From bling to the ring

It is not difficult to dislike Floyd Mayweather. This is the man who has turned the concept of bad-mouthing his opponents into an art form, wears more bling jewellery than the average New York pimp and throws $100 bills into the crowds in Las Vegas nightclubs.

Perhaps the idea of that is to flaunt his vast personal wealth and enjoy the sensation of the less fortunate grovelling before him, or maybe he is just kind-hearted.

Either way, the image of the brash Mayweather living a life of Las Vegas opulence—as portrayed by the preview programmes made for United States television ahead of Saturday’s WBC world welterweight title fight against Ricky Hatton at the MGM Grand—stands in contrast to the honesty and humour of Hatton that seems guaranteed to make Mayweather, as so often, the baddie.

Not that Mayweather will give a damn. At 30, he is at the peak of his powers.
Undefeated in 38 professional contests, he won his first world title in 1998 and has been champion at five weights.

He has been hailed as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world since the once seemingly invincible Roy Jones found his powers diminishing with the passage of the years. His detractors might argue he sometimes sells the fans short by being content merely to win, rather than win in style, but the “Pretty Boy” is unconcerned.

Publicly, many of Britain’s top fighters say Hatton will win, as though it is letting the side down to offer a dissenting voice. Privately, some tell a different story, suggesting the speed and multidimensional skills of Mayweather could leave Hatton outclassed.

Hatton’s win over Kostya Tszyu two years ago was exceptional, but some say the Russian-born Australian was ready to be beaten at 35 while they see no signs of decline in Mayweather. “He’s absolutely brilliant. Different class,” said veteran trainer Brendan Ingle.

Ingle’s fighters, from Herol “Bomber” Graham through Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson to the current star of his gym, the WBC world light-welterweight champion Junior Witter, have had the importance of movement, defensive strategy and crisp counter-punching drilled into their styles.

For Ingle, there is simply no better exponent of the boxing art than Mayweather. “I want Hatton to win, I really do,” Ingle adds before spelling out exactly why he doesn’t expect him to. “Mayweather is so slippery and crafty. He has mobility, coordination, pace and rhythm. And he doesn’t get hit. It is his anticipation of what his opponent does that is brilliant. He barely makes his opponent miss, then counters and he is good coming in or going back, so he scores both ways.

“Remember Lloyd Honeyghan [who upset the odds to become the world welterweight champion in 1986 by defeating Donald Curry]. It can happen and it would be great for British boxing if Ricky pulled it off.

“But look at the condition of Mayweather’s body. That is down to hard work. All he has ever done is box—and he lives the life. Hatton takes a lot of punishment in fights and I can see Mayweather standing out there and cutting Ricky up, and knocking lumps off him.”

Mayweather is a man with boxing in his blood. His father, Floyd, was a highly rated welterweight. One of his uncles, Jeff, held a version of the world super-featherweight title, while another uncle Roger, a world champion at two weights, is his trainer. Perhaps it is no surprise that Enzo Calzaghe, father and trainer of world super-middleweight champion Joe, is full of admiration for the American.

“A lot of what he does comes from natural instinct. He has a lot of movement, good lateral movement, and that is the biggest difference between him and Ricky. We all know what Ricky will do. He has to land his body shots or he is knackered. Mayweather is cute and you just don’t know what he will do. He has much more in his armoury. Ricky is good, but he’s more than good.”

Frank Maloney, Lennox Lewis’s promoter through much of his career, also backs Mayweather. “Of course I want Ricky to win,” he said. “But I make my money from knowing boxing and how fights will develop and I think he’ll cut Hatton to bits. I remember the first time I saw Mayweather was when he came up to the Big Bear training camp where Lennox used to prepare for his fights. He was young, preparing for a world title fight. He came in with his entourage around him, real flash. But he oozed talent.

“I remember saying to Lennox, ‘This guy’s got it.’ We watched him spar and it was so obvious that he was enjoying every minute. I am not surprised he has become as good as he has. The crowd will be with Ricky, but that won’t bother Mayweather because he is used to that. He’s a great boxer, not always an entertaining boxer, but he has total belief he can’t be beat.” — Â

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