by Ja’han Jones
Special to the NNPA from The Arizona Informant
Fatherhood is an interesting gift, because it is just as much a gift to the giver as it is to the recipient. The father showers love unto his son, and in return, he is rewarded with a pupil, the most loyal of friends, and a seed to be imparted upon and carry on the father’s legacy. The son casts love up to his father, and in return,he is rewarded with a mentor, a fortress of affection and security, and an indelible sense of pride in his roots. It is true, however, that fatherhood has almost nothing to do with genetics and almost everything to do with upbringing. That a man fathered a child is of little importance to whether that child regards the man as his father. Instead, there are prerequisites a man must meet in order to truly assume a fatherly role. A man wishing to be a father must endure the stressors of his son’s adolescence; a man wishing to be a father must embed knowledge within his son; a man wishing to be a father must love, and teach, and discipline his son.
When the world views Floyd Mayweather Sr. through the television screen, it will likely see a man often at odds with his own seed—a man facing the tumult of a strained father-son relationship. Time spent in close quarters with the man, however, reveals a much more complicated dynamic. It seems, actually, that while the two men may voice their differences, the root of their conflicts is embedded in their similarity. In regard to parenting and fatherhood, a deeper look into the psyche of “Senior”, as he is often called, reveals not a man who failed to impart himself upon his son, but rather a man who imparted almost all of himself upon his son. Floyd Mayweather Sr.’s approach to fatherhood is what makes him, perhaps, the greatest boxing trainer of all time, yet it is also what brings him into occasional dispute with his son.
On the morning of September 1st, 2012, Senior stood at the base of a stairwell leading up to a second-floor boxing gym in Scottsdale. The shimmering lights aligning the Las Vegas strip were no longer. The world’s pace had changed, and a man who had familiarized himself with the “City of Sin” was now in a markedly different environment. Scottsdale, Arizona, is where celebrities go to hide from celebrity. It is Hollywood, New York, and Las Vegas, scaled down and slowed from a hustle to a mosey. And for that reason, Senior seemed overcome with an air of comfort. Dislodging himself from against the stairwell’s concrete banister, Senior made his way to a nearby coffee shop, mini-entourage in tow; behind him, a duo of representatives and the owner of the boxing gym, a cousin of mine. As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a slight man, dawning red athletic wear from head-to-toe and a gold necklace, and I knew this to be Floyd Mayweather Sr. I leaped from the vehicle to intercept Senior, and while shaking his hand generously and pelting him with praise, I managed to explain that I would be the journalist shadowing him for the day. I expressed my gratitude, and his response was marked with brevity and a profundity that would both foreshadow the day and explain Senior’s past: “Oh, no problem, man. I’m a people person. As soon as you turn on people, it comes back to you.”
After following Senior to the coffee shop, his group—myself now included—entered the gym. A hush swept through the room the second Senior’s sneaker touched the floor, and the sight of single boxing gloves tossed to the ground was telling of the boxing world’s adoration and reverence for the man. In an instant, Senior was surrounded by outstretched arms—requests to shake the hand of the legend who trained the likes of Ricky Hatton, Layla Ali, B.J. Penn, and of course, his son, The World Champion. Senior mingled with the boxers in the gym for a bit before deciding to step in the ring. He needn’t say a word to bring the boxers to attention. Word traveled quickly that the trainer was, perhaps, ready to begin training, and soon enough, an audience buoying against the ring ropes surrounded Floyd Mayweather Sr. It was this image which gave credence to my belief that Senior’s approaches to fatherhood and boxing training are similar.
An entire room of athletes now hung on Senior’s every word, and such a sight was surreal; the intrigue and respect on behalf of the boxers made their relationship with him more a resemblance of a parent-children relationship than a trainer-athlete relationship. In individual clinics, Senior stripped each boxer down to foundational level and attempted to rebuild them, equipped with the defensive techniques he’d mastered in his own boxing days. Senior’s attention to detail carried with it a degree of intimacy. Much like a father with his child, Senior evaluated each boxer, noting any flaws. Much like a father with his child, Senior underwent the rigor of teaching specific technique to each boxer. Much like a father with his child, Senior disciplined each boxer; he critiqued until the skill was to his liking. And much like a father, Senior imparted a bit of himself—a bit of his own boxing acumen—which will forever be present in each of his pupils.
In conversation, Floyd Mayweather Sr. once told me “The Lord made me to make champions.” With a divine directive of that nature, it is no wonder why Senior has pursued training with such fervency—with such passion. It is the belief of Floyd Mayweather Sr. that he was placed on this Earth to train—to build—to father boxers. The inarguable evidence of his success is the laundry list of top-notch talent he has trained. Yet, perhaps, his most clear product of fatherhood is evident in his son, Floyd Mayweather Jr.; not only Floyd Mayweather Jr. the boxer, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. the man. If we subscribe to the belief that the duty of a father is to equip his son with tools necessary for survival, we must credit Floyd Mayweather Sr. with fatherhood. And if we subscribe to the belief that the duty of a father is to impart himself upon his son, the fact that Senior has given the world a man similar to him in almost every way—from his swagger to his physical skill to his combativeness—is a testament to his fatherhood, not a denial of it.