<
>

Mayweather shines in rare filmed sparring session

In a surprising move, Floyd Mayweather allowed cameras to roll during a sparring session on Wednesday at his gym in Las Vegas. John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty Images

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather has basically lived his life on camera for many years. His wildly flashy life has been chronicled on the reality series "24/7," when he was with HBO, and for the past three years on "All Access," since signing with Showtime.

But one thing each of those series -- which follow the buildup to his prize fights and include a lot of his outside-the-ring life -- has in common is the decided lack of sparring footage.

Mayweather may have let the world see much of his boxing and personal life (including those wild spending sprees), but when he is in the gym in serious preparation for a fight, no cameras are allowed to record his sparring sessions. It has always been like that.

Time and again, he refused to allow HBO or Showtime to film those sessions, which are legendary for their intensity, brutality and length. So when Mayweather invited the media to his open workout Wednesday at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas to watch him train in preparation for what he says will be his final fight -- a welterweight world title defense against former titlist and monstrous underdog Andre Berto on Sept. 12 (Showtime pay-per-view, 8 p.m. ET) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas -- the expectation was that Mayweather would put on his usual training show.

He would do a ton of interviews, the thinking went, and then work up a good sweat with a solid workout. He would hit the heavy bag, the speed bag, jump a little rope, shadowbox, maybe hit the mitts.

But spar? With the media watching? No way.

Whether Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) is just pulling out all the stops to sell a fight with decidedly little buzz -- and for good reason, considering almost nobody gives Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) a chance to be even competitive -- or whether he has some other motive, I have no idea. But he did change things up big time at his workout and created some buzz by -- shocker! -- allowing Showtime to not only record his sparring session but to stream it live across the world.

And Mayweather put on a quite a show in the packed gym after surprising everyone when he donned red head gear, got greased up and went into the ring to spar with journeyman Ramon Montano, who hasn't had a fight since 2011 but is known as a good sparring partner, and Don Moore (17-0-1, 11 KOs).

Even Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, who has been with Mayweather for his entire career, was a bit at a loss for words and said he had no idea Mayweather was going to spar in front of the media and all the cameras.

"I've never seen him give the media any of his sparring throughout his entire career," Ellerbe said. "You know how many times Showtime has asked us for sparring footage? HBO? Everybody? You kidding me?"

Mayweather wore blue gloves and a black, blue, silver and white T-shirt emblazoned with "TBE" -- the best ever, as Mayweather calls himself -- on the front and "Mayweather Promotions" on the back with "48" in the center,referring to his record of 48-0.

This was not a sparring session just for show either, although he did mug for the camera a few times by smiling and sticking out his tongue. No, Mayweather put in serious work two weeks before the fight, going hard for nearly a half hour straight with only a few seconds here and there to rest and to allow a dead tired Montano, who took a shellacking, to get out of the ring to make way for Moore.

Mayweather's punches flowed effortlessly. His jab was sharp and stiff. His uppercut was on point, and he was fast, as usual. Berto is in big trouble. If anyone thinks for one second that Mayweather has gotten soft after all these years of earning gargantuan money from his fights, including a record of around $250 million for his unanimous decision win against Manny Pacquiao in their long-awaited (but very disappointing) showdown on May 2, think again.

Mayweather may have arrived at his gym in his new and very rare $4.8 million sports car, but he still works as hard as any young fighter who lives in a slum and is desperately trying to fight his way out and make something of himself. It's that unmatched work ethic and tireless devotion to perfection, even in the face of all the wealth and success, that sets Mayweather apart from everyone else in boxing.

He's the richest and best fighter in the sport. But he is also the hardest working when it comes to his fight preparation. The young men he spars with don't have it easy.

"Those rounds are tough," Moore said after the sparring session, in which some rounds lasted at least six minutes. "I'm working with the best. I'm honored. Floyd is teaching me a lot. I'm not scared of a crowd. I'm in there with the best and I'm learning.

"I love it. It's like going to college. He breaks you down by working the body. He's sharp, he's ready. It's gonna be an exciting fight Sept. 12. Sparring Floyd is like a basketball player practicing against Michael Jordan."

Watching the sparring was entertaining, too, and it didn't cost $75, like the fight against Berto will -- or $100 like the Pacquiao pay-per-view. Even though it has only been a few months since Mayweather beat Pacquiao, he is clearly not taking it easy. Sure, we'd all have liked to see Mayweather pick a more deserving and better opponent than Berto, but anyone who thinks Mayweather might have a letdown against a lesser opponent is probably in for a rude awakening. Mayweather always trains hard, no matter who he is fighting, and that effort was on full display as he sparred Wednesday.

"We cannot overlook this guy," Mayweather said before the workout. "Everyone is overlooking Berto. When he was fighting Robert 'The Ghost' Guerrero, his eyes were closed and he was still fighting like a warrior. He got knocked down by [Victor] Ortiz, he got right back up and continued to fight, so this guy is a very exciting fighter.

"I do my job. I try to be the best that I can be at my job."

He is the best in the world at his job. And, for a change, he let everyone see just how he goes about being that.