Steve Bunce: Floyd Mayweather, 50 Cent and the bizarre feud over Dr Seuss

As he prepares for Saturday’s re-match with Maidana, Mayweather has become embroiled in a bizarre and ugly row with the American rapper. Steve Bunce details the latest unsavoury events in the world of ‘Money’

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The Independent Online

Floyd Mayweather is the world’s highest-paid athlete and will make a minimum of $14,815 (£9,202) per second on Saturday when he fights Marcos Maidana again at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The boxer got $72m for his last contest and is four bouts into a six-fight deal with American broadcasters Showtime worth $200m, he is unbeaten in 46 very well-paid fights, has set several financial records in the sport and yet... money has so far failed to buy him the loyalty of his lovers or friends.

Last week, Mayweather was humiliated on American television when his former business partner and friend 50 Cent, the rapper and former felon, challenged him to read a page of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. The rapper had previously offered to donate $750,000 to charity if Mayweather read a single page of any Harry Potter book. “He can’t say the big words in Harry Potter, so he can read Green Eggs and Ham,” said 50 Cent.

This week Shantel Jackson, his partner of six years, issued legal proceedings against Mayweather claiming he abused her physically and publicly sought to humiliate her by publishing pictures of a sonogram, which allegedly showed her carrying their twins. He says he kicked her out and accused her of aborting the twins, a charge she complained about in court papers.

The Mayweather world is, make no mistake, a vulgar place where desperate people queue outside his gym in Las Vegas hoping to be allowed in for the chance to stretch out their palms. It is a sad retreat in a city that has never concerned itself with the losers, poor and distressed that live outside the swollen beams of the Strip’s deceptive neon. It is also a place where tourists flock and where for 50 bucks they can buy a half-full jar of Vaseline, which comes with the verbal assurance that the missing jelly is smeared across Mayweather’s features.

 

However, he donates vast sums to local charities and seems to feed, clothe and protect the hundreds who are part of his “Money Team”, a bizarre collection of family members, fighters, drifters, former partners and silent men with blank eyes that crowd his gym and conduct the cheer-leading. “I give away hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and I do that away from the media,” insisted Mayweather.

Thankfully, his juvenile days of sending thousands of dollars flying into the air in strip clubs, a dumb act called “making it rain”, and having contests with 50 Cent to see who could burn $100 bills the quickest are over. It is a relief to know I never need see a dozen semi-naked strippers fighting for the discarded dollars from Mayweather’s fists – a raw sight even by the sordid lows of Vegas.

The friendship with 50 Cent always seemed to be at the core of the films that HBO, the satellite television company that has funded most of Mayweather’s career, used to promote his pay-per-view fights. They sold a lifestyle of excess and glamour, with pouting women in tiny outfits filling glasses with $1,000 brandy shots and snipping the heads off $500 cigars for little Floyd and 50 Cent to suck on.

The happy days ended in 2012 when Mayweather was sentenced to 90 days in prison for assaulting a woman, the mother of one of his four children. In the fighter’s absence, 50 Cent was accused of interfering with Mayweather’s team of boxers and the pair split. 50 Cent still claims Mayweather owes him $2m. The break turned particularly ugly when the boxer was challenged to read a page from the Potter book two weeks ago and then the Dr Seuss classic last week. It was a cheap shot and for once Mayweather emerged with some dignity.

“Making fun out of a person because he can’t read is not funny – it is tragic,” said Mayweather. “I would be perfect at reading if it was how I made my living and fed my family. I’m a boxer, that’s what I do and I will say this: intelligence and education are two totally different things.”

There was genuine emotion behind the words; Mayweather left school early and survived a savage childhood, including being used as a human shield by his father during a shoot-out in a crack house. Mayweather’s father was shot in the leg – by his brother – by the way.

A radio station in New York came dashing to 50 Cent’s side and released recordings of Mayweather stumbling with some sound bites he was trying to read as part of a promotion. Yet during the last 20 years I have watched and heard some tremendously educated people repeatedly fluff their lines on radio and television. I have also seen Mayweather on a media day conduct over 100 interviews and never refuse a request, no matter how late in the day, to do a personal jingle.

There seems to be some connection between Jackson’s departure, the growing animosity with 50 Cent and another lost friend, the rapper Nelly. It might sound a bit comical but this is deadly serious stuff and 50 Cent insists that Nelly and Jackson are now an item. He does, as you can imagine, make the connection rather more graphically in several of his online rants. This is how 50 Cent so eloquently put it in his latest viral assault on Mayweather: “Why say f*** me? Nelly f***** your first baby momma, Melissa, then took your f****** fiancée [Jackson]. So, say f*** [Nelly], not me.” It needs to be remembered that this is Las Vegas, a bloody and violent city where too many fools, often hired as security, carry guns.

Video: Mayweather and Maidana prepare for match

The announcement that Jackson, a clothes designer, was seeking compensation is dreadful timing for Mayweather as he puts the final touches to preparing for Saturday’s rematch with Maidana. The pair split in May before the first fight, which Mayweather won after a difficult night in the ring, when the sonogram and paperwork appeared on the boxer’s Facebook page. There were also claims at the time that he had slept with the wife of another rapper, T.I. “I said I never slept with her, I said ‘T.I. thinks I slept with the b****’,” added Mayweather at a press conference to clear up that little misunderstanding. I said it was a vulgar world, I was not joking.

During the last week business magnate Warren Buffett, who is worth $66 billion and regarded as the most successful investor in history, visited Mayweather’s gym to chat with the boxer. Outside in the heat people still waited to have their shoulder touched by one of Mayweather’s guards; if they get the touch they get in and if they get in, they get close to the fighter, who has an urgent need to add a moral portfolio (perhaps he could lead a literacy campaign inside the black community) to the bulging financial rewards he has so far built from his exquisite work with his fists in the ring. They also get the chance to purchase a second-hand jar of Vaseline.

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