Roger Mayweather key in Floyd's success

Kevin Iole

LAS VEGAS – Casey Stengel was known as "The Old Perfesser" when he was the manager of the New York Yankees.

Much of the time, nobody could quite could figure out what he meant when he spoke, but they usually smiled when he said it.

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And though people seemed to laugh at him all the time, Stengel was no joke. He won 10 American League pennants and his seven World Series titles are tied for the most ever by a manager.

If there is a Casey Stengel in boxing, it's without question Roger Mayweather.

Listen to the 46-year-old former world champion talk for more than, oh, 15 seconds, and you are just shaking your head at the things that come out of his mouth.

Mayweather is the trainer of his nephew, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is universally recognized as the No. 1 boxer in the world. He's better than a 2-1 favorite to keep that ranking, as well as the WBC welterweight title, when he meets unbeaten Ricky Hatton on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.

Outside of Mayweather's inner circle, Roger Mayweather gets little credit for his nephew's success. Baseball fans credited the Yankees' World Series titles under Stengel's watch to men like Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.

Similarly, nearly everyone credits Mayweather's 38-0 record, world championships in five weight classes and Olympic bronze medal to his marvelous physical skills and not to any tutoring he received from his uncle.

But Mayweather himself said he doubts he'd be the game's dominant star were it not for the work Roger Mayweather did with him.

"Nobody has had a bigger role in what I've become as a boxer than my Uncle Roger," Mayweather Jr. said. "Nobody."

Despite his earnestness, few take Floyd's words seriously and mostly view his uncle as comic relief. And it's not without reason.

When Roger Mayweather was speaking during Wednesday's news conference, promoter Oscar De La Hoya could barely contain himself. He tried desperately to keep a straight face as Roger Mayweather rambled, almost incoherently at times, before succumbing and breaking into an all-out giggle as the monologue droned on.

When it was Hatton's turn to speak, he cracked, "I'd like to thank Roger for making the winter a lot shorter."

After the news conference, as a gaggle of reporters crowded around his nephew, Roger Mayweather attempted to explain himself.

He insisted he wasn't trash talking Hatton and was acting respectfully toward the 43-0 Briton.

When it was pointed out that he said Hatton leads with the face – a universally recognized slam in boxing – he raised his hands in protest.

"I didn't mean nothing by it," he said. "The guy's a good fighter. But he do lead with the face. It's not his fault. He ain't got a jab. When you ain't got a jab, what do you have to do? You lead with the face. He ain't allowed to kick him."

He was explaining that his nephew never watches tapes of his opponents and instead relies on him to look at the video and break the opponent down.

He was particularly proud of his performance in his nephew's pair of 2002 wins over Jose Luis Castillo, at a time when Castillo was in his prime and regarded as a formidable lightweight.

"I broke that tape down for Floyd," Roger Mayweather said. "I gave him the plan."

OK, he was asked, what was it?

"Well, I told him Castillo was a slow starter. If he won the first seven or eight rounds, he'd win the fight," Roger Mayweather said.

But, that's not a plan, he was told. That's simply math. If you win seven or eight rounds in a 12-round fight, you're going to win.

What specifically did you do, he was asked, to formulate the plan that helped your nephew win the fight?

He furrowed his brow.

"I already told you," he said. "Castillo started slow, so all my nephew had to do was start fast and there you have it."

It's good to see he hasn't much changed from his fighting days, when he was known alternately as the "Black Mamba" and the "Mexican Assassin."

He had a powerful right hand and a good, though hardly impenetrable, defense. He was skilled enough to have won two world titles and had the legendary Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez in a heap of trouble at one point.

News conferences rarely started on time when he was involved. Once, when a fight was being held at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, the news conference was delayed for nearly an hour, because Roger Mayweather went to the Showboat.

Most of the fights, he explained innocently when he finally made it to the Sahara, were held there.

Though it would be easy to dismiss him, members of Team Mayweather said his role is critical.

Nate Jones, a Bronze medalist for the U.S. as a heavyweight in the 1996 Olympics, is a friend of Mayweather Jr.'s and works as a camp assistant.

He said that while Roger Mayweather likes to keep things loose, he's also serious about boxing.

"With Roger, that's all it is, boxing, boxing, boxing," Jones said. "Floyd really trusts him and you need that between a fighter and a trainer. Floyd's father was a good trainer, too, but he wanted to dominate him. Roger understands Floyd. He can help him but not overshadow him."

Mayweather Jr. was groomed to be a champion by his father, Floyd Sr., a middling welterweight whose claim to fame was a loss to Sugar Ray Leonard. But when he was sent to prison on drug charges, he turned his son's training over to his brother, Roger.

Roger Mayweather guided the early stages of Mayweather Jr.'s career, leading him to a 16-0 mark. But when Floyd Sr. got out of prison in 1998, he resumed his post and quickly led his son to a world title by guiding him to a dominating victory over the highly regarded Genaro Hernandez.

But the father and son clashed and split for good after a March 18, 2000, win over Goyo Vargas. Many harsh words were exchanged between father and son and between the two brothers, but Roger Mayweather said Wednesday his brother did a superb job teaching his son the basics.

"Floyd (Senior) is a very good trainer, as am I," Roger Mayweather said. "He has his thoughts and I have mine, though. He's defense. That's what he loves. The thing I did for my nephew is I taught him offense. He got a lot of defense from his father and his offense came from me."

Mayweather Jr. derives a great deal of comfort in having his uncle around. And so while he may not be the strategist that Emanuel Steward is or the motivator that Jesse Reid is, Roger Mayweather has a significant impact upon the career of his nephew.

And just like Casey Stengel, though they frequently laugh at him, Roger Mayweather is no joke.