Hall of Fame boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. had a strong message for reporters in the bowels of Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“F **k the money,” said Mayweather, a millionaire retiree and a five-division world champion. “Your health is more important than anything.”
A few weeks ago, “Money” Mayweather witnessed a stellar performance by protégé Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who, in his words, “boxed circles around” hammer-fisted slugger Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz during a unanimous decision defense of his WBA 135-pound title before a sold-out crowd of 15,850.
Davis (26–0, 24 KOs) failed to earn his 17th straight knockout against Cruz (22–2–1, 15 KOs) of Mexico City in the most difficult fight of his career, but the 27-year-old southpaw courageously fought through pain of an injured left hand for the entire second half of the bout in his third straight pay-per-view event.
Mayweather, 44, told Davis he was “proud,” placing an arm around the valiant five-time champion’s shoulders and praising a foundation that could lead to a long, healthy and prosperous career.
“The name of the game is boxing. The name of the game is not slugging, because when the fight game and boxing is all over, and you hang it up like me, you still wanna be able to have your faculties,” said Mayweather, whose career record is 50–0 (27 KOs).
“You still want to be able to have your brains. That’s more important than anything. F **k the money. Your health is more important than anything. These people don’t give a f**k about us. Ya’ll gonna know that once your career is over.”
Mayweather referenced the late great Muhammad Ali, a charismatic icon who was plagued by Parkinson’s disease and impaired speech during the latter stages of his life.
“When Muhammad Ali was at the top of the fight game kicking their ass, they hated him. When he could barely walk and talk, that’s when they loved him,” Mayweather said. “They don’t like me because I’m a straight shooter. I’m my own boss. We’re not trying to get rich off of these fighters. I’m already rich.”
In December 2019, Forbes listed Mayweather as the highest-paid athlete of the decade, whose $950 million was $115 million more than any other athlete. In February, Celebrity Net Worth ranked Mayweather as the seventh-richest athlete on the planet with an estimated net worth of $450 million.
Mayweather excelled as his own promoter and with no sponsorship deals, crediting boxing manager Al Haymon, who created the Premier Boxing Champions platform under which his Mayweather Promotions’ company guides Davis.
“At the end of the day, I don’t ever wanna hear anybody say they’re working with Al Haymon but they’re not working with Floyd Mayweather,” Mayweather said. “If you’re working with Floyd Mayweather, you’re working with Al Haymon, and if you’re working with Al Haymon, you’re working with Floyd Mayweather because we’re one.”
Davis is from a crime-filled section of West Baltimore, Maryland. He spent time in foster care and group homes before a friend, Quaadir Gurley, brought Davis to the Upton Boxing Center’s gym when he was 7.
Gurley introduced Davis to his father, Calvin Ford, who guided Davis through a 2006-15 amateur career. Gurley was shot and killed in 2013.
“Before Coach Ford, I had no father figure because my father was in and out of jail. Angelo Ward, Ronald Gibbs and Coach Calvin’s son — they’re guys who died and were such a major influence on my life,” said Davis, who has consistently produced between 200,000 and 230,000 pay-per-view buys over the last 14 months.
“Whenever I fight, I feel like their legacy is going into the ring with me. It’s a big responsibility, but I’ll take that. There’s a lot of bad stuff that comes from Baltimore, but if they see that one person can do it, then the next one can do it, and so on and so on. The only thing that I can do is to bring light to Baltimore. Boxing has saved my life.”
Before beating Cruz, Davis recorded a 12th-round TKO of three-division champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (December 2019), a sixth-round KO of four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz (October 2020) and an 11th-round TKO that dethroned previously unbeaten WBA 140-pound champion Mario Barrios (June 2021).
A capacity crowd of 16,432 packed Atlanta, Georgia’s State Farm Arena in Atlanta to see Davis dispatch Barrios, and, in July 2019, 14,686 fans witnessed “Tank’s” second-round TKO of Ricardo Nunez at Royal Farms Arena in Davis’ native Baltimore.
Davis informed WBA President Gilberto Mendoza he is vacating the crown he won from Barrios, according to Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe.
“Gervonta has officially relinquished the title in order to continue campaigning at 135 pounds. Tank has proven that he’s the cash cow, really, in all three weight classes [130, 135 and 140,]” Ellerbe said.
“Tank and [IBF/WBC welterweight champion) Errol Spence are bigger than any other mother**kers out there besides [four-division champion] Canelo Alvarez. If there are opportunities that make sense in other weight classes then we’ll take a look.”
The WBA has resolved to reduce its number of champions to just one from its current total of as many as three per weight class — super, regular and interim titleholders.
So Davis could be required to face undisputed division champion George “Ferocious” Kambosos (20–0, 10 KOs), who watched from ringside in the wake of his upset split-decision victory last month that dethroned Teofimo Lopez (16–1, 12 KOs) as IBF/WBA/WBO and WBC franchise champion.
“It’s a great thing that the WBA is reducing the number of belts, and we support that a thousand percent because there are too many champions in each weight class, but Tank is driving the train in the path that we’re taking and we control our own destiny,” Ellerbe said.
“Tank has proven that he’s the cash cow and he’s at the point where the belts nor anyone else is going to dictate what we’re doing. Our goal is for Tank to fight in the biggest fights possible every time he fights. As a team we’ll sit down and determine what Tank’s next move will be.”
“Money” Mayweather believes the fact that Davis is following his blueprint angers those in boxing.
“They don’t wanna see Tank win,” Mayweather said, “because they feel like they’re beating me because I dominated the fight game for so long.”
To illustrate his point, Mayweather compared Davis-Cruz with his majority decision in September 2013 over Alvarez, a previously unbeaten 23-year-old Mexican he dethroned as WBA/WBC junior middleweight champion.
“These same writers out here, they’ll praise Canelo. But I’ll tell you the truth about Canelo — motherf**er easy, man. I was almost 40 years old when I cooked this dude,” Mayweather said of Alvarez.
“The name of the game is to hit and not get hit. I was the best at doing it. I’m gonna continue to teach these fighters that the name of the game is to dish it out and to not take it. Then, when your career is over, take your money, invest it right, so you can still have something.”
Two-division champion Bernard Hopkins, a 2020 Hall of Famer who reigned as undisputed middleweight and lineal light heavyweight champion, expressed a similar sentiment in October 2013.
Hopkins mentioned Mayweather while suggesting it has become “a curse to be slick” in boxing, a trait he attributed to African-American fighters.
“People criticize Floyd Mayweather because of his offense and defense, and mainly, his defense. I’m one of the most underrated defensive fighters since the early years of James Toney at middleweight. That’s why I can talk to you and everybody on this phone that is listening without stuttering,” Hopkins said.
“That’s important to me to go to my daughter’s school, or my son’s school, and talk to their teacher without embarrassing them. Right now, the great Sugar Ray Leonard, who I was watching all this morning on YouTube … the great Sugar Ray Leonard, right now, if he was boxing the way they want you to fight, the people that pull the strings of the puppet, he would be boring today. Ray Robinson — the great Robinson — would be boring today.”
Cruz said he “had never seen Gervonta Davis passive, almost afraid,” adding, “We were able to take him out of his comfort zone.”
But Ford revealed that Davis returned to the corner after the sixth round and said, ‘my hand is hurt,’’ adding, “‘If you look at the tape, I said, ‘I don’t wanna hear that. Fight through it.’”
“Gervonta hurt his hand in camp and never complained about it,” Ford said. “He just came out here and put on a helluva show, and that’s the bottom line. He fought this kid with one hand. Now give this young man his props.”
Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Matthew B. Hall