Inside the Mayweather Boxing Club
LAS VEGAS – It’s quite odd to find a boxing gym near Las Vegas’ Chinatown district, far from the bright lights of the casino-dotted Strip this gambling center is known for.
Odder even, when you consider the gym’s owner is a flamboyant boxer named Floyd Mayweather Jr., who just happens to be one of the best boxers in this era.
The long-awaited megafight between Mayweather and Filipino rival Manny Pacquiao is just 10 days away and one would expect the gym to be full of activity–inside and out. But it is nearly 10 in the morning Wednesday and the huge parking lot serving the heavily-tinted gym and other businesses was nearly empty, a portrait of dreariness interrupted by a few cars and orange cones.
There are no posters, even, announcing the fight.
An hour later, a couple, who came from South Africa, hesitantly walked toward the gym before realizing it was still closed.
“We came here all the way from South Africa to see Floyd Mayweather, see his gym, see where the legend is made, where he works out and perfects his skills,” said Valdi, who came with his wife. “We’re Mayweather fans even back in the day.”
“Floyd Mayweather [will win]. Manny Pacquiao is a fantastic fighter but you fight against Floyd Mayweather, he makes anyone look ordinary,” he added.
Unfortunately for the two, they were too early to catch a glimpse of the pound-for-pound king.
An hour later, a white Toyota sedan parked near in front of the gym. A hulking man stepped out and started shouting “Mayweather-Pacquiao shirts!”
Nate Jones, a trainer, is part of the larger conglomerate of Mayweather’s Money Team and he sells shirts piled up at the trunk of his car for $30.
“Hey, I know you’re a Mayweather-Pacquiao fan. Come over here; I got shirts for $30 dollars. They sell for $60 outside,” Jones shouted at a man taking pictures of the gym. The man takes a look and buys one.
“I’m part of the Money Team and I train a couple fighters. I can get you inside the gym,” Jones told the man, who introduced himself as a reporter from the Philippines.
Just a couple of minutes past noon, the gym opens. And inside, the first thing that catches one’s attention is a Ms. Pacman arcade game over at the left side of the entrance. Pacquiao’s nickname is Pacman.
There’s another door that leads to the gym where framed posters of Mayweather’s big fights, including the official fight poster of the May 2 showdown with Pacquiao, hang on the walls.
Plastered on the door is a sign reminding everyone not part of The Money Team that the gym closes at 2:30 p.m. and another important advisory that must be strictly followed: no cellphones and cameras allowed while Mayweather is training.
But still a couple of hours before lockdown, the sound of a boxer’s gloves smashing into his trainer’s mitts overpowers that of a hip-hop music blaring from the speakers.
J’Leone Love, the WBA International super middleweight champion, is training. Love is one of the many boxers signed by Mayweather Promotions.
“I’ve been training with Floyd for over three years now. I was once his sparring partner and then he signed me. I trained alongside him, I run with him, everything,” said Love, who could easily be mistaken for former longtime middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins with his facial features and the way he boxes.
Love is just one of the many boxers training today. British champion boxer Chris “The Flash” Evangelou, who traces his roots to Greece, is one of them.
Evangelou, who also happens to be a good friend of Love, isn’t part of Mayweather’s team but has been sparring in the gym for a week as he prepares to get back in the ring and continue his pursuit of a world title. He may be training inside Mayweather’s gym, but he is also a Pacquiao fan.
“I always have a soft spot for Manny Pacquiao. He’s a born-again Christian and I just love what he does in the world. It would be amazing to see a big upset,” the 29-year-old welterweight said.
Not long after, Mayweather’s outspoken father and trainer Floyd Sr. appeared, but he was not in the mood for any interviews. The uncle, Roger, kept a frown and he, too, appeared to have gotten up the wrong side of the bed.
The room was crowded but around 2 p.m., the air-conditioning was turned off and the music stopped. A brawny man in a Money Team tank top signaled the end of training–also an indication that Mayweather was about to come.
“Everyone not part of The Money Team, time to get the f*** out. The gym will be closing,” he shouted.
People peeled off in groups and exited the gym. Outside, the once empty lot was filled with mostly luxury cars and people started to gather in front of the gym – all waiting for the champ to arrive.
Vinny Connor, who came from Manchester, England, just to catch Mayweather training, has the welterweight champion’s logo “TMT” inked on his right calf and the pound-for-pound king’s autograph on his right arm.
“You might be surprised but I see Mayweather knocking out Pacquiao in six rounds,” he said.
Tom Diana, who lives nearby, brought a giant glove and a painting of Mayweather done by his friend from Pennsylvania in the hopes of getting both signed. Mexican artist Mauricio Torrescano also waited for the five-division champion while carrying a heavy framed sculpture made of clay picturing Mayweather and Pacquiao side-by-side.
Two hours later, Mayweather, driving one of his many expensive cars, a grey Rolls Royce Phantom, pulls up in front of his gym and alights. A man shouts, “what’s up, Floyd?” Mayweather turns his head and flashes a peace sign. Surrounded by his hefty security staff, he disappears into thin air, into the gym and into the final stretch of preparations for the Pacquiao fight.