He is the brightest star in the galaxy. But unfortunately for Floyd Mayweather Jr., he is stuck in a galaxy light-years away from the center of the boxing universe.
Mayweather has journeyed to the top of his division at warp speed. He won the World Boxing Council super-featherweight championship last year at 21, has retained it three times and will attempt to do so again tonight when he puts his title on the line against Carlos Gerena at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center.
But the 130-pound Mayweather is frustrated. This young man in a hurry already finds himself with few new worlds to conquer. There are big names above him in weight--Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley at 147 pounds and David Reid and Fernando Vargas at 154--and big names below him--Prince Naseem Hamed at 126 and Erik Morales at 122.
But the biggest opponent for Mayweather at his weight is Roberto Garcia, the International Boxing Federation junior-lightweight champion.
Garcia, who is from Oxnard, is a quality opponent, but he's not going to give Mayweather what he wants: a $1 million-purse.
A few months ago, Mayweather was threatening to retire if he didn't start making seven figures per fight. Having found that threat drew nothing but chuckles, Mayweather has come up with a new game plan after accepting a $62,000 Lexus from his promoter, Bob Arum, as a consolation gift for his meager paychecks, like the $500,000 he will receive for tonight's bout.
Beyond that, Mayweather has decided that if the big names have moved on, he will go after them and the money will follow.
"I want to unify championships at 130 [pounds], 135, 140 and 147," Mayweather said. "I plan on being a champion for 10 years. I want to be America's champion. I want to be the next Sugar Ray Leonard. I'm like Sugar Ray Leonard in that we both speak well, we are both flashy and we both have good looks."
Before Mayweather, who is 21-0 with 16 knockouts, gets too carried away, there is the matter of Gerena, an 18-1 underdog with a respectable 34-2 record, including 28 knockouts. The biggest name on the list of Gerena's previous opponents is Genaro Hernandez. Gerena managed to go the distance with Hernandez in a 1998 title fight, but lost the decision. Five months later, Mayweather took that title from Hernandez via an eighth-round TKO.
"I've got a lot of tricks in my bag," said Mayweather when asked about Gerena, "but I don't know if I'll use any of them."
Mayweather better hang onto that bag, because he'll need every trick in there to successfully battle his way up to 147 pounds.
SOMEDAY THEIR PRINCE MAY COME
Juan Manuel Marquez (29-1, 22 knockouts) has been pursuing Hamed, the World Boxing Organization featherweight champion, since Marquez became the WBO's No. 1 contender in that division in October 1997. Over that span, Marquez has won seven fights, six by knockout.
And still no title shot.
So now, Marquez is taking a different route to the top. Tonight, in the semi-main event at Mandalay Bay, he'll take on World Boxing Assn. featherweight champion Freddie Norwood (34-0-1, 20 knockouts) in a match rated even by oddsmakers.
The winner hopes to finally get in the ring with Hamed. Don't hold your breath.
HOW DO YOU SHUT DON KING UP? SHUT HIM OUT
Arum and fellow promoter Don King have long ruled their sport from separate kingdoms. Any alliances between the two have been uneasy at best.
The latest didn't figure to be any different. With Arum controlling De La Hoya and King promoting Trinidad, Arum and King had to work together to make next Saturday's welterweight showdown at Mandalay Bay a reality.
But that doesn't mean Arum and King have to suddenly like each other. In fact, Arum has stopped talking to King, refusing to even take his phone calls.
"I'm promoting a fight," Arum said. "I don't have time to listen to his bombastic discourses.
"A deal is a deal. I'm not listening to attempts to renegotiate. King's method of negotiation is to get on the phone and wear you down so you'll give in just to get off the phone."
King's jab: "Bob Arum would rather lose money than see me make money."
Arum's counterpunch: "That enhances my stature. He makes it sound like I am so competitive that I am oblivious to making money. That is not the case."
Luis Perez (14-0-1, nine knockouts) and Arturo Reyes (16-1, 13 knockouts) will meet in the semifinals of a junior-welterweight tournament Monday night at the Great Western Forum. Also on the card will be WBO bantamweight champion Jorge Eliecer Julio (41-1, 30 knockouts) in a nontitle, 10-rounder against Miguel Martinez (40-17-1, 31 knockouts).
First bell is at 7:15 p.m.