Rather, his ego drives him to try to find perfection, to ensure he's never embarrassed in the ring.
Al Mitchell, his coach on the 1996 Olympic team, sat in the gym watching Mayweather push himself through a blistering workout without so much as breathing hard.
At the end of those Olympics, Mitchell had little doubt that Mayweather would become a world champion not long after his entry into the pro ranks.
But Mitchell conceded that Mayweather has greatly exceeded his expectations.
"What he's doing now, dominating this era, it's kind of like Sugar Ray Robinson, and what he did in his era," Mitchell said. "The big guys, they all have their time. Sugar Ray had his time. Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard, they had theirs. Roy Jones, of course, but Roy wasn't skilled like Floyd. He was just so fast, and we knew that when the speed went, well, you know. But Floyd, he was a very coachable guy and he always wanted to be good. What people don't realize about him is how competitive he is.
"He's always worked so hard on the smallest things. He learned very early in his boxing life that the small things mean a lot. And now, you'll see him do moves in there that are, to tell you the truth, extremely hard, but he makes 'em look easy. That's because he's drilled them so many times to get them perfect. He's successful because he's never satisfied, and he wants everything to be perfect."
Things couldn't be much better for Mayweather. He's fighting the fight that his critics said he wouldn't take. He's building an incredible undercard.
He has blips he has to deal with, and he quickly says, "I'm not perfect. I know that."
He's been forced to deal with a minor bit of controversy recently. Mayweather is the man who introduced Olympic style drug testing to boxing in 2010, and yet several Mayweather Promotions fighters have failed their drug tests.
It's not a subject that pleases him, and he had particularly harsh words for J'Leon Love, who tested positive for a diuretic after his May 4 win over Gabriel Rosado.
Love pleaded with the Nevada Athletic Commission for leniency, pointing out that his brother was murdered during his camp and that forced him several times to break training. The end result is that he struggled to make weight.
Mayweather understood, but said he told Love in a face-to-face meeting it still wasn't right.
"He was going through a lot, and I come from the same background he's come from," Mayweather said. "J'Leon Love comes from a rough background. He didn't have shoes. He had to beat up a guy to take his shoes so he'd have shoes. He comes from a very, very rough background.
"What I told J'Leon Love [after learning of his positive test] is, 'Wrong is wrong and you're wrong. You're wrong, and that's not right. But I can't be your friend on Tuesday and not be your friend on Wednesday. If I'm your friend, I'm your friend through your good days and your bad days.'"
He's the boss, and everyone in the place knew it, but he engenders tremendous loyalty among his team members.
Garcia said those who work for Mayweather realize they are, in a way, living history.
"All of my years in boxing, so many, many years, and I have never seen anyone like him," Garcia said. "If they called him this minute and said, 'Hey Floyd, the fight is tomorrow,' he'd be ready. You just don't see this in guys, even the best ones.
"Because he's in the shape he is in, he can keep going and he spends more time actually trying to get better. He's been fighting for a long time, and he still wants to get better."
And that is why, in a nutshell, he'll be handed a $40 million paycheck Sept. 14 to fight Canelo Alvarez. He once did it for free, for nothing other than trophies and medals.
Now, he's the richest athlete in the world, with homes in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Miami and enough cars to carry a couple of football teams. Yet, it's never enough.
"People say that he's got a gift, and yes, he has great talent," Ellerbe said. "But nobody has ever worked harder to try to make the most of that talent. Nobody."
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