Mayweather still likable despite bizarre behavior

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LAS VEGAS — Sorry, boxing fans. This is news you don’t want to hear.

Enjoy Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday night against Miguel Cotto, if you wish. But understand this: Despite the fervent hope of almost everyone in boxing, Mayweather will not be fighting Manny Pacquiao.

Not later this year. Not ever.

If I wasn’t sure of it before, I’m sure of it now. Hard not to be after watching Mayweather as he went into a bizarre rant for the benefit of myself, a few other writers, and his ever present band of sycophants.

This wasn’t for HBO’s 24/7 cameras, though it was better than anything on the most recent episodes.

This was pure Mayweather, unvarnished, unplugged, and totally uninhibited.

He won’t fight Pacquiao unless he’s convinced he doesn’t use steroids – something, by the way, that only Mayweather has accused the Filipino of doing.

“You all think I’m scared, I’m a coward? Well guess what? I’m a rich, scared coward. I’m a rich coward,” Mayweather said. “And if that’s the case, why the hell would you want to watch me? I don’t want to watch no coward. I don’t want to watch nobody who’s scared and you all know for a fact I’m not scared. You all know that.”

I’ll take part of the blame for setting Mayweather off. Sitting next to him Tuesday in a VIP check-in room just off the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel, it seemed like a good time to get his thoughts on his main rival.

My mistake.

Instead of a yes or no on Pacquiao, I got a disjointed diatribe on all things Mayweather.

He railed about common sense and hat sizes, doing the right thing and protecting his health. He called Bob Arum a professional liar, and suggested I was in the promoter’s pocket.

The drug testing shouldn’t even be an issue. Arum has already said Pacquiao is willing to take blood and urine tests in the weeks and months leading up to a fight with Mayweather.

But Mayweather seems obsessed with the idea Pacquiao is juicing.

He’s not going to change his mind. And, ultimately, that means no Pacquiao fight.

Before I set him off he had been in a reflective mood, quietly talking about basically raising himself as a child. He spoke about how the gym was his only refuge, and how he used to put pictures from boxing magazines on his wall and stare at them at night, convinced he would one day be rich and famous, too.

He’s both, now. But he’s not so sure the fame part is worth it anymore.

“I want to live a normal life. I want to go to the mall by myself, but I know I can’t,” he said. “I do want to take a walk by myself, but I can’t. There’s a lot I want to do.”

It’s hard not to like Mayweather in these moments. Actually, I’ve always liked the Mayweather I’ve been around, a guy who is generally thoughtful and upbeat. He contributes some of his considerable fortune to those less fortunate, and he does it mostly without asking for credit. His various arrests show another side, yes, but at the age of 35 he seems to finally be outgrowing the foibles of his youth.

I still like him, even after the rant that ended with a dramatic flourish when he leaned over and offered his hand to me.

“Have a good day,” he said.


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