Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Floyd's super punt a bit rich

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Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. Photo / AP
Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. Photo / AP

There's about 16 million reasons for hoping the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl tomorrow morning.

That is the obscene amount (about NZ$16 million) boxer Floyd Mayweather is allegedly betting on the Broncos to win both the first half and the game against the Seahawks.

Allegedly. In the Mayweather world, it is hard to know what is true and what is boxing gimmickry designed to perpetuate the image of Mayweather as a "bad boy". Like the story of when Floyd - the biggest earner in sport on the planet for the past two years and reputedly worth about $500m all up - was a baby and was used as a human shield during a shoot-out in a crack house.

His father, Floyd senior, tried to avoid being shot by holding the toddler in front of him to block the gun barrel that sought a clear passage to deliver the bullet wished upon him by an irate family member. Father was shot in the leg and Floyd Jnr hit the floor, an event that has subsequently barely happened at all in the stellar career of this 45-bout undefeated light middleweight, six times world champion fighter.

The baby story might even be true. Floyd Snr has been to prison on a serious drug charge and Floyd Jnr has become the biggest drawcard in all of boxing, fighting for US$40m a time and more; he's bigger even than Filipino phenomenon Manny Pacquiao - though Mayweather seems a dubious character who served 65 days in jail last year after a domestic violence incident. Floyd Snr and his brother, Uncle Roger, are now working together in Floyd Jnr's service after father and son and then father and uncle went through spells of feral inter-family clashes.

But, back to the big bet. Mayweather is known to be a big gambler (one news outlet tracked 50 betting slips that showed Mayweather had bet a combined total of US$4m over two years) but $16m is obscene even for a man once proudly photographed withdrawing US$1m in cash from a bank.

Thing is, the bet might not have any connection to the factual. It first came to light on that bastion of internet reliability, Twitter - but not supplied by Mayweather who often tweets to announce some of his big bets or other excesses; he has not confirmed the bet, or denied it.

But it's enough to set the heart against the Broncos tomorrow. Truth be told, it was a welcome boost for a neutral whose NFL heart belongs to the Green Bay Packers; I grew up when the Packers were at their most dominant and always liked the idea of such a small US town holding sway over the sport's biggest prize.

So why not like the Mayweather rags to riches story? After all, the truth in boxing occasionally nestles close to reality and is always within comfortable touching distance of the fictional. Well, it's just that the Mayweathers seem so capable of having the word "filthy" inserted before the word "rich".

Far be it from me to decry anyone making money. Good on them. I'd be a multi-millionaire too if I had the choice. But the phrase "conspicuous consumption" (he has 29 cars) could have been invented for Floyd and his Followers.

Even allowing that a lot of the talk is just the bullshit of boxing, Mayweather may have been slowly ingested by his own excesses. His nickname is "Money" and he employs the "Money Team" - a collection of people described on their Facebook page (yes, they have a Facebook page ... ) as sharing a "lifestyle born out of hard work and dedication" where you can buy Mayweather gear; some of the Money Team do Floyd's fetching and carrying.

But you suspect he has started to live more readily in the fantasy world. He has apparently developed an obsession with cleanliness that sometimes afflicts the very rich and wears pants, socks and shoes only once. He takes two private jets when he travels - one for him and his briefcase with one million smackers inside it plus a masseuse, according to British newspaper The Independent. The other jet is for his bodyguards and the Money Team - as Floyd is apparently worried the weight of his entourage may make his plane crash.

Mayweather has his own charity foundation and there are stories that crop up in the media about how Floyd and the Money Team turn up at homeless shelters and other needy outlets, donating money (US$50,000 to save the life of a 10-month old baby) and time without seeking media attention to mark such good works. The foundation is dedicated to education, self-improvement for women and community outreach to the homeless.

However, one investigation by Non Profit Quarterly magazine in 2011 showed that, in the foundation's tax returns for 2009, it distributed only US$3500 in donations, although it must be pointed out that not every philanthropic act by Mayweather needs to be declared.

The much-anticipated Pacquiao-Mayweather clash has been forever stalled and Mayweather has not yet responded to Pacquiao's latest gambit that they fight for a purse of US$200m - all of which goes to charity and none to the fighters.

So let's leave Floyd and his money, his women, his cars, his toxic family disputes - and hope that it isn't true; hope that he hasn't really bet $16m on a football game when he could have given it to charity or reimbursed some of the people who made him rich (the fans) or whatever.

C'mon Seattle ...

- Herald on Sunday

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