Floyd Mayweather Jr. was born to box. Since he was a young boy, it's been his life—following his father and uncles to the gym, throwing punches and shadow boxing from the very moment he could stand on his own two feet.
His craft has taken him far, to the OIympic Games and beyond. Today, a once young fighter known as "Pretty Boy" Floyd is now "Money" Mayweather, an aging warrior and arguably the most infamous athlete in the entire world of sports.
How did Floyd Mayweather come to be the greatest fighter of his generation? It all started, on the national stage at least, in Atlanta, where an exceptionally gifted young boxer pursued Olympic glory.
August 2, 1996:
Mayweather lost to Bulgarian Serafim Todorov in the semifinals of the 1996 Olympic Games. The crowd in Atlanta booed the decision vociferously and judge Bill Waeckerle quit his job in protest of what those ringside called a robbery.
"I refuse to be part of an organization that continues to conduct its officiating in this manner," Waeckerle wrote in his letter of resignation.
Todorov won 10-9 in the official scoring, but a Compubox count showed a 47-26 connect advantage for Mayweather. When the decision was announced, a confused referee raised Mayweather's hand. Even he couldn't believe what he had heard.
The United States lodged a formal protest, claiming supervisor of officials Emil Jetchev, who, like Todorov, hails from Bulgaria, intimidated judges into awarding his countryman the win.
"You know and I know I wasn't getting hit," Mayweather said. "They say he's the world champion. Now you all know who the real world champion is.''
Floyd would go on to win the Bronze medal, capping an outstanding amateur career, finishing 84-6 overall.
October 11, 1996:
Roberto Apodaca was making his pro debut at the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas, but he wasn't the man the crowd had come to see.
Wearing plain black shorts and sporting a plain black robe, Floyd Mayweather Jr. stepped into the ring as a professional for the first time. Just months after his Olympics debacle, "Pretty Boy" Floyd made short work of Apodaca, a fighter who would go on to lose all four of his professional bouts.
October 3, 1998:
WBC junior lightweight champion Genaro Hernandez quit on his stool, refusing to come out for the ninth round. With both of his eyes closed from Floyd's continuous assault, the 31-year-old champion threw in the towel.
"I give him respect," Hernandez said simply.
Before the fight, some boxing traditionalists were unhappy with the young star's brash demeanor. But even critics like Thomas Gerbasi could appreciate this win:
Thank you Floyd Mayweather Jr. Thank you for not ruining your brilliant shutout over Genaro Hernandez with the posing, taunting, and boasting that we've come to expect from you...and letting us accept you as the bright young champion you are sure to be.
The victory did more than make Mayweather the lineal champion at 130 pounds (WBC super featherweight title)—he also became the first member of the 1996 Olympic team to win gold as a professional.
Mayweather was named Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year for 1998, appearing alone on the cover of the iconic boxing magazine for the first time. He gave much of the credit for his success to his father, who had returned to Floyd's corner after serving a five-year prison term on a drug charge.
''When I was in the ring at the Olympics, it was my father's words that I was hearing, not the coaches','' Mayweather told The New York Times. ''I never listened to what the coaches said. I would call my father and he would give me advice from prison.''
Mayweather referred to HBO's offer of $12.5 million over six fights as a "slave contract." Disagreement over how to handle his contract negotiations led to a falling out between Floyd Jr. and his father.
Mayweather first replaced his father as his manager with rap mogul James Prince, then, after Floyd and his father nearly came to blows at a posh Las Vegas restaurant, Floyd Sr. left the team all together:
A more heated discussion ensued, with the younger Mayweather saying the only reason he wasn't going to punch Mayweather Sr. was because he was his father. That prompted Mayweather Sr. to respond that the reason Mayweather Jr. didn't throw the punch was not because it would have been directed at his father but because he knew he would lose such a fight.
After the dust settled, Mayweather accepted a very similar contract to the one initially offered.
January 20, 2001:
In a battle of unbeaten stars at 130 pounds, Mayweather demolished the hard-punching Diego Corrales. Mayweather, it turned out, hit harder than his foe, both in the ring and in the press. Mayweather ravaged Corrales with allegations of spousal abuse, then battered him brutally over 10 rounds, knocking him down five times in the process.
After the fight, promoter Bob Arum was downright giddy. Surely envisioning big paydays ahead, Arum told the press that Mayweather was "better than Sugar Ray Leonard." The win earned Mayweather a new contract with HBO worth $15 million over six fights.
December 7, 2002:
Mayweather seemed to have bitten off more than he could chew in his lightweight debut in April, 2002. Tough WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo seemed to have his number and the crowd booed vociferously when Floyd was pronounced the new champion.
He blamed a poor performance on an injured rotator cuff and accepted an immediate rematch with Castillo. Again the crowd favorite, the Mexican star wasn't able to do much to excite the audience. Mayweather controlled the action and Castillo couldn't quite manage to find his slippery foe no matter how aggressively he pursued him.
''I never figured him out,'' Castillo said. ''I think he fought a more intelligent fight this time. I never felt I did anything this time.''
The boxing crowd didn't show up to support the bout. The two drew a half full house at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
May 22, 2004:
After his win over DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley, USA Today placed Mayweather on top of their "Pound-For-Pound" best list. He supplanted middleweight legend Bernard Hopkins.
"I beat the best at 130. I went to 135 and beat the best, and now I'm moving up to 140. The only thing I want to do is to fight the best," Mayweather said.
June 25, 2005:
Mayweather made his pay-per-view debut against Arturo Gatti in the popular slugger's stomping grounds of Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was forced to come to Gatti's house for the bout because, after his trilogy with Micky Ward, it was Gatti who had captured the hearts of boxing fans everywhere. For all his obvious talents, Mayweather still wasn't able to draw on his own.
"His talent is astounding," former HBO head Lou DiBella told Sports Illustrated. "But his recognition has not matched his talent. He can't sell tickets. Anyone who thinks he's the A side of this promotion is crazy. It's a Gatti event."
Mayweather, furious at the implied insult, questioned Gatti's talent level before the fight:
"He’s a club fighter and they put him on HBO, he’s a C+ fighter and they put him in there against C- fighters and they have a war and a good fight."
Floyd ended up picking apart Gatti on fight night, infuriating fans who had come to see Arturo shut his mouth. Instead, Gatti couldn't lay a hand on Mayweather, landing just 17 percent of his punches. It was a hideous beating, especially in the sixth round when Mayweather unleashed combination after combination, causing significant swelling under both of Gatti's eyes.
Trainer Buddy McGirt had seen enough, calling for an end to the fight. Much to the crowd's chagrin, their hero was forced to quit on his stool between rounds while Mayweather celebrated his most dominant performance yet.
April 14, 2006:
If anyone could match Floyd Mayweather's speed, it was expected to be Zab Judah, and to his credit, he acquitted himself well in the early going of their IBF welterweight title fight. Unfortunately for boxing fans, when the action heated up in the 10th round, it was between the wrong Mayweather and the wrong Judah:
The incident happened with five seconds remaining in the 10th round when Roger Mayweather, Floyd's uncle and trainer, entered the ring because he was upset at Zab Judah, who had hit his nephew with a blatant low blow followed by a right hand to the back of the head, both dangerous and illegal punches.
As referee Richard Steele called timeout to give Mayweather a chance to recover, Roger Mayweather stormed toward Judah, which prompted Yoel Judah to also enter the ring. He went straight for Roger Mayweather and threw a punch at him.
Seconds later, the ring was filled with members of the fighter camps, including Ellerbe, and security forces in a scary free-for-all that came close to sparking a riot among the 15,170 fans in the arena.
The two fighters had exchanged words earlier in the fight and tempers were high.
"We come from the same street," Mayweather said. "He called me 'Bitch.' I called him a bitch. He said what he said. I said what I said."
When order was restored, Mayweather finished out the fight en route to a decision win. The two even embraced before the 12th and final round—but the Nevada Athletic Commission was not so forgiving. Both Judahs and Roger were fined and suspended for a year for their role in the fracas.
Nov. 4, 2006:
Mayweather beat Carlos Baldomir for the linear welterweight title in a 12-round decision. It was his third straight pay-per-view main event and none managed to reach 400,000 buys.
"Not knocking Floyd Mayweather, but he knows he couldn't draw flies to a dumpster until he beat Oscar De La Hoya," former manager James Prince said recently. "I know this is true because I was managing him when he couldn't sell out his hometown of Grand Rapids or the San Francisco Auditorium, which only seats 6,000 people."
De La Hoya was unimpressed with Mayweather's win over Baldomir:
To be the pound-for-pound champion of the world, you have to have everything. You need footwork, you need speed, you need power, you have to have it all. He was dominating that guy, but he didn't finish him off. You need the overall package, and I didn't see the overall package.
Nevertheless, he made Mayweather an offer for a fight that would propel boxing back into the cultural mainstream.
May 5, 2007:
Mayweather all but ended the career of the legendary Oscar De La Hoya in the biggest pay-per-view of all time. Giving up a ton of weight, coming in four pounds under the 154-pound limit, Mayweather was bullied by De La Hoya early before mounting a comeback in the later rounds to secure a split-decision victory.
The two gave it their all, but Sports Illustrated's Richard Hoffer didn't believe they lived up to the hype:
The decidedly pro-Oscar crowd—there is hardly anything more traditional in boxing than a Cinco de Mayo event headlined by De La Hoya—just couldn't get any traction. And it wasn't because Mayweather had purloined their affections with his playful decision to wear a huge white sombrero into the ring. De La Hoya simply failed to mount a sustained attack and was too often caught up short by Mayweather's snapping fists. In the 10th round, for example, De La Hoya was slugging along when Mayweather simply popped him flush in the face with a right hand, driving him backward. So much for that.
The buildup to the fight included the debut of HBO's 24/7, the now iconic reality show that helped propel Mayweather into stardom. He was a natural presence on television and the genre, as much as the win over De La Hoya, took him to the next level.
June 6, 2008:
Six months after a win over Ricky Hatton, an extended vacation turned into a retirement for boxing's best fighter:
This decision was not an easy one for me to make, because boxing is all I have done since I was a child. These past few years have been extremely difficult for me to find the desire and joy to continue in the sport.
I am sorry I have to leave the sport at this time, knowing I still have my God-given abilities to succeed and future multi-million dollar paydays ahead...But there comes a time when money doesn't matter. I just can't do it anymore. I have found a peace with my decision that I have not felt in a long time.
September 19, 2009:
Mayweather, rusty after nearly two years on the shelf, still made mince meat of Juan Manuel Marquez. He won all 12 rounds on one judge's scorecard and completely outclassed one of the best fighters in the world. Ring Magazine, the bible of boxing, was impressed:
Mayweather out-fought, out-thought and overpowered Marquez in every conceivable way. He dropped the Mexican in the second round with a left hook and generally toyed with Marquez the rest of the way. His statistical superiority was nothing short of astonishing: Despite throwing 7.5 fewer punches per round (41.1 to 48.6), Mayweather out-landed Marquez 290-69 overall, 185-21 in jabs and 105-48 in power punches.
The fight was not without controversy. Because Marquez had been fighting at just 130 pounds, Mayweather agreed to meet him at a catchweight of 144 pounds, three below the welterweight limit. But, instead of actually making the cut, he simply paid Marquez the contracted $300,000 per pound penalty they had agreed to, giving him a distinct size advantage in the ring.
January 1, 2010:
After years of dancing around the topic while the world waited, it looked like a bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would finally be made. Unfortunately, disagreements regarding the split of the purse and Olympic style drug testing ended up scuttling the deal, and promoter Bob Arum announced that the long-awaited fight was off:
"People say, 'We don't give a f--- if he's taking or not; we just want to see the fight. We don't give a f--- about your health and we don't give a f--- about your family.' " Mayweather said. "I care about my family. I love my family. They're going to be there when no one else is there. When my career is over, you're all going to move on to the next one."
May 1, 2010:
Shane Mosley came as close as anyone has in a decade to dethroning Mayweather. He caught him flush with a huge right hand in the second round. To his credit, Floyd weathered that early storm and spent the rest of the fight beating Mosley to a pulp.
When it was all over, all the veteran challenger could do was give praise to the champ:
I think after I caught him with that big right hand I opened up to much and played into his hands. I was too tight. When I hit him with the big right hand, I thought I was going to get the knockout...He started to avoid the punches. He did surprise me. Once I tried to get my timing back, I couldn't adjust and he did. I am happy I took the fight. He is a true champion.
Even De La Hoya, Mayweather's longtime rival, was singing his praises after the dominant showing:
We have to really respect what we have just witnessed. The best boxer on the planet is Mayweather, in my mind, in Mosley's mind, in everybody's mind. He is the best. Tonight convinced me that he is the best.
September 17, 2011:
After delivering a vicious headbutt in the fourth round, Victor Ortiz wanted to hug—but Floyd Mayweather wanted to fight:
"After we touched gloves I threw the left hook, then a right. In the ring you have to protect yourself at all times," Mayweather said.
It was vintage Mayweather. Only Floyd could be hit by an egregious head butt from his opponent and still somehow emerge the villain. Some called it a dirty blow—it was unclear whether or not referee Joe Cortez, who was strangely looking away from the action, had actually restarted the action when Mayweather struck.
Dan Rafael of ESPN believed Mayweather had done nothing wrong:
Mayweather, who took heat for a supposed sucker punch, did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing wrong. Time was in, fight is on. This ain't checkers or golf. Ortiz made a rookie mistake and paid for it. It was his fault, not Mayweather's, and too bad for him.
More than 14,000 fans at the MGM Grand disagreed, raining the new champion with boos. HBO announcer Larry Merchant also took umbrage with Mayweather's actions and the two argued in the middle of the ring on live television, culminating in the 80-year old Merchant telling the champion that "I wish I was 50 years younger, and I would kick your a--."
May 6, 2012:
Boxing's premiere bad guy did it again, convincing 1.5 million homes to pay good money to see him lose on pay-per-view. Instead, Mayweather beat another legend, the hard-charging Miguel Cotto, to win the WBA light middleweight title.
Before the bout, the normally elusive Mayweather promised to stand and trade with Cotto. He was a man of his word, getting hit more than usual, but giving better than he got:
Cotto gave Mayweather a fight beyond expectation, a close fight, a tough fight, an instant classic. In the end, it was not enough. Mayweather triumphed in a unanimous decision and blew kisses to the crowd, which, naturally, booed him.
August 3, 2012:
Mayweather was released from the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada after serving just two months of a 90 days sentence for domestic abuse. He pled guilty to striking Josie Harris, the mother of his three children, back in September 2010, but Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa allowed Mayweather to remain free until June 1 so that the boxer could fight Cotto.
"I was powerless. He was holding me down. I couldn't fight back," Harris said. "The kids were screaming and crying, 'You're hurting my Mom.' "
Things could have been much worse, but Mayweather's then 11-year-old son was able to run out the back door and alert a neighborhood security patrol.
May 4, 2013:
There is no other event in boxing quite like a "Money" Mayweather fight. Has the now legendary champion slowed down enough that he's vulnerable to rising star Robert Guerrero? The boxing world awaits the verdict with baited breath.