LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s unblemished 47-0-0 record goes on the line here Saturday night, the “Fight of the Century’’ officially logged in the docket Friday afternoon when Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao stood on a scale before an arena crowd of 11,500 fans and made their weight for the much-ballyhooed welterweight match.
Mayweather hasn’t fared nearly as well when weighed on the scales of justice over the last 14 years.
Arrested or cited for violence seven times against a total five women, two of whom have born him four children, the 38-year-old Mayweather is a court-certified domestic abuser. Yet none of that has impaired his ability to become boxing’s leading brand name.
In 2012, Mayweather served two months in a Clark County jail in Las Vegas, convicted for his 2010 attack on longtime girlfriend Josie Harris, mother of three of his children. Harris told police Mayweather grabbed her by the hair, repeatedly struck the back of her head with a closed fist, and threatened to kill her, the altercation playing out in the presence of two of their three children.
Harris later told USA Today had it not been for their 11-year-old son, Koraun, fleeing to call for help, she likely would have died in that skirmish.
Despite a total of five convictions for violence against women, Mayweather, who is listed by Forbes as the highest-paid athlete of 2014, has been sentenced but once. The greatest money generator in his sport’s history, he also has never been sanctioned by any of boxing’s myriad governing bodies. Nor has he ever been denied a license to fight here, the hedonistic epicenter of the fight industry, by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
In a recent report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” reporter John Barr noted the poor “optics’’ of Mayweather’s right to continue fighting despite his lengthy record of domestic abuse.
“Optics are your business,’’ Pat Lundvall, one of five members of the NSAC, told Barr. “They’re not my business.’’
No matter the appearance, or the harsh reality of jail time, Mayweather keeps punching, using both hands to knock back every opponent and print money simultaneously. It’s the latter ability that has earned him the nickname “Money.” Unbeatable and bankable go a long way in a city built on gambling and where morality and social justice can appear to be on a perpetual vacation.
“This fight brings in criminals from all over — LA, New York, San Francisco,’’ noted a middle-aged cab driver from Croatia to a passenger during a recent morning ride along the Strip. “They’re saying this is an old-world Vegas weekend for boxing because, you know, criminals. And what is Mayweather?’’
The cab driver, asked if he were referring to Mayweather’s history of domestic violence, shrugged and said, “That’s him — criminal.’’
Because Mayweather is on the card, and because Pacquiao, with a record of 57-5-2, could be the toughest opponent he has ever faced, the fight is expected to gross at minimum a record $400 million, and possibly upward of $600 million. Pay-per-view buys, expected to be more than 3 million in number, cost $99.95 in HD — with no guarantee that the bout lasts the full 12 rounds.
MGM’s Grand Garden Arena, which priced the house at five levels, $1,500 through $7,500, released only 500 tickets for street sales. Those sold out in less than a minute. The vast majority of the 16,800 tickets were doled out to MGMs highest rollers, celebrities, and the two fighters’ camps. A single ticket went for more than $40,000 this week on the secondary market.
Mayweather himself will earn a minimum of $180 million for a maximum of 36 minutes’ work, and could top $200 million.
Expected guests at the fight include Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and many more celebrities.
Perpetrators of domestic violence often become social pariahs, and sports figures have not been immune (witness the NFL’s Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson). And though the “abuser” tag fits Mayweather as snugly as one of his bejeweled title belts, that’s not stopping some of Hollywood’s biggest stars from scrambling here to the desert to snatch one of the 900 ringside seats.
ESPN has been here to chronicle every bit of fight week, although it is not a rights-holder. Showtime and HBO, the biggest of the fight game’s cable broadcasters, own the rights. Keith Olbermann, one of ESPN’s higher-profile talents, said he will not watch the fight because of Mayweather’s sordid history of domestic violence, and he encouraged his viewers to boycott the event.
“He should have been banned from his sport two or five or 10 years ago,’’ said Olbermann.
Last month, former NBC “Today” show icon Katie Couric interviewed Mayweather for a Yahoo Global News feature. Couric, who allowed Mayweather ample time to preen (“I know I’m great,” he told her. “It’s not bragging to know I’m great.’’), steered the conversation only briefly to the champion’s domestic violence issues.
“I’m black. I’m rich. And I’m outspoken,’’ said Mayweather, offering reasons he has had to answer repeatedly to domestic violence charges. “Those are three strikes right there.’’
Mayweather further told Couric that the episode with Harris that landed him in jail was one in which he was “restraining’’ the alleged victim, the same woman a TMZ report showed being wheeled out of her home on a stretcher by EMTs.
“Did I restrain a woman that was on drugs?’’ Mayweather said to Couric. “Yes, I did. So if they say that is domestic violence, then you know what? I’m guilty. I’m guilty of restraining someone.”
If Couric challenged Mayweather on his use of the word “restraining,” it was not included in the broadcast.
The fight here is set to go off just after 11 p.m. Eastern Time. There will not be an available seat in the arena, and closed-circuit venues at various MGM properties along the Strip are expected to be all sold out, at prices of $167 per ticket. By midafternoon, some 100,000 additional gamblers and partygoers are expected to be in town, with the fight and the Kentucky Derby the main reasons behind the surge.
Meanwhile, an ex-fiancee, Shantel Jackson, is the latest to bring domestic violence charges against Mayweather. She claims he choked her in 2012, the same year he served two months in jail, and amid their squabble pointed a gun at her foot and asked, “Which toe do you want me to shoot?’’
Jackson has secured high-profile attorney Gloria Allred to represent her.
“He may have a boxing license, but he doesn’t have a license to hurt women,’’ Allred told ESPN’s Barr. “He doesn’t get a pass, he doesn’t get an exception because he’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.’’
When asked specifically about his various misdeeds by Barr and Couric, Mayweather did not waver from his message: The May 2 fight is the biggest off all time, and he hopes everyone will watch.
“When it’s all said and done,’’ Mayweather, a proclaimed born-again Christian, told Barr, “only God can judge.’’