Saturday, July 19, 2008

Money Took Him Away and Money Might Bring Him Back

The retirement of Floyd "Money" Mayweather, Jr. is now in its 35th day and few in this game they call boxing think it will stick.

Oh sure, Mayweather claims he's close to being a billionaire, but even billionaires can't spend money the way he does and hope to remain solvent for long. Mayweather says he has immediate plans to spend $75 million on two mansions, a private jet to soar in the rarefied air of the super rich, as well as an ornate yacht to sail the high seas. And that's just his spending plans for this month.

Floyd also wants you to know that he has no desire to lace up the gloves and step into the ring ever again. He says that money is no object when it comes to luring him back to fighting and that the only dollar amount that might entice him would be a payday of at least $100 million.

As everyone knows, everything is more expensive these days, especially when you have an image to live up to, and if boxing history is any indication, that could lead to problems down the line for Mayweather.

The sweet science is littered with the tattered checkbooks of champs that once had it all and believed the flood of money could never be stemmed, only to wind up later with nothing but memories and empty pockets.

Both Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield made more money than Mayweather, Jr. has in his career. Everyone knows that Tyson made somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 million in 20 years, but he is now bankrupt. Tyson owes the Internal Revenue Service millions of dollars and was forced to stand by and watch as his mansions, fleets of vehicles and personal belongings were auctioned off to the highest bidder. "Iron" Mike even lost his white tiger.

Holyfield is currently fighting his own losing battle with debt and he had to beat back the bankers from his doorstep in order to rescue his palatial Fairburn, Georgia estate from foreclosure last month. Holyfield earned in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars during his heyday, but now much of it appears to have evaporated as Evander recently claimed that his finances were "just not liquid." This month, 'The Real Deal" was being summoned to court by one of his many baby mamas for being $9,000 behind on child support payments.

Hector "Macho" Camacho, Sr. was once the crown prince (if not the court jester) of boxing and for much of the 80's and 90's he fought the biggest names in the sport and won world titles in three different weight divisions. Camacho earned millions, and during his long career he fought everyone from Julio Cesar Chavez to 'Sugar' Ray Leonard to Oscar De La Hoya to Roberto Duran. But Camacho, like many well know boxers, eventually ran into money problems once the colossal paydays dried up.

Hector Camacho liked to live the high-life, but it came with a big price tag.

In 2004, Camacho was busted for breaking into a small computer repair shop in Gulfport, Mississippi to retrieve a laptop computer that he said was his. When the boys in blue finally got the cuffs on the elusive “Macho Man”, he was holed up in a $35 a night hotel room at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Keeping him company in the room was a small stash of illegal Ecstasy pills.

Camacho's cautionary tale, and his long fall from the high branches of the money tree, is a poignant example for a young, flamboyant and extravagant personality like Mayweather is now. Camacho has been there and done that - and then some.

"I made good money in my career," says Camacho, who at the age of 46 is embarking on a comeback next week in Houston, Texas against someone named Perry Ballard.

"But I lived large," he continues. "I had houses, I had gyms, I had cars, I had apartments. Now I have monthly bills. But everything you buy has to be maintained. If you buy a house for half a million dollars, there's even more money you have to keep putting into the place to maintain it and pay the taxes. If you don't have good investments, after a while the cash flow goes down the drain and everything starts to get old."

"It's tough to handle," says Camacho. "You only go through the ages of 16, 26, 30 once. Very few people enjoyed themselves the way that I did. I was big time - Rolls Royces, Ferraris, the best hotels and the most beautiful women. Doing all kinds of crazy shit, and most times I came out of it with a smile. Very few people have lived like I have lived. I regret it now that I don't have the money I should have, but I squandered it."

Nobody should begrudge Mayweather for spending his money the way he wants to, or giving it away to charity as he also routinely does. Certainly it's his money, he earned it and he can do whatever he likes with it. But those who know him best see the handwriting on the wall for his forced return to the squared circle.

Mayweather shows off the trappings of fame and fortune - bling, bling, bling.

Shortly after Mayweather won a narrow split decision over Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007 he announced that he was retiring. A month later, Bob Arum, Mayweather's former promoter laughed off the notion that Floyd's retirement would last.

"Right now, he's retired," said Arum at the time. "He'll stay retired as long as it takes him to spend the $25 million he just made."

Within weeks of Arum's statement, Mayweather answered the challenge of Ricky Hatton and his first retirement was soon over.

Even Mayweather's father, the outspoken Floyd, Sr., believes that Junior will be back. He has said that his son will "definitely" return to boxing because he'll "miss the paydays" and that he is nowhere close to being the billionaire that he claims to be.

"How can he tell all the people in Grand Rapids he's a billionaire?" Mayweather Sr. recently asked The Grand Rapids Press newspaper, which is where the Mayweathers have their roots and where Mayweather, Jr. threw himself an elaborate retirement bash over the Independence Day weekend.

"He won't be a billionaire in a billion years," said Mayweather, Sr. "Mark my words, someday he'll be running through the streets of Grand Rapids broke."

Certainly Mayweather's assertions of being a billionaire seem far-fetched, especially in light of the fact that The Wall Street Journal recently described one of his primary business ventures, Mayweather Promotions, as "a $140 million company" - which has yet to promote any stand alone professional boxing card, but has been a co-promoter of Mayweather's own bouts and recent music concerts.

Aside from his profligate spending, Mayweather employs a cadre of dutiful supporters. Primary among them is Leonard Ellerbe, his right hand man and the Chief Executive Officer of Mayweather Promotions. In addition, Mayweather has a phalanx of security guards, as well as personal assistants and coordinators that look after his every whim and manage his social and business calendars. In all, Mayweather employs nearly two dozen people, one of whom has the important responsibility of caring for his fleet of nearly 20 luxury automobiles.

Mayweather poses in front of his cars, while on the cover of a magazine.

Former two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman knows well what can happen when fighters don't make fail safe plans for the future and don't have honest people behind them as he outlined in the pages of his latest book 'God In My Corner'.

"Not many people have taken such a crazy ride through life as I have," wrote Foreman, who eventually filed for bankruptcy years after retiring for the first time in 1977.

"I'm probably one of the few people in the world who has gone from rags to riches to rags and back to riches again. After I became successful, I lived in houses all over the world, ate the finest foods at the nicest restaurants, and drove expensive cars. I earned over $10 million in the first phase of my career. In 1985, I found out that my investors had lost most of my money and a business partner had drained my personal bank account. I had been living under the illusion that I was financially secure for life. I suddenly came to the rude awakening that I was bankrupt."

According to a Las Vegas-based wealth manager, whose clients have included athletes and entertainers, and who wishes to remain anonymous, the most significant threat to the young, super-wealthy is their impulse spending and a failure to recognize that once their careers cool off - or they retire - the cash flow dries up.

"I have had clients call me at three o' clock in the morning," said the Morgan Stanley money manager, who made it clear that he has not worked with Mayweather, Jr.

"They want to gain access to fifty, sixty, seventy....a hundred thousand dollars cash. They want it to gamble, or buy a new car, or charter a private jet to the Riviera. It's difficult to talk them out of it or talk them into reconsidering....I mean, it's their money. I try to say, well, instead of the Mercedes for $250,000, why not buy the one for $120,000 without all the bells and whistles? But they have a certain image to live up to and that image doesn't include living on the cheap. The most significant threat to their financial future is themselves. We live in a society that has an insatiable appetite for immediate self-gratification and sports stars and entertainers are at the top of that food chain."

It's impossible to predict what Mayweather's financial future may hold or whether he will eventually return to boxing. However, there is some evidence to suggest that he has a tendency to throw his money away - literally.

Several weeks ago, Mayweather was in fine form and living up to his nickname "Money" inside the Hard Rock Cafe at Times Square in New York City.

Wearing a diamond festooned wristwatch the size of a pie plate, while laughing and smiling gleefully, Mayweather threw wads of $100 bills into the air while a frenzied crowd grabbed for the bills in a real life dive for dollars. It's called "making it rain." It was a bizarre occasion, especially in these challenging economic times, but the absurdity of the scene was seemingly lost on Mayweather.

Perhaps it was the small army of bodyguards, that flanked him like a Secret Service detail, which insulated him from the true cost of his actions.

July 2008

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