The scene is set: the MGM Garden Arena’s boxing ring is packed with photojournalists, promoters, security guards, entourage and the boxers themselves. It’s minutes after the final round of a championship bout between Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya. The cameras focus in on Michael Buffer, HBO Boxing’s announcer, as he reads the judges’ scorecards. Buffer completes his post fight announcement with, “…and new WBC Super Welterweight champion of the world, ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd Mayweather”.
For the 37 year-old Floyd Mayweather, beating the prolific De La Hoya solidified his place among boxing’s greats. But beginning Mayweather’s story at the pinnacle of his career is unfair; it doesn’t make mention of what makes him extraordinary. What makes a kid from the inner city streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan a boxing legend?
Floyd Mayweather cruises through the neon-lit streets of Las Vegas in his white Rolls Royce Phantom. He is speaking to the Showtime: All Access cameras,
“It’s 1AM and I’m going for my third workout. Do I want to go to the gym? Absolutely not. I’d rather lay in my house and sit in the movie theatre and watch movies but ya’ know, to be the best you got to work overtime. To be the best you got to work overtime. Let’s go ahead and get this workout in…. Lights out, party is over.”
It’s easy for an athlete at the apex of their career to deviate from the path that led them to the top. The large paycheques provide newfound comfort, and that comfort breeds complacency. Mayweather is an anomaly. He hasn’t deviated an inch of his path.
In 2013, Mayweather earned $73.3 million (not including endorsements) which didn’t slow down his relentless motor. To understand why he hasn’t lost a single fight in his 18- year professional career, you have to dig deep into his past.
Floyd Mayweather’s success inside the squared circle is built on his sound fundamental skills. From his laser-precise jabs to his impenetrable shoulder roll, no one quite comprehends the nuances of boxing like he does. Leading up to his fight with Miguel Cotto in 2012, Mayweather reminisces about his tween years with a group of journalists:
“My whole thing was I need to go to the gym no matter how late I stayed up, or where I went. I got to the gym everyday. When I was a kid I didn’t care what it was, nothing in the world was better than going to the boxing gym. Nothing. I wanted to go the gym on Sundays.”
At an early age, Mayweather realised the importance of focused repetition. It wasn’t enough for him to show up to the boxing gym and perform the prescribed workouts.
“In the beginning of my career, I put pressure on myself just because I wanted to perform so well. I just wanted to be perfect… When I was younger, my dad did want me to be perfect, so that’s probably why that’s installed in me to this day. I want to be perfect at whatever I do. I can’t help it. It’s just installed in me…I just wanted my victories to be flawless. I didn’t want to get hit at all. I wasn’t gonna make any mistakes.”
Things haven’t changed much over the decades. Mayweather can still be found attacking his exhausting workouts with the same vigour he had when he was 12 years-old. He notes that these values of perfectionism have the potential to be dangerous; however, it depends on the person’s response to the pressure.
“Every day as a kid, I went to the boxing gym. I knew boxing before I knew anything else. And I was once told if you show your child how to do something and you constantly push them, then eventually they’ll become masters. They’ll become a master of their craft. So that’s probably what happened with me and the sport of boxing…I think my dad, when he works with my older son, puts the same kind of pressure on him that he put on me—that perfectionist pressure. And that can work in two ways: It can make you a perfectionist yourself, or it can eventually break you in the long run.”
The idea of focused repetition is quite simple and can be applied to any craft, not just boxing. People are convinced that if you perform a certain motion or act a certain number of times, you’ll eventually master it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Simply practising isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to have to be present and aware of your actions at all times. It isn’t flashy and it isn’t exciting to watch – actually, it’s quite boring – but it’s the x-factor that elevates and propels individuals past the masses.