Column: Mayweather in fine form for a fight

A rare series of storms had cooled the summer air to an almost

tolerable level, though it was steamy as ever inside Floyd

Mayweather Jr.’s gym just a few miles from the Vegas Strip.

With a couple of sparring partners in front of him late Monday

afternoon, Mayweather turned up the heat even more.

”Right there, right there,” he yelled at the first hapless

pugilist to feel his wrath. ”You can’t get away. I’ll hit you when

I want to.”

It didn’t take Mayweather long to do just that. As the third of

four rounds stretched to the 10-minute mark he connected with a

rapid volley of punches, finishing it off with a left hook that

rocked his opponent for the day, sending him stumbling across the

ring.

All in a day’s work, but there was still work to be done. Always

is when it’s Mayweather in training and especially now, less than

three weeks before his fight with undefeated Mexican star Saul

”Canelo” Alvarez.

It’s a big fight, but all Mayweather fights are big. He’s the

undisputed pay-per-view king and the Sept. 14 matchup is so

attractive that the pay-per-view price is a whopping $74.95 for

those watching in high definition. Though Mayweather’s last fight

in May against Robert Guerrero – for which he earned $32 million –

wasn’t a huge box office smash, this one should make executives at

Showtime and CBS feel better about the money they laid out for

boxing’s biggest draw.

Better yet, he’s fighting for the second time in four months

after not fighting more than once a year since 2007.

”I’m ready to perform and entertain, that’s what it’s all

about,” Mayweather said. ”I’m a lot older now so the last five

fights I have I want to go out with a bang.”

The fight is the second in his six-fight deal with Showtime,

which lured him from HBO to help sell cable subscriptions and build

the network’s boxing brand. He says the bouts will be the last of

his career, though at the age of 36 he doesn’t seem to have lost

any of the reflexes or speed that have helped him win all 44 of his

fights in a professional career that began following the 1996

Olympics.

What has changed is how Mayweather sells himself, even if he

claims he hasn’t changed. Ever since his release from a Las Vegas

jail after serving 64 days on domestic abuse charges last year,

Mayweather has been the model of politeness and civility – in sharp

contrast to the bad-boy persona that made him such a big attraction

over the years.

That’s one reason why Showtime’s All Access show on

Mayweather-Alvarez seemed to fall a bit flat in the first episode.

There were the requisite shots, of course, of Mayweather and

Alvarez in face-offs and together on a tour promoting the bout, but

there wasn’t the drama of Mayweather’s earlier fights when he could

be seen yelling at his father or counting stacks of $100 bills with

his former buddy, 50 Cent.

That sold pay-per-views to people who spent their money hoping

to either see Mayweather win or get knocked out. But Mayweather

seems to either have outgrown the part or simply doesn’t want to

play it anymore.

”What do you mean by image? My image has always been as an

entertainer, but at home I’m a great father,” Mayweather said.

”There’s no bad guy, that’s an image the critics picked. My image

is to make sure my kids get the best education and provide a

comfortable life for my family.”

If the new Mayweather is a kinder and gentler sort outside the

ring, he’s changed some inside, too. His fights sometimes tended to

become tedious affairs as he sought to win without getting hit, but

in recent years he has changed his style somewhat and has become

more aggressive and flat-footed.

It showed on Monday as he walked two sparring partners across

the ring, banging away with left hooks and right hands while

keeping up a steady stream of chatter. The short time between

fights should be beneficial to Mayweather at his age, and he’s

already inside the 152-pound (69-kilogram) catch weight for the

fight.

”I got back into it so quick that I’m still sharp,” he said.

”I feel good, real good.”

Boxing fans should feel good, too, that Mayweather is taking on

Alvarez, a 23-year-old who is unbeaten in 42 fights and holds a

piece of the 154-pound title. Mayweather has been criticized in the

past for hand-picking his opponents and refusing to fight Manny

Pacquiao, but Alvarez is about as dangerous a fight as any he could

take on at this stage of his career.

Not that Mayweather will acknowledge any such thing. Icing his

sometimes brittle hands while sitting in a dressing room after his

workout, he questioned the quality of Alvarez’s opponents, and said

it was just another fight to him.

Another fight and another $40-million to $50-million payout that

will cement his reign this year as the highest paid athlete in the

world.

As for Pacquiao and the fight that will likely now never

happen?

”I don’t even know who that is,” Mayweather said.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated

Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or

http://twitter.com/timdahlberg