Saturday, October 4, 2008

Big Floyd Spreads His Wings and Flies to England

Floyd Mayweather, Sr. and Ricky Hatton (background) will begin working together right away in Hatton's hometown of Manchester, England.

Floyd Mayweather, Sr. touched down at the airport in drizzly Manchester, England on Friday morning. The outspoken trainer is there, of course, to train Ricky Hatton for his November 22nd fight with Paulie Malignaggi that will take place at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

The world's first industrialized city is an unlikely place to find "Big Floyd" - as he likes to refer to himself. It's not the wind-whipped streets of his birthplace of Grand Rapids, Michigan nor anything at all like his current home among the lively action and bright lights of Las Vegas.

Mayweather, who is perpetually engaging and always has a little something on his mind, was weary after the long transatlantic flight. When reached by cell phone he was still getting his luggage together in the airport, yet he was anxious to let everybody know how things were getting along so far.

"I heard it rains a lot, quite a bit here, and the weather is kind of dreary," commented Floyd. "But I seen when I was comin' in, there was a lot of greenery, which is good, you know. But it don't seem like it's as alive as Las Vegas."

'Big Floyd' of course, is the estranged father to the man he refers to as "Little Floyd" his son, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who of course was the man that wrecked Ricky Hatton's undefeated record and sent him back to England with a one-way ticket stamped 'damaged goods.'

Mayweather, Sr. is now taking the place of trainer Billy Graham who had worked with Hatton since Manchester's favorite son was an aspiring amateur. But after Hatton's last fight in May, a shaky decision win against Juan Lazcano, Graham and Hatton parted company.

Hatton the night he beat Juan Lazcano in May. Although he won, Hatton walked a fine line. Not long after this, Hatton's long-time trainer, Billy Graham, was fired.

After considering several potential candidates to take over the training reigns, Hatton and his father/manager, Ray, decided upon Mayweather, Sr.

And so, after a lifetime spent barnstorming around the United States as a fighter and trainer, the grizzled Mayweather finds himself 'across the pond' as the saying goes.

"I'm excited to be training Ricky," said Floyd on the rainy, gray morning. "I'm excited to see the place. I haven't had the opportunity to come here...since about '82. And I never did take the opportunity to look around. Now I'm here and I've got a chance to feel it out. It looks like there's a lot of nice peoples, we'll see."

'Big Floyd' says he will make big changes to Hatton's aggressive, come ahead, defense-be-damned style. And as usual, he didn't mince words when he was asked for his thoughts on Billy Graham's training methods as they applied to Hatton.

"I'll be honest with you. I think Ricky's been fightin' on his own for a long time, since day one, that's what I think," said Mayweather. "I don't see...I don't see nuthin' smart, slick or clever that he's been doin'. That's why my son did what he did. But what I'm tryin' to say is that he can definitely be a much better fighter than what he is."

As Mayweather made his way through the airport he was greeted by several people who recognized him and knew why he made his way to Manchester on this October morning. His style inside the ring (and some would say outside) is much different than what the often reserved people of England are accustomed to seeing.

But like a seasoned prizefighter getting used to fighting in a different town, Mayweather was eager to get the butterflies out, get the lay of the land and get down to the business at hand.

Hatton is a happy-go-lucky character in the gym so it remains to be seen how he and Mayweather, known as a strict disciplinarian, will mesh.

Mayweather claims he wants to reverse engineer Hatton's style and implement some of his well known defensive tactics. However, he must remain mindful that Hatton, not a pugilistic neophyte, has won world titles in two weight divisions while only losing one fight out of 45 in a professional career that has lasted eleven years.

To a large degree, Hatton's natural, busy, aggressive (some would say mauling) style is his primary asset. If Mayweather tinkers with that engine too much it could prove disastrous as many have a very difficult time in seeing Hatton transformed into a slick, defensive fighter that will take the time to look before he leaps.

Mayweather's task will be especially difficult since he and Ricky only have seven weeks to work together. However, the short time they will have in order get Hatton to a point where Floyd will be satisfied didn't seem to phase him in the least.

"I'm a colorful type of guy," said Floyd, in a vast understatement. "I do my thing better than anybody else, so, what can I say?"

Mayweather, Sr. is pictured here with perhaps his most famous client, none other than 'The Golden Boy' himself, Oscar De La Hoya.

As Mayweather slowly found his way through the Manchester airport with the phone pressed to his ear, he drifted into somewhat of a melancholy mood. Perhaps it was beginning to sink in that he was half a world away from all that he knows and that what he must do to make Hatton be what he will want him to be, is a huge undertaking.

As we talked, 'Big Floyd' seemed to realize, almost all of a sudden, that in the words of an old Jerry Reed song; 'We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.'

His attention began to wander off from our conversation.

But right before he hung up, Floyd summoned the water from that old well of confidence that has seen him persevere through a life that has not always been kind. By any measure, his has been a life of survival. He made it through nine and a half competitive rounds with 'Sugar' Ray Leonard in 1978, was once shot in the leg by his brother-in-law, spent a stint in the joint for dealing cocaine and now has managed to reincarnate himself as one of the most sought after trainers in all of boxing.

"Let me tell you something, man," he said. "I'm the best there is at what I do. I've forgotten more about all this stuff than anybody else will ever know. We'll be ready...we'll be ready."

And with that, 'Big Floyd', as he likes to refer to himself, was off to see the England that he missed in 1982.

October 2008

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