Ibragimov trainer more than "the other Mayweather"

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

NEW YORK – A phalanx of microphones and cameras were thrust in Emanuel Steward's face, his every utterance treated with the gravity of those made by a head of state.

A few feet away, behind his fighter, behind a couple of members of the athletic commission and behind some hangers on, stood Jeff Mayweather. No one bothered to point a microphone in his direction. No flash bulbs popped as he moved. No one shouted his name.

When the scene was recalled to him a short while later, the forgotten Mayweather grinned ever so slightly.

"And that's the way I like it," he said. "I'll do my job, and if doing interviews is part of my job, I'll do them. But all the attention and the media and the fanfare, I can do without it."

Even as the lead trainer for an unbeaten heavyweight champion, Mayweather is managing to blend into the background.

The HBO-televised bout Saturday at Madison Square Garden between IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov is, in so many ways, brand name versus generic.

The ultra-low profile Ibragimov and Mayweather, his equally anonymous trainer, are the generic side of an equation dominated by the cover-boy Klitschko and Steward, his Hall of Fame trainer.

Mayweather shrugs it off as part of the business. He's been in and around boxing most of his life. His oldest brother, Floyd Sr., was a fighter good enough to have once taken on Sugar Ray Leonard and is now the self-proclaimed greatest trainer in the world.

His other brother, Roger, was a two-time champion known as much for his outrageous smack talk as for his lethal right hand.

And his nephew, Floyd Jr., is the world's preeminent fighter and high up on the list of its best trash talkers, as well.

The three are among the biggest names in boxing, as much for their very public feud as for their many accomplishments.

Jeff Mayweather, who attended Western Michigan University and occasionally writes boxing columns, said he's almost become physically ill as he's watched his brothers and his nephew feud in public.

He cringes whenever sees the words "Mayweather" and "dysfunctional" in the same sentence. It's almost always, "The Dysfunctional Mayweathers," just like it used to be "The Flying Wallendas."

The stories tear at the heart of his mother, Bernice, and have left him lying awake in bed for hours upon end.

"You see those headlines, but sometimes people forget there are real live human beings behind those names," he said. "It's been a tough thing for the family. I'm not blaming any writers for it, because it's a story and it's my brothers or my nephew who are doing the talking.

"But that kind of stuff really is hard on our family. I love this business, but that part of it is something I could do without."

What he loves is going to the gym each day and spending a few hours trying to make his fighter better than he was before he came in.

He doesn't have a "Mayweather Way" or a notion of how things need to be done.

"Whatever works for a guy, that's the style he ought to use," Mayweather said. "When I look at him, I don't try to figure how he's going to fit into what I want him to do. I try to pick up his style, so I can teach it, and I try to learn his weaknesses so I can correct them."

His voice doesn't reverberate through the gym. He doesn't use physical intimidation. He's almost professorial in his approach.

Ibragimov hired Mayweather after the Mayweather-trained Ray Austin fought him to a draw on July 28, 2006. Ibragimov was a major favorite and the draw remains to this day the only blemish on his record in 23 fights.

Since bringing Mayweather aboard, Ibragimov knocked over Javier Mora in the first round and won lopsided decisions over Shannon Briggs and Evander Holyfield. "He's been a perfect trainer for me, because he has made me (a more complete) fighter," Ibragimov said.

If Ibragimov pulls off the upset, Mayweather will deserve no small share of credit. Just don't expect him to tell you about that.

"The fighter wins, it's the fighter's time to enjoy the spotlight," he said. "He loses, you can be there and get out front a bit to get some of the heat off of him. But I'm just not the kind of a guy who's going to get loud and tell you how great I am. That's just not me."

Even if he is a Mayweather.

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