The gasp was immediate.
Upon his tardy arrival for the San Antonio leg of a 10-city press tour to hype his Sept. 14 fight with 154-pound champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather Jr. went into damage-control mode to salvage face with a crowd that had begun lining up more than 12 hours earlier.
He went through several go-rounds of a signature call-and-response with his fans, in which he yells “hard work” and they parrot back with “dedication”. He took it a step further, saying he wouldn’t be where he is without San Antonio–where he won his eighth pro fight in 1997 at the Alamodome.
But it was something he said after making nice that seemed to draw the most notice.
“After five more fights get me to 49-0, guess what?” he said. “I think we may stay in the sport. We may just stay a little longer.”
Almost instantly, the quip became the meat of a tweet by ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael and provided a platform to opine on the wisdom and potential of an already 36-year-old man staying in the ring right up until his 40th birthday and beyond.
It ran contrary to anything Mayweather has said publicly in recent months, including a segment in Showtime’s all-access preview documentary prior to his May fight with Robert Guerrero, in which he indicated retirement was imminent beyond the existing deal.
So there’s no question, his comments from San Antonio made for titillating new content.
But here’s the problem. There’s no way he was serious.
Instead, in a brief one-on-one chat following the stage portion of the San Antonio show, the 17-year pro all but conceded that the suggestion he’d outlast his lucrative six-fight contract with Showtime was the product of on-stage adrenaline and not planned-out reasoning.
“We don’t know. Only time will tell,” he said with a laugh. “Hopefully, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but by that time I’ll be 40 years old.”
Showtime boxing executive Stephen Espinoza said earlier in the tour that he assumed Mayweather would fight at least a couple more times beyond Alvarez in September–perhaps as early as the spring of 2014–but was in no way sure that he’d even get to the six-fight threshold, let alone surpass it.
The contract, he said, calls for him to fight “as many as” six times, but has no specific mandate.
Toward that end, the former Golden Boy Promotions attorney struggled to come up with more than a handful of viable opponents who are being considered past Alvarez–naming Marcos Maidana, Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz as possibilities.
He dismissed middleweight Gennady Golovkin, who said after a recent win that a match with Mayweather would be his “dream”, as too big. But he did say that a showdown with another 160-pound champion, Sergio Martinez, was on the edge of reality in terms of sizes.
The 38-year-old Martinez began his career as a welterweight and was a champion at 154 pounds before ultimately moving up to win a middleweight belt in 2010. Golovkin, who turned pro in 2006 at age 24, has never weighed in at less than 158.5 pounds for any of his 27 fights–24 of which have ended early.
Golovkin’s management team has said he would pursue big fights at 154, if necessary.
Mayweather has won two championship fights–against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 and Miguel Cotto last year–in the 154-pound weight class, but weighed in for them at 150 and 151, respectively. He began his career at 130 pounds and subsequently won title belts at 135, 140 and 147.
Nevertheless, some have gone so far as to claim Mayweather’s career legacy won’t be complete without an ultimate challenge of unbeaten 168-pound champion Andre Ward–who's never weighed in at less than 159.5 pounds–an assertion Espinoza correctly labeled “ridiculous” considering Mayweather, in his words, “really isn’t that big of a guy”.
As for Mayweather himself, he gave little insight on possible future opponents beyond saying “there are a lot of young, strong champions out there”.
That very well may be, but odds are it won't matter.
Follow Showtime’s all-access press tour blog daily at sports.sho.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes in the article were obtained first-hand by the writer.