TIM DAHLBERG, AP Boxing Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. refused Wednesday to back off earlier comments declaring himself a better fighter than Muhammad Ali.
Mayweather said he respects Ali’s great career and the things he did outside the ring. But he said he believes he has done as much in boxing as the legendary former heavyweight champion ever did, without the losses that Ali suffered in his career.
“He called himself The Greatest and I call myself TBE (The Best Ever),” Mayweather said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll get criticized for what I said, but I could care less. I could care less about the backlash.”
Mayweather had earlier said that he was better than both Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, pointing to his 47-0 record as proof. He also said he would never have lost to a fighter like Leon Spinks, who beat an aging Ali in 1978 after having just seven pro fights.
“I just look at Ali’s career when he fought Leon Spinks and lost to a fighter with seven fights,” Mayweather said. “There were some other fights he lost and he’s still known as The Greatest because that’s what he put out there. It is what it is.”
A little more than a week before his megafight with Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather seemed relaxed on a conference call where he talked about his career and the man he will face in the ring May 2. He refused to say anything bad about Pacquiao, and said he was treating the richest fight ever as just another fight.
“I know it’s the biggest fight in boxing history but I can’t approach it like that,” Mayweather said. “I’m never going to put any unnecessary pressure on myself. I like to approach the fight like he’s a fighter who’s extremely talented. But my thing is to just be Floyd Mayweather.”
That has worked for Mayweather his entire career, though most boxing historians would disagree with his own view of his place in boxing’s historical hierarchy. That includes the current heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, who told a group of reporters in New York on Tuesday that maybe Mayweather shouldn’t be so boastful.
“I think probably, I heard this comment from Mayweather that he’s better than Ali or greater than Ali,” Klitschko said. “I think people call the king the king, not the king (who says) ‘I’m the king.’ So people make others somebody that he is or that he’s not. So that’s people’s opinions.”
While Mayweather’s place in history may be in debate, there’s no debate that he will make the biggest purse ever against Pacquiao. Depending on pay-per-view sales — which reportedly have been strong for a fight still 10 days away — he could earn as much as $180 million for the welterweight title bout.
That prompted a question Wednesday about whether the free-spending Mayweather — who owns a fleet of expensive cars, a private jet and several mansions — worries about losing all his money after he retires.
“I’m blessed, I made some good investments,” Mayweather said. “If I wanted to retire today I could.”
Mayweather credited what he called a brilliant game plan for reaching his goal of becoming the first fighters to ever make a nine figure paycheck in one night. But he said he has changed in recent years, toning down his act and putting aside the Pretty Boy and Money May personas he used to help him sell previous pay-per-view fights.
This fight needs no selling, and Mayweather has been subdued at every public appearance.
“It took a game plan for me going out there to win and me speaking out with a very loud voice and having a lot of personality,” he said. “But as you get older you mature. You’ve done trash talking for 17 or 18 years, look at me, what I’ve done. I don’t have to do all of that. I did all that loud talking and everything to get to this point.”
That includes speaking badly about Freddie Roach, who has tried to cast Mayweather as the bad guy in this fight promotion.
“He’s making it basically a god against devil kind of thing, but he doesn’t have to get in there and fight,” Mayweather said. “He’s entitled to say what he wants to say, but the fighters aren’t speaking like that and it comes down to the two fighters.”
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