Time, Gentleman, Time, Floyd Time-Not All Time

By Michael Katz


Time, Gentleman, Time, Floyd Time-Not All Time

He don't need no stinkin' trainer. Floyd Mayweather Jr. probably knew all he needed about the sweet science while he was in utero. Still does. I do not wish to disturb his supreme overconfidence that says while his usual trainer, Uncle Roger Mayweather, is the guest of the county over some assault charge involving the mother of one of his kids, boxing's best should have no problems posed by Carlos Baldomir that he could not solve on his own.

Pretty Boy Floyd assumed the fetal position before birth in order to keep his chin tucked in for defense. He was throwing dazzling combinations on the descent from the womb. With Floyd Sr. estranged and in the camp of possible future opponent Oscar de la Hoya, and Uncle Jeff in Phoenix where he is helping to handle Shannon Briggs (though obviously not to condition the over-the-weight challenger), PBF will be instructed in the ring by his longtime best buddy, Leonard Ellerbe, and the veteran Rafael Garcia. It doesn't matter.

"My father could be in (Baldomir's) corner, it wouldn't matter," said young Floyd. "A trainer doesn't get in the ring." (Well, don't tell that to Uncle Roger….)

No trainer is still no brainer. Mayweather, at 29, is a finished product. Boxing is in his genes - Roger was a world champion, Uncle Jeff a contender and Papa Floyd was a major talent and has become, in his view at least, the greatest trainer in the world. Whatever. At this stage of his career, young Floyd risks more by bringing in a temporary replacement than by going along with his longtime backups.

There is a classic case in point. The most recent fighter to have any real tenure as the best pound for pound was Roy Jones Jr. When Jones fired his father as trainer, he surprisingly picked Alton Merkerson, a longtime amateur coach. John Hornewer, who was then one of Jones's attorneys and is now one of Mayweather's, said he really understood the choice of Coach Merk when he received a call from Eddie Hopson, a former junior lightweight champion working in the same Florida gym with Jones.

"Man, all Merk does is yell, 'One minute down, two minutes down, TIME,'" Hopson, now working construction in St. Louis to help feed his 11 kids, reported.

In other words, just stay out of the way. Don't screw up the wonderfully finished product. Ellerbe and Garcia can be counted on to handle that part rather well with the wonderfully finished PBF.

Ellerbe has been around boxing for 25 years. He has been on the phone with Uncle Roger daily, so he knows which things he has to remind young Floyd about before his challenge for the welterweight title Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay.

Garcia, 77, has been in boxing for a half-century and has been wrapping Floyd's tender hands for the last seven, during which time there has been no real problems. Garcia has worked with 36 world champions. He has talked between rounds to such as Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello and Wilfredo Gomez.

He won't be talking Saturday night, except to Ellerbe during the round. During the minute between - "really, only 50 seconds," said Garcia, who is also the cut man - only one voice should be heard. One voice and four eyes during the round watching Baldomir.

Uncle Roger was considered a whiz at spotting flaws or strategies of the opponent. Baldomir's moves are so slow, though, even one of Jose Sulaiman's judges could see them.

"Floyd, he knows what he's doing," said Garcia. "I'm going to let him talk to Leonard because of the language. I'll talk to Leonard downstairs."

There has long been a game plan, even with Uncle Roger not available to implement it in the gym. The uncle was never going to be able to work the corner fight not since he is on suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for rushing into the ring after nephew Floyd was fouled most brutally by Zab Judah.

The morning of the final press conference, Garcia went to court because Roger was due for a hearing on his assault charges. Garcia was unable to get Roger's ear, but he already knew what Floyd has to do. As Ellerbe said, "There was always a game plan."

"He's tough," said Ellerbe of the welterweight champion from the Argentine. "This is going to be Floyd's toughest fight."

It sounded as if Ellerbe was trying to sell tickets. This is the guy, who moments before, had told Baldomir that his $25,000 good-faith bet on himself would have been better spent on someone on the street.

Trainers, yeah, PBF don't need no stinkin' trainer telling him what to do. He knows, "don't get hit, go to the body…."

But Mayweather does not know as much as he thinks he does. He thinks he is not only the greatest fight of the Now Generation, but the best of all time. I laughed when I heard Dan Goossen, Mayweather's hired promoter (obviously, no point in hiring Bob Arum, Oscar de la Hoya and most others), said that "some" people believe Mayweather is the best to have ever laced up gloves.

Excuse me? This is an old theme of Mayweather's. He has taken the best of the best who preceded him and incorporated it into his act, why shouldn't he be the greatest fighter of all time.

Well, he can't punch much, for one. Yeah, I can see him doing some defensive tricks that maybe Sugar Ray Robinson couldn't - but could he ever knock a guy out moving backwards?

Second, does a modern playwright, who could integrate all he learned from all his predecessors, become better than Bill Shakespeare? Can some hip-hop maestro claim to be better than Beethoven? Believe me, just because I came after them doesn't make me better than Pat Putnam or A.J. Liebling.

Never mind Floyd vs. Robinson or Henry Armstrong at 147 (or Armstrong at any weight). Sugar Ray Leonard, in my humble, would have eventually caught up with Floyd and knocked him out. Thomas Hearns would have done it sooner at 147. And I'm not going to take Floyd over Aaron Pryor at 140. Maybe he would have beaten Pernell Whitaker, maybe not. How about Roberto Duran? He struggled twice to beat Jose Luis Castillo at 135, though I obviously had gotten under his skin when I brought that up because he revealed he had fought Castillo with an injured rotator cuff, that he had been in therapy for seven months and still wasn't 100 percent when they had the rematch. 

Mayweather could have beaten Manos de Piedra. Styles make fights and Duran often had problems with guys who could move (Leonard in II and III, but even Vilomar Fernandez and Adolpho Viruet). On the other hand, give me odds and I'd be glad to bet Duran all day long.

Floyd beat Genardo Hernandez and Diego Corrales at 130, but never faced off against Joel Casamayor at that weight. I'm not sure he would be a cinch to have beaten Alfredo Escalera at junior lightweight. Or Alexis Arguello (he should have outboxed Alexis, but all it would have taken would have been one straight right hand to put him in jeopardy).

No question, young Mayweather gets my vote at No. 1 on the mythical pound-for-pound leader board. But while I think he should have no serious problems with the earnest but plodding Baldomir or Arum's over-rated Antonio Margarito, I wouldn't be as certain if he were fighting Sugar Shane Mosley at 147 and Mosley ain't what he used to be.

Mayweather said it's perfectly understandable that he should feel no one, now or back then, could have beaten him. 

"Greatness is not taking punishment," he said, pointing to the remarkably unmarked face that has smiled at more than 20 years of boxing.

He must rein in his ego, however, even for Baldomir. Mayweather is the only one who can beat him in this fight. Garcia said the Argentine just doesn't punch that hard, only 13 knockouts in 58 pro fights. Mayweather is of course light years faster than the Argentine. He probably hits at least as hard because speed makes up for a lack of raw power. And though his first title was at 130 pounds, Mayweather has grown. He is taller, has a longer reach and may well be just as strong as Baldomir. There is no place the champion has an edge, certainly not on the outside, but I think not inside, either. And though Ellerbe and Garcia will probably warn Mayweather to stay off the ropes, Garcia said their guy has an advantage there. No one, not even Whitaker, has greater defensive moves on the ropes; no one, not even Azumah Nelson or James Toney, can fight off the ropes as well as Mayweather does. And if it grows uncomfortable for any reason, there may not have been a better boxer at getting off the ropes.

But he has to be smart, keep the ego under control, especially post-fight. His targeted goal, Oscar de la Hoya, has warned that Mayweather must skip his intended February date if he hopes for the biggest fight possible in May. Mayweather may be the best fighter in the world. He may deserve to be a big favorite over de la Hoya. But he must acknowledge that de la Hoya calls the shots, including how they split what unquestionably will be a record purse.

This is the fight where Mayweather can become an American Idol. After de la Hoya, then he can take charge.

PENTHOUSE: Baldomir's Cinderella Man story, from selling feather dusters in the street to the real welterweight championship, is not the only unlikely fighter in action Saturday night. Over in Phoenix, on regular Showtime, Don King has a couple of potential film scripts. In his main event, there is Sergei (The White Wolf) Liahkovich, who almost went along with two Belarus buddies into the French Foreign Legion. Instead, he wound up in Arizona as the WBOgus heavyweight champion defending against Shannon (The Big Wolfdown) Briggs. In the semi, Juan Diaz puts up whatever share of the lightweight title he holds against Fernando Angulo, who ran away from abuse at the age of seven and at 11 went to live in the Amazon rain forest in his native Ecuador for about 18 months. While Briggs obviously subsists on fast food in large quantities, Angulo was forced to survive on slow food - anything he could catch, from small animals to bugs, worms and snakes. I don't imagine he'll be too frightened by a law student from Houston.

OUTHOUSE: Shannon likes to call himself "The Cannon," but after the Arizona weighin where he came in at 268 pounds, just in case there might have been notion that he was taking this undeserved title shot too seriously, maybe he needs to be nicknamed after some heavier artillery. Briggs, 34, has beaten only one fighter who was in the Top 50 and that was ancient George Foreman on a gift decision. He said BEFORE the weighin "I hate scales - I do not weigh myself anymore." He said he was never known for his stamina, so obviously he will be going for a quick knockout before the excess poundage starts weighing him down. Liahkovich was knocked out by Maurice Harris and his "great" victories were over Dominick Guinn and Lamon Brewster, neither of whom sets heavyweight hearts aflutter. In other words, I'm giving up on the idea of watching both cards on TV and heading for the Mandalay Bay for Mayweather. But the highlight of my day will still be the Breeders' Cup races.


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