Steve Bunce on Boxing: Mayweather all set to make $30m, then serve his time


On 1 June Floyd Mayweather will finally arrive at the county jail, a few miles from his luxury home in Las Vegas, to serve 87 days for assault. This Saturday he will make $30m (£18.4m) when he fights Miguel Angel Cotto inside the MGM in Las Vegas, which has been the venue for modern boxing's most memorable nights.

Mayweather is officially the sport's most popular fighter with astonishing pay-per-view sales, including his share from beating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, which generated $134m in PPV alone; De La Hoya is the king of PPV, with a total of $610m generated from his 18 PPV fights. De La Hoya, by the way, promotes Saturday's fight.

In Las Vegas they are getting ready, with a dozen ballrooms on the strip converted into giant cinemas for the fight and as many as 40,000 tickets selling for $75 each. The MGM's Grand arena sold out before a ticket went on sale. The drop at the casino vaults – which is the real bottom line – will be heavy by dawn on Sunday morning and that is why Mayweather's prison sentence was delayed a couple of months: May is a boxing month and nobody wanted to see the little saviour of this sport incarcerated during the boom month. His victim, Josie Harris, mother to two of his kids, is understood not to have objected when the sentence was deferred for the good of the city's economy. Trust me, I'm not inventing this.

It is, however, a terrific fight in prospect and not just the biggest so far this year – it also has the potential to be a little bit special. Mayweather is certainly a bit special even if at times his ego rules his senses and he talks nonsense. He wanted Barack Obama and rapper 50 Cent to walk him to the ring, has placed himself above Muhammad Ali in a list of greats and openly abuses his father with outrages of pure hate that inspire chuckles from his entourage. The men he pays handsomely to say "yes" neglect their duty too often and really should pull him back on occasion.

Mayweather's excesses away from the ring have traditionally been overlooked because of his outstanding ability inside the ring, and there appears no end to the fascination that the sporting public has with him. Amazingly, he has fought only seven times in six years and with each tiny sabbatical, which incidentally he spends in his own secret gym, his popularity has soared. The landscape of adoration would be different if an alternative boxing idol had emerged in America in the last decade but Mayweather, in many ways, is the last American idol left fighting.

"I'm old-school in every way," said Mayweather, who is now 35. "I belong with the greats, I can walk with them. I study the game and I belong with all the sport's greatest fighters." Mayweather is unbeaten in 42 fights and has won world titles at five different weights.

The last time that Mayweather fought he connected with a legal sucker punch to leave Victor Ortiz in dreamland. It was a brutal reminder that, behind the perfect smile and appearances on the American version of Strictly, there lurked a ruthless fighter; the prison sentence followed a couple of months later to shatter the mirage of respectability. Mayweather will never be adored like De La Hoya, a fighter who is now battling the demons of cocaine addiction and a flirtation with cross-dressing step-by-step, but he rules an expanding flock of fans. Both Mayweather and De La Hoya refuse to have documented the millions of dollars that they annually donate to charities.

On Saturday, Mayweather will need one of his finest displays to beat Cotto in a fight without any damaging clauses limiting the weight of either boxer. Cotto's big loss to Mayweather's nemesis, Manny Pacquiao, happened in a fight where Cotto was made to lose weight. The light-middleweight division suits Cotto and is a genuine added risk for Mayweather, but he is clearly relishing the challenge. He is, as he says, "old-school".

Mayweather v Cotto is live on BoxNation (Sky channel 456)

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