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Column: Mayweather still making fans pay

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. takes a break during a workout Tuesday, April 24, 2012, in Las Vegas. Mayweather is scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto on May 5. Floyd Mayweather Jr. takes a break during a workout Tuesday, April 24, 2012, in Las Vegas. Mayweather is scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto on May 5.
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. didn't exactly plan for it to happen this way. The thought of sitting in a jail cell for two months can't be a pleasant one, especially while the entourage enjoys life without him at the Big Boy house.

But there's a fight to sell, and once again it doesn't include Manny Pacquiao. The opponent Saturday night will be Miguel Cotto, a game but outmatched fighter who this city's oddsmakers figure will end up either on the canvas or on the losing end of a lopsided decision.

Some will plunk down $69.95 to watch it on pay-per-view because it's their last chance for a while to see Mayweather in boxing gloves instead of handcuffs. Others will buy it because they're hoping the mental stress of his upcoming jail sentence will finally bring Mayweather down in the ring.

No matter. Once again, Mayweather has found a way make them pay.

"The great thing is that they boo, they cheer, they know who I am so I'm relevant," Mayweather said. "So at one particular time in their life they paid attention to me, so it's a good thing."

For Mayweather it's been a great thing. He's become one of the greatest salesmen of his time, making untold millions by crafting a bad boy persona and flaunting a lifestyle that either thrills boxing fans or enrages them so much they will pay good money in hopes of seeing him get beat.

Sometimes, though, life conflicts with reality television. What the HBO cameras that document the show "24/7" never showed was what happened between Mayweather and his ex-girlfriend early one morning in 2010 while two of their children watched.

It landed him in court on domestic violence charges. And on June 1 it will land him in a jail cell to begin serving what is expected to end up being a sentence of just under two months.

He got a reprieve earlier from the judge so he would be able to fight. But any celebration Saturday night will have to be muted because of what is in front of him.

"The only thing it can do is make me mentally strong and grow mentally strong as a person," Mayweather said. "It's all part of life, you have good days, you have bad days. But the main thing is to grow mentally."

The upcoming sentence is the first serious time Mayweather will spend in jail, despite a past littered with battery and violence arrests. It came after he pleaded no contest to charges in December, avoiding a trial that could have gotten him up to 34 years in state prison if he was convicted on all counts.

He got a license to fight Cotto only after promising Nevada boxing officials that he wouldn't make any attempts to avoid his jail term. The judge had earlier postponed it until June 1, so his adopted hometown wouldn't lose out on the millions of dollars in revenues brought in by a big fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend.

It would have been a much bigger fight if Mayweather were meeting Pacquiao, of course, but odds are that's not going to happen. Mayweather's insistence that Pacquiao takes far less money on the fight than he will make is the main reason for that, though Mayweather will try and tell you that the fight would happen if Pacquiao agreed to Olympic-style drug tests — which he has already done.

The new head of HBO Sports, Ken Hershman, said a few months ago that the fight has to be held later this year or early next year, because after then it becomes "less and less relevant."

That's a shame for a sport that needs huge fights to survive. And while the blame can be spread on both sides, Mayweather deserves to be taken to task for not making it happen. He's content to make $30-40 million to have relatively safe fight against guys like Cotto and Victor Ortiz, rather than risk his unbeaten record in a fight that could earn him twice that much.

Not that Cotto isn't a legitimate opponent. He is, though Pacquiao gave him a beating before stopping him in the 12th round three years ago. And Mayweather was willing to move up to 154 pounds — a weight he hasn't fought at since beating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 — to make the fight.

Even with the pending jail sentence to spice things up, though, the selling of Mayweather is getting old. There's only so many times you can watch him argue with his father, pal around with rapper 50 Cent, and throw dollar bills through nightclubs. We get that he's rich and likes to flaunt it, but there's nothing particularly interesting anymore to watching him in the extravagant mansion he calls his Big Boy house or behind the wheel of the armored van he has converted into a party vehicle.

Mayweather himself seemed to say as much Sunday when he sent out a tweet apologizing for the episode of "24/7" on HBO the night before. He said it wasn't up to his standards, and suggested bringing in the producers who were doing the series when he fought Ricky Hatton to spice things up.

One of the greatest fighters ever as he insists? No, not unless he fights Pacquiao — and soon.

But as a master salesman, no one in the game comes close.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.

 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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