Other than Floyd Mayweather Sr., there probably isn’t a man alive who knows more about Floyd Mayweather Jr. than Leonard Ellerbe.
Ellerbe is the longtime friend and advisor of Mayweather Jr., who on Saturday will challenge Carlos Baldomir for his World Boxing Council welterweight belt at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Ellerbe usually works the corner of Mayweather, but only as an assistant to lead trainer Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle. But Roger is currently under suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and he’s in jail, so Ellerbe’s role has been expanded to lead trainer for this fight.
And chances are, Floyd Jr. won’t miss a beat. Not when one knows what he knows.
“Floyd’s dad taught him a great, great deal about the game when Floyd was a kid, so Floyd knew probably more at the age of 13 than most fighters today at the age of 25, 26, who are your young veterans,” said Ellerbe, who has known Mayweather, 29, since Mayweather was a teen-ager growing up in Michigan.
“He is truly a student of the game,” Ellerbe said. “He has fighting in his bloodlines, with his uncle Roger, obviously his dad, and his uncle Jeff, who were all excellent fighters. So he
learned at a very, very young age to understand what boxing was all about. He knows boxing. He’s a winner.”
Ellerbe offered up an example that is rather alarming, especially if you are Baldomir and you are trying to convince yourself that you actually have a chance to win Saturday.
“I think Baldomir’s first amateur fight was when he was like 16 years old,” Ellerbe said. “When Floyd was 16, he was boxing the likes of Pernell Whitaker and Frankie Randall. That just goes to show you where Floyd has come from.
“The fight will be decided in the ring and it will be decided between Carlos and Floyd. It’s got nothing to do with who’s in the corner.”
Ellerbe was just getting started. He said that, as terrific as Mayweather’s career has been, he has yet to quit improving. He is 36-0 with 24 knockouts, 15-0 in world championship fights and he’s won titles in four weight classes.
“The scary part is, he is getting better and better with each fight,” Ellerbe said. “No disrespect to any of his peers, but he is head and shoulders above any fighter out there.”
Jim Lampley will be calling Saturday’s fight on the HBO pay-per-view feed. During his 20 years as a boxing commentator – 18 of them for HBO – Lampley has seen quite a few quality fighters who are either in the Hall of Fame, or headed there.
As far as sheer talent, Lampley said Mayweather is one of the best he’s seen.
“He is definitely one of the five most gifted, along with Roy Jones and Ray Leonard and Lennnox Lewis and maybe a few others,” Lampley said Tuesday. “He is one of the ones with the most natural, physical gifts for fighting.
“And add to that, his upbringing in the ring. He has unusual ring intelligence, ring instincts. He knows how to fight in every sense, mentally and physically.”
Lampley, however, doesn’t believe that Mayweather has done everything he can to leave the stamp on the sport he is capable of leaving.
“He’s still making his mark in terms of where I would put him as a great fighter,” Lampley said. “I always make a distinction in my mind between great craftsmen, or great technicians, like Roy Jones, who aren’t necessarily great fighters because they don’t seek a risk that will please the audience.
“To me, the classic dimension that fills out the dossier of a truly great fighter is, not only does he have natural gifts and not only does he have commitment in the gym and not only does he have courage in the ring, but he has courage as a public figure as well.
“He wants to seek out those risks that separate him from the other people around him. And I don’t think Floyd has gone to the highest level he can go in that sense quite yet.”
Mayweather has been accused by his former promoter, Bob Arum, of ducking Antonio Margarito, the World Boxing Organization welterweight champion promoted by Arum. Margarito is a fighter who would appear to have a shot at defeating Mayweather, though he would not be favored.
Lampley also pointed out that it wasn’t good for Mayweather to have been considering fighting Cory Spinks, who recently moved up to junior middleweight and won a title there.
“On the other hand, I think it’s laudible that when he got his feet put to the fire by the media for the apparent intention of fighting Cory Spinks, he quickly shifted gears and made
the fight (with Baldomir) that should have been made,” Lampley said.
“He’s a great boxer and a great technician who is moving every day toward somebody whose legacy will be that of a great fighter.”
If you ask Mayweather, he is already that and a bag of chips.
“I can remember when I used to be boxing, working out and everybody said, ‘This kid is this, this kid is that,’ ” Mayweather said. “A lot of people didn’t really understand me, where
my heart was at.
“I was born to be a fighter. I’m not like nobody else in this sport. It’s not like I went into the boxing gym at age 10 or 8. My first day home from the hospital, I went to the boxing gym.
“Boxing is in my bloodline. I knew eventually I was going to end up being the best in the sport. I knew I was going to end up carrying boxing on my shoulders.”
Up until recently, Oscar De La Hoya had done most of that carrying. But he is on his way out. And Ellerbe said that it’s now Mayweather’s time to rule the roost.
“Floyd is on top of his game,” Ellerbe said, “and the beauty of being on top of his game is, all the other elite fighters want to fight him. There is not one elite fighter out there who
doesn’t want to fight Floyd, including De La Hoya.
“That being said, our focus is solely on Carlos Baldomir.”
We have no doubt that Mayweather is thinking mostly about Baldomir (43-9-6, 13 KOs). But whereas Mayweather is making a guaranteed $8 million plus upside from pay-per-view revenue for Saturday’s fight, he would probably make at least twice that much if he fought De La Hoya.
It would be fitting to have the man – De La Hoya – who has meant so much to professional boxing the past 14 years – to make his last fight against Mayweather, the current consensus pound-for-pound champion.