LAS VEGAS -- "This is my time," Floyd Mayweather Jr. declared.
That's a shame because this is the wrong time.
Floyd was born too late, and that's too bad: He would have made the golden era of middleweights in the 1980s glisten even more.
"I don't live in Muhammad Ali's era," Floyd said yesterday at the MGM Grand, where he will fight Oscar De La Hoya at 154 pounds Saturday night. "I don't live in Sugar Ray Robinson's era. ... I want my grandchildren to say I was the best fighter to ever put on the gloves"
They can say it someday, but that won't make it so. That notion would, in fact, be a hard sell: Greatness in boxing is measured by opponents, not by talent. Once Floyd disposes of the 34-year-old De La Hoya - a boxer at the end of his career - there will be no fighter left with the talent and star power to get anyone to notice whether Floyd is the best ever to put on the gloves.
But, man, he would have been money in the middle of the group that carried the sport more than 25 years ago - Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler. Floyd could walk the walk and talk the talk with the best of them.
"I'm selling this fight. I'm the focus of '24/7,' " Floyd said, referring to the HBO reality show focused on the training and the personal lives of both fighters.
Now, De La Hoya really is selling the fight. Floyd has fought 37 times in his career, and other than the core boxing public, few people paid attention. De La Hoya is the crossover star people pay $50 a pop to sit at home and watch. He got nearly 1 million fans to pay last year to watch him fight a washed-up loudmouth named Ricardo Mayorga. He is the one getting people to pay attention.
But the 30-year-old Floyd is right in a sense: He is the added spice that makes this fight potentially the highest pay-per-view boxing event in history, one that might surpass the record 1.99 million set with the Bite Fight - Holyfield-Tyson II. And Floyd - plus his dysfunctional family - is the best thing on "24/7."
Floyd is trained by his uncle, Roger Mayweather, who held two world titles in the super featherweight and super lightweight divisions from 1981 to 1999. Floyd's father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., fought as a welterweight from 1974 to 1990 but simply wasn't good enough: He was stopped by Leonard in the 10th round in 1978.
Floyd Sr. once was shot and did nearly five years in federal prison in the early 1990s for drug trafficking. Until this fight, he worked for six years as a trainer for De La Hoya. The story goes that he wanted $2 million to train De La Hoya to fight his son and was told his services wouldn't be needed. So Floyd Sr. showed up in his son's camp. He was not, however, wanted by Roger, who, by the way, offered this little nugget yesterday: "At the time this fight was made, I was somewhat arrested," referring to three months he served for domestic violence.
Now, that's a reality show.
If you haven't seen "24/7" yet, Floyd Jr. gave a good taste of it to the cameras yesterday:
* On his independence as a fighter: "When I slept seven in a bedroom, nobody was there for me then. When my father went to prison, nobody was there for me then. When my mother was on drugs, nobody was there to help me."
* On De La Hoya's golden boy reputation: "He's got kids out of wedlock. Does he talk about them on the show? Do you see them on there? ... Just because his stuff is swept under the rug doesn't make him better than me"
* On growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich.: "My dad was shot in front of me when I was a kid. Where I come from, people get shot all the time."
The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Mr. Mayweather for that endorsement.
Imagine this guy against Ray Leonard. Imagine him against Duran. Imagine the venom of that matchup.
The shame is that Floyd could have held his own with any of those great boxers. Despite all his talk, he is old school, a fighter who lives in the gym, who is always in shape, who works on not getting hit. Nobody in boxing practices defense anymore. Duran was a master at slipping punches. So is Floyd.
But this is not 1980. This is 2007, and this is the Floyd Mayweather era. But this era is a one-man band, and when's the last time you watched a one-man band?