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Friday, May 3, 2013

Leaving the past behind, Mayweather focused on staying undefeated

                     Floyd Mayweather's fight on Saturday will be his first since serving two months in jail.
LAS VEGAS -- Sitting in front of a bank of cameras, flanked by his longtime friend and business partner, Leonard Ellerbe, Floyd Mayweather slips easily back into his element. Another day, another press conference, another confident, younger opponent sitting across from him. The world Mayweather lives in is chaotic, rap lyrics personified. But here, he is at peace. When Robert Guerrero, who Mayweather will defend his welterweight title against on Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 p.m.), declares he will be the first to blemish Mayweather's resume, Mayweather barely flinches. When Guerrero's father, Ruben, calls Mayweather a "woman beater," a reference to Mayweather's guilty plea to misdemeanor battery charges that stemmed from an incident with his ex-girlfriend, Josie Harris, and resulted in a two-month prison sentence, Mayweather simply nods his head and smiles. Just another afternoon at the office for boxing's biggest attraction.

"I have to keep my composure," Mayweather, 36, said. "When I was young, you saw the wild Floyd Mayweather. I'm a lot older now. My kids are teenagers. I can't be conducting myself in a disorderly fashion. It's OK to trash talk sometimes to give the people excitement. But there's a time and a place for everything."
There is a temptation to overdramatize Mayweather's time in prison. His two months are a far cry from the 26 years Dewey Bozella served for being wrongly convicted of murder, the 19 years Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was locked up for being falsely convicted of a triple homicide or the 4 1/2 years Bernard Hopkins was incarcerated for committing multiple felonies. But those close to Mayweather insist the time away has given him a fresh perspective.

"Whether it was two months, five years or ten years, the amount of time doesn't make the toughness of it more credible," Hopkins said. "Two months for a person who has never been to jail, two months for anyone being out of their comfort zone, it's like a year. I think if anybody fights Floyd Mayweather from now until he retires is going to be in a lot of trouble. This is a different Floyd. Not a different fighter Floyd. But a man with a different outlook."

Indeed, since his release, Mayweather (43-0) has made a number of significant changes. He split with his longtime friend, rapper 50 Cent, who planned to co-own a promotional company with Mayweather. And with health problems plaguing his uncle and trainer, Roger, Mayweather has reunited with his father, Floyd Sr., with whom he has shared an acrimonious relationship with over the years. He still lives a lavish lifestyle but, said Floyd Sr., "it seems like he wants to bring his family closer together."

"My thing is trying to leave all of the negative things behind me and trying to focus on the positive, and the positive thing for me is just going to the gym every day, doing what I'm supposed to do and working hard," Mayweather said. "As far as me talking about what me and my dad, the arguments we had in the past or the differences my dad and my uncle had in the past, that's the past. That's why we call it the past because we try to leave that in the past and focus on the future and the future should be bright and at this point in time, everything is going the way it should go."

For an athlete accustomed to training two, three times per day, prison for Mayweather proved especially difficult. Weeks into his sentence, Mayweather's lawyer petitioned to have him removed from administrative segregation to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest, citing his deteriorating physical condition.

"Your freedom is extremely important," Mayweather said. "There's nothing more important than freedom. Once you lose your freedom, you understand that. Freedom is very, very important."
By all accounts, Mayweather's training camp has been business as usual. "He looks like the same Floyd you see on TV," said Errol Spence, a 2012 Olympian who has been one of Mayweather's primary sparring partners. "The dude is relentless. He is sharp, he is seeing everything. He is like a machine."

The influence of Mayweather Sr., Spence says, has been noticeable. It was Mayweather Sr. who first taught his son the shoulder roll defense, the virtually impregnable guard that has helped make Mayweather unbeatable. In his fight against Miguel Cotto last May, Mayweather took more punishment than he had in any of his previous fights. Mayweather Sr. says his top priority in camp was to remind his son of the hit-and-don't-get-hit philosophy he once lived by.

"I thrive on his head movement, I thrive on his feinting and on getting a guy out of position and coming back with some other shot," Mayweather Sr. said. "It goes back to his memory, his brain. He does it. It's simple for him. I haven't seen my son getting hit like he was. If it's me that he needs to get the job done, we're going to get it done. My son is the smartest fighter out there today and there is no reason he should be getting hit, period."

Against Guerrero (31-1-1), Mayweather Sr. says he is concerned about the illegal shots. Guerrero is a physical opponent, preferring to fight on the inside, where he is most effective. Spence said his duties in sparring were to bring the fight to Mayweather, punch during the clinches and "just get to him."
"I just hope Guerrero doesn't fight dirty," Mayweather Sr. said. "He's always trying to throw elbows. I want people to be very much aware of some of the stuff that he was doing. He's not going to whoop Floyd. He doesn't have the talent, the speed or the know-how to do it."

Indeed, Guerrero, 30, who Mayweather admitted he hand-picked, may not be the stiffest of tests. Guerrero earned the fight, following up a win over unbeaten power puncher Selcuk Aydin last year with a resounding win over former titleholder Andre Berto. But Guerrero, a longtime 126-pounder, is making just his third fight at 147 pounds, Mayweather's preferred weight class. And in every physical category -- speed, power, technique -- Mayweather is superior.

"[Guerrero] is flatfooted, and he's more like a grappler," Mayweather said. "He's more like a wrestler than a boxer. But I've been facing guys forever, and everybody already said what they're going to do to me. Everybody's game plan was to throw a lot of punches and keep pressure. But we'll see how the fight plays out. Everybody has a game plan and my game plan is to just adjust and adapt once I get in that squared circle."

"And last time I checked, I was 43-0."

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