Floyd Mayweather's Net Worth as Much a Part of His Legacy as His Boxing

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2013

Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez pose with the gold belt
Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez pose with the gold beltEthan Miller/Getty Images

When Floyd Mayweather faces Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas this Saturday night, the unbeaten, pound-for-pound king will receive a record guarantee of $41.5 million, as reported by Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes and other media outlets last week. The payout tops his previous record of $32 million for his fights with Miguel Cotto and Robert Guerrero. 

You can argue about Mayweather's standing among the all-time, pound-for-pound elite. You can debate over the degree to which he has hand-picked his opponents or carefully massaged his resume during his career.

But one fact can't be contested: Mayweather has taken the financial rewards associated with prizefighting to the next level.  

It's been a big part of his image, especially in recent years, and will be a big part of his legacy. The man is known as "Money" Mayweather for a reason.

A part of Mayweather's historic, wealth-generating ability is a matter of pure good timing. He has been the face of boxing during an era when the earning potential for all professional athletes has exploded.

In the era of 24/7 cable news and Internet programming, Americans have become even more sports-obsessed than in previous generations. And even during economically troubled times, they continue to find the money to spend on it.

But Mayweather's record-breaking earnings have been maximized by his own shrewdness. The son and nephew of professional boxers, Mayweather grew up in the gym. He is a boxing prodigy the same way Mozart was a prodigy in music. 

It shows in his ring IQ, which is not surprising. But it shows even more in the way Mayweather handles the business side of the sport. 

For as long as prizefighting has existed, professional fighters have had to worry about getting ripped off by promoters. By serving as his own promoter, Mayweather takes that worry off the table. All the money generated by Mayweather's fights comes to him first.

Perhaps there are still people with access to Mayweather's finances who could rip him off in some way. But those are all people Mayweather has hand-picked and hired.

People like TMT CEO Leonard Ellerbe works for Mayweather, not Bob Arum or Don King. And Mayweather works for himself. 

And as anybody who has ever done it can attest, when you work for yourself, you inevitably work harder. Whatever negative things a person might think up to say about Mayweather, they certainly can't accuse him of being lazy.

Mayweather treats his body like what it is: a piece of rare, highly crafted equipment upon which a financial empire rests. He maintains that equipment like a dedicated mechanic.

But beyond that, he has shown an uncanny knack for making himself a fighter people care about, in an era when people don't particularly care about fighting.

The record-setting gates earned by a fighter like Jack Dempsey came in an era when Americans were much tougher people. The fighting arts like boxing were accorded the respect they deserved.

Wrestlers were actually wrestlers and didn't have to spend most of their "training time" practicing soap opera skits. During his reign as heavyweight champ, Dempsey was the greatest sport's star in the nation.

In today's era, the people who count themselves as sports fans are often more interested in TMZ-style gossip than they are in actual athletic grandeur.

In the team sports, a player can still get by on just being great. He's still got the uniform and the rest of the team around him. There's an entire built-in geographic region just waiting to cheer him on and buy his gear. 

A fighter has to make fans care about him personally. Coming up as the hot fighter in a city with a strong boxing culture can certainly provide a fighter with a running head start. Sudden and sensational knockout power will always generate buzz. 

But Mayweather consistently remains among Forbes' highest-earning athletes. And to generate revenue like that as a prizefighter in today's media world, it's not enough to merely win.

Prizefighting has always had to at least nod its head toward show business, and Mayweather has capitalized on today's media climate by becoming a passable showman, along with being a shrewd businessman and master boxer. 

Mayweather's Money persona is deliberately styled, a schtick in stand-up comic terms. A gimmick, as they refer to it in wrestling. 

Like any great gimmick, Mayweather's is built on the rough frame of reality. It's his earlier, super-smooth, Pretty Boy persona, but grown up and with major bank. 

Mayweather hangs out with rap moguls, collects luxury autos, burns $100 dollar bills and gambles outrageously on sports. Yet, come fight time, he shows up and makes things look relatively easy, at least in relation to how hard boxing is supposed to be. 

I know in his cockiness he gets compared to Muhammad Ali on occasion, but to me, Mayweather often looks closer to "The Nature Boy Rick Flair."

I'm old school. I wish that instead of retiring to get involved with professional wrestling in 2008, Mayweather had fought Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito or a younger Shane Mosley or Cotto. 

For that matter, I wish there was the kind of audience for Jordan Burroughs vs. Kyle Dake that there is for John Cena vs. CM Punk and that professional wrestling was essentially just professional MMA.

But in today's world, Mayweather's retirement has to be viewed as the professional equivalent of a sabbatical, spent on continuing education.

Obviously in a world where people are starving, it's a little out of whack that one man can earn $41.5 million for a single night of work. But given the world we live in, Mayweather is a man who has been very smart with the cards dealt to him.

And his fights are events that generate money for a lot of other people, too. Few cities in America have been hit harder than Las Vegas in the economic downturn since 2008, but Mayweather-fight weekends have continued to serve as much-needed stimulus events. 

The people who work for a living in Vegas will miss Floyd when he's gone. 

Most boxing writers and historians who were honest would have to admit, Mayweather-fight weeks are special in a way that we can only be nostalgic for most of the rest of the year. 

From the perspective of earning money, only one other fighter in recent years has consistently rivaled Mayweather in North America, and that is the man it appears he will never fight, Manny Pacquiao. 

Pacquiao has won his status as a top earner through electrifying in-ring performances, but his promoter, Bob Arum, has also marketed him shrewdly.

But fighters age, and no fighter's personal interests are going to coincide with his promoter's indefinitely. By maintaining as much personal control as possible, now that he is in a position to do it, Mayweather sets the far better example for the next generation of fighters. 

As Mayweather has become richer than ever, he has very much toned down the flashy style. He still leads a life of over-the-top, conspicuous consumption, but in that, he's no different than any other fabulously wealthy American.

To revert back to professional wrestling terms again, he has not pushed his heel persona so much while promoting this fight with the extremely likable Canelo Alvarez.

But the core of the gimmick has remained pure. 

The Money Team, after all, remains all about the money. And because of the era we live in now, that is going to be as much a part of Mayweather's legacy as his boxing record.