In 2001, around November or December, I was home late one night watching ESPN Boxing After Dark. I enjoyed, and still enjoy, the program to watch any up and coming fighters that might interesting.
That night I was introduced to Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
It was like viewing a Picasso in a room full of watercolors.
His speed was blinding. His ring generalship was sublime. He countered everything thrown his way and then some.
For years I followed "Pretty Boy" Floyd's rise through the ranks. He was easily my favorite fighter. I bestowed his prowess on anyone that would listen.
He was charismatic and good looking. He was an amazing fighter.
He was, I proclaimed, the future face of boxing. He was going to be a cross-over fighter in the way of Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya. A fighter that could get non-fight fans to fork over $60.00 to watch him fight.
He was going to get the love from corporate sponsors. I could foresee Nike building a campaign around him. American Express featuring him in their ads.
It wouldn't be too long before Sports Illustrated had him on their cover.
He could have been boxing's equivalent of Tiger Woods.
After a few years, I started to notice not only wasn't he getting any love from major corporate sponsors, he wasn't getting any love from HBO or Showtime. He was never really featured in their upcoming bouts. The announcers rarely mentioned his name.
What was going on?
Then stories started to slowly filter out. He had a "dysfunctional" family. He had an attitude. He was a jerk to be around.
At first, I paid the rumors little attention. Most fighters have dysfunctional families (otherwise, they wouldn't be fighters). I've heard that Oscar De La Hoya can be a real jerk at times.
I continued to sing the virtues of Pretty Boy Floyd as the greatest fighter since Ray Leonard, with the potential to be one of the best ever.
Then he got the De La Hoya bout, and the 24/7 special, and I started to see the "real" Pretty Boy Floyd.
I saw his record label on the back of his robes entitled "Philthy Rich Records." I saw how he nicknamed himself "Money" Mayweather. In every interview, he proclaimed himself the "greatest fighter ever" and the savior of the sport. He bragged about how much money he made.
The only fighter, ever, who can proclaim himself "The Greatest" and get away with it is Muhammad Ali.
I started to get turned off.
He whined about getting no love from HBO. He whined about not getting an SI cover. He hung out in Vegas with 50 Cent.
Suddenly, I understood why Floyd Mayweather, Jr. never turned into the star I thought he might become.
He was a Class A Jerk.
I'm not taking anything away from Floyd Mayweather, Jr. the boxer. I'll be the first to say he's an absolutely fantastic fighter. He might be one of the best ever. Certainly, he's one of the best defensive fighters ever.
But, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. the man leaves a lot to be desired.
I know, I know. Some of you will say all that matters is what he does in the ring.
How he behaves outside the ring matters. It certainly matters to corporate sponsors. It certainly matters to Sports Illustrated and HBO.
It certainly matters to a lot of fans.
Many people just don't want to root for a jerk. They want their heroes to be humble and sincere. Barry Bonds is the perfect example of this. Steroids or no steroids, the man is one of the greatest hitters in history. Yet, his legacy will be that he was mostly despised by his teammates, his managers, his fellow ballplayers, and even the fans. There's no remembrance of him anywhere in San Francisco's baseball stadium.
Floyd's followers just don't seem to get it. Why is Manny Pacquiao the most beloved fighter in boxing? Because he is humble. Because he stays close to his roots. Because he's involved with charities and trying to help end poverty in his native Phillippines. Because he comes across as friendly and engaging in interviews. He's someone I'd like to have a beer with and a hot plate of chicken adobo.
Floyd's latest travesty of demanding an unprecedented drug test from Manny Pacquiao is further testimony of his arrogance. Apparently he thinks he's above boxing's sanctioning bodies.
He isn't and it might cost him a $50 million payday and make a lot of very, very powerful people very, very angry.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. had an opportunity to be a cross-over star and he squandered it with his selfish and arrogant attitude. He could made hundreds of millions in lost endorsements deals and he squandered that opportunity.
Once he's done with boxing, I give him five years until he's dead broke and in trouble with the IRS and a forgotten man within boxing circles.