Considered one of the greatest boxers of all time due to his impeccable resume, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has won world titles in multiple weight divisions and defeated some of the biggest names of multiple eras. Equally as impressive is his skill as a businessman, as he turned himself into the biggest attraction in the boxing world and set several pay-per-view records.
He was born into a boxing family on February 27, 1977, as his father, Floyd Sr., and two uncles, Jeff and Roger, were all professional boxers themselves. He grew up in boxing gyms, training constantly under his father, until Floyd Sr. was arrested and had to serve time in prison.
Mayweather’s father and uncle both taught him excellent defensive skills, particularly the shoulder roll, which the boxer would use throughout his amateur and professional careers. He was successful as an amateur, building a record of 84-8 and collecting Golden Glove championships in 1993, 1994 and 1996.
Competing at the 1996 Olympics, he dominated his first two matches and then pulled out a close victory over skilled Cuban boxer Lorenzo Aragon in the quarterfinals. He then lost a close decision to Bulgarian boxer Serafim Todorov in a very controversial fight, as most observers and even the referee thought Mayweather had won. USA Boxing protested the decision, but it wasn’t changed and the American fighter ended up with the bronze medal.
Floyd Mayweather made his professional debut on October 11, 1996 with a second-round TKO victory over Roberto Apodaca. Even in his first several fights against lesser competition, he received immediate attention throughout the boxing world for his sharp technical skills, with many analysts believing he would become one of the pound-for-pound greats. He earned quite a few stoppage victories during the early part of his career, albeit against journeyman fighters.
Just under two years into his career and with a 17-0 record, he got his first shot at a world title against Genaro Hernández, a dangerous fighter who hadn’t lost in the weight class. The fight was for the WBC and lineal super featherweight titles, and he dominated Hernández throughout, hitting him quickly and from all angles. The older fighter’s corner decided to stop the fight after the eighth round. With his victory and a dominant title defense to close the year, Mayweather was named fighter of the year by The Ring, making him one of the youngest fighters to earn that title.
At 24-0, he was still an underdog when he came in to defend his title against 33-0 Diego Corrales, who was the much larger fighter. That didn’t seem to matter during the fight itself, though, as he put on a boxing masterclass, winning every round and scoring five knockdowns before Corrales’ corner stopped the fight in the 10th round.
After several more successful title defenses, he made the move up to lightweight on April 20, 2002 to take on José Luis Castillo for the WBC, lineal and The Ring lightweight titles. Although he had torn his left rotator cuff before the fight, Floyd Mayweather was still able to take a close unanimous decision. Since the fight was so close and the pro-Castillo crowd were clearly upset about it, he gave Castillo an immediate rematch and took another close victory.
Over the next several years, he defended his light titles and picked up additional belts in the super lightweight and welterweight divisions. Everything changed though when he signed a contract to fight Mexican-American superstar Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC light middleweight title on May 5, 2007.
In the lead up to his fight with the Golden Boy, the boxer long known as Pretty Boy changed his nickname to Money and adopted a brash, flamboyant personality for the HBO 24/7 documentary series chronicling the lead-up to the fight. He played the villain to perfection, turning himself into a fighter that people either loved or hated. Some wanted to see him win and many wanted to see him lose, but either way, they were tuning in. He ended up taking the belt with a split decision over De La Hoya, although he did enough that it probably should have been a unanimous decision. He retired after the fight, although this turned out to be brief.
He next fought against the tough, undefeated British swarmer Ricky Hatton on December 8, 2007 and the promotion he had formed, Mayweather Promotions, co-promoted the fight. In another beautiful performance, he controlled the British fighter from start to finish, culminating in a smooth 10th-round TKO with a check hook.
He then chose to retire again, but again he came out of retirement, this time on September 19, 2009 to fight the skilled Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Márquez, where he cruised to a unanimous decision win. It was at this time that talk about a possible fight with pound-for-pound great Manny Pacquiao started heating up, but the two sides would fail to come to terms for several years.
In the meantime, Floyd Mayweather continued to win and defend titles and take out the most skilled fighters across multiple weight classes, including Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Álvarez.
Finally, on May 2, 2015, the fight the world had been waiting for had arrived, as Mayweather finally took on Pacquiao. The American fighter ended up taking a clear unanimous decision in what many observers thought was a disappointing fight. It certainly wasn’t a disappointment financially, however, as it broke the pay-per-view record by a large margin with 4.6-million buys at $100 each. While Pacquiao took home over $100 million, Mayweather collected over $200 million in the largest payday ever for a boxer. He then finished out his contract with Showtime by defeating Andre Berto and choosing to retire again.
By promoting his own fights, Floyd Mayweather had been able to amass huge paydays each time he fought, with the pay-per-view buys of the Pacquiao fight pushing him to a new stratosphere as far as earnings go. While he may not be the most well-liked fighter in history, he is certainly one of the most skilled, most accomplished and most successful financially.