Boxer Floyd Mayweather At The Top Of His Game

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Floyd Mayweather may be the best boxer in the world. He's undefeated, 41-and-0, and has held world titles in five different weight divisions. And unlike any other boxer — really, any other sports star — he's in complete control of his career, athletically and financially. He returns to the ring tonight for the first time in 16 months, and this time, he has complete control — he gets a piece of every T-shirt sold, of every hot dog consumed, of every $59.99 a pay-per-viewer shells out. He even pays his opponent, Victor Ortiz. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks with NPR's Mike Pesca about the man who calls himself "Money Mayweather."

GUY RAZ, Host:

Floyd Mayweather may be the best boxer in the world. He's 34 years old, undefeated at 41 and 0, and he's held title belts in five different weight divisions. And unlike any other boxer, really any other sports star, he's in total control of his career, both athletically and financially. Mayweather returns to the ring tonight for the first time in 16 months and he stands to make $40 million.

He gets a piece of every T-shirt sold, every hot dog consumed, every pay per view purchase on cable, even hired his opponent, Victor Ortiz, who will get paid $2 million. No wonder he changed his name from Pretty Boy to Money Mayweather. NPR's Mike Pesca is with me now to explain how this happened. Mike, 40 million bucks just tonight.

MIKE PESCA: Yeah. The sport of boxing is one of the few sports that would allow this to happen, because even in other individual sports, think golf or tennis, the course is very important, the venue is very important. Boxing, they could do it anywhere. And they have, you know, in the Philippines, in Africa, and it doesn't matter. He's doing it in Las Vegas.

So Floyd Mayweather has looked at the situation, used to box for Top Rank like a lot of these guys did, and he said, why do I need any of this? Everyone's coming to see me anyway. I'm like Siegfried and Roy, or I'm like Lance Burton. I'm just a draw in Vegas. I'll pay my guy who I'm going to box. Sure, he'll try hard - and by the way, Victor Ortiz is a tough boxer, but Floyd Mayweather is an excellent boxer.

And Mayweather just looked at the scope of boxing, realized there aren't that many matches. The only match people are clamoring to see is actually him versus Manny Pacquiao, and unfortunately, that hasn't happened. So he'll fight guys like Victor Ortiz and take his 30 to $40 million, thank you very much.

RAZ: And he actually does everything from like, pay for the promotions, the billboards, to the newspaper ads for his own fights, right?

PESCA: Right. And boxing is this weird niche sport. It has a few fans, not very many fans, but they love it, and they'll pay through the nose to watch a pay per view event that might end in, you know, the third round. And a million and a half people do it, and if they charge over $50, you know, do the math.

RAZ: Isn't it a little weird, though, that he's actually paying the guy that he's pummeling?

PESCA: Yeah, except that normally when you hook up with a promoter, the promoter will pay both. But it's pretty well-known when there's one really strong fighter that the promoter works for that guy, the strong fighter, and then the other guy is just, you know, someone to beat up on.

Every once in a while, the someone to beat up on guy does win. But it's not so different and it's not - let's put it this way - it's not any less ethical than what boxing has always been like.

RAZ: Fair enough. I want to ask you one other quick sports-related question before I let you go. Ron Artest...

PESCA: I'm sorry. This Ron Artest person - who...

RAZ: Sorry. So Metta World Peace.

PESCA: Ah, there you go, Metta World Peace.

RAZ: Metta World Peace, the - formerly known as Ron Artest, that's his new name. Interesting name, reminds me of a player from the '70s, World B. Free back in the day. Remember him?

PESCA: Yeah, I remember him. And he was - he had an interesting balding pattern and end game. But it's not unusual. Of course, Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and player Bison Dele was once Brian Williams. But the weird thing about Ron Artest, aside from everything, is for years, he's the least peaceful man on Earth. You know, he was right in the middle of that malice in the palace, the big riot in Detroit. But he has since kind of calmed down a little, and he credits his psychiatrist. And he's kind of gotten a little perspective, but he's also really weird and quirky.

So last year, he had his uniform number named for the number of weeks that Michael Jackson's "Thriller" stayed on the charts. This year, he wants to have a different world name, and that's the name he's going with. The only thing I fear is that fans across the NBA are going to be chanting, you know, we hate peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: That's NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca. Mike, thanks.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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