For a boxing nickname, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s fits like an eight-ounce glove. The fighter known as Money makes more of it than any other athlete in the world. If, as expected, he fights twice a year, Mayweather will earn in the (decidedly upscale) neighborhood of $100 million. This is mostly because of an unprecedented Showtime deal that guarantees him $32 million per fight before the first pay-per-view buy is tabulated—the richest contract ever in sports.
But Mayweather also spends money as prodigiously as he earns it. There are the fleets of luxury cars. There's the private plane. There are the gambling sprees, small fortunes lost and gained on, say, the halftime scores of Horizon League games. It was 50 Cent, Mayweather's frenemy, who summed up Money's financial planning this way: "It's fight, get the money, spend the money, fight. Fight, get the money, spend the money, fight."
Not so, says Mayweather. On the eve of his May 4 win over Robert Guerrero—an easy decision that pushed Mayweather's record to 44--0—he sparred with SI on the topic of his finances.
I want to talk about money.
FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.:
Well, let's talk about it.
JW:You're Number 1 on our Fortunate 50 list, ahead of LeBron, Kobe, Tiger, the Mannings—
FM: Tiger Woods, LeBron James, all the guys you just named, all of them are amazing athletes. It's really not about the money.
JW:In this case it is about the money.
FM: It's about legacy. It's about breaking records. You want your name to live on forever in a sport. You want your name to live on forever in entertainment, no different from a guy like Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, my icons. Hopefully someday my name will be mentioned among some of the best, not just athletes but entertainers.
JW:Your income will be more than that of any other athlete this year. What do you think that says?
FM: Surround yourself with the right team. It takes brains to make the money. [My adviser] Leonard Ellerbe has a master's in business. Al Haymon, Harvard. I wasn't fortunate enough to graduate from high school, but I wanted to make a way for my family, so I went to the 12th grade. My family was in a rough situation. We lived in a project building, seven people in a one-bedroom apartment with no hot water. So I said, Whatever it takes to put my family in a good position. That's what I did. I always knew I would be huge.
JW:When did you first feel rich?
FM: You've got to be rich at heart first. You can't chase the money. It will come to you if you're doing what you're supposed to do.
JW:What does money mean to you?
FM: Money is just comfort. I'm very, very thankful I'm able to put my family in a comfortable position. I was just having a talk with my fiancée about that. I was just telling her, Money is just comfort.
JW:Stop saying that. It's your nickname, man. Come on.
FM: Yeah, Floyd (Money) Mayweather. Well, it's out with the old, in with the new. When I left the sport, took a two-year vacation, just resting up, I left Pretty Boy Floyd. I had a nice little haircut. I came back, bald head, Floyd (Money) Mayweather. You have to be able to adapt and adjust.
JW:You're known for flash, the cars, the plane; you're tweeting [photos] of your gambling slips. How much of that is part of your persona and how much—
FM: When it's all said and done, no matter what no one says, I did it my way. Nobody is forced to watch me. I want them to watch, but they're not forced to watch. It's all about entertainment.
JW:That's kind of my point.
FM: Just like when you interview certain basketball players and certain football players, it seems like it's rehearsed. Everybody [gives] basically the same interview because [there are] certain things they cannot say because they will get fined. With my situation, it's different because I'm the president of my company, and basically I call the shots. What I want is what I get.
JW:You're a good-looking guy. You're at the top of your sport. Are you surprised more endorsements haven't come your way?
FM: Not having endorsements, that don't define who I am. Look at every athlete that has a large, long-term endorsement and tell me, have they been at the top longer than me and have they accomplished what I've accomplished? Like I said before, I'm not just any athlete. So I'm not saying that I don't want to be with Nike. I'm not saying I don't want to be with Adidas or Reebok or Under Armour or Pepsi or Coca-Cola, but you got to pay. You have to pay.
JW:If you're Showtime, do you make that deal with Floyd Mayweather?
FM: I went to HBO and just tried to negotiate the best deal for me and my family. I'm not always thinking about the short term. I'm thinking about after my career is over. Showtime gave me everything I asked for and even more. The things that CBS can do and Showtime can do, it's amazing. Like, you have never seen a boxer at the Final Four with 15 million people tuning in. That was a commercial right there promoting the fight. It was so crazy that the head guys from CBS came to me and said, Floyd, after 30 months we want to do another deal with you. I was like, Just slow down. First let's get past this. When my career is over in 30 months, my main focus is just the up-and-coming fighters under my banner, taking them to the next level. I like my name to be involved with things that are successful. That's long term.
JW:So LeBron is tight with Warren Buffett; Roger Federer is tight with Larry Ellison. Are there any captains of finance, billionaires, that you look up to?
FM: I've got billionaire tycoon buddies, but I keep that separate. You know, I do good business and I have good investments.
JW:You've seen the litany of athletes, Tyson—
FM: I'm not here to talk bad about Mike Tyson. Nobody can say what they would've done if they was in Mike Tyson's shoes. He did it his way, and I'm going to do it my way. Like I said before, I've got a lot of money, but money is made to be spent. What's the use of making hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars but you can't enjoy it?
JW:I didn't mean Tyson specifically. A lot of athletes, when they retire, the finances are rough. What is the endgame for you?
FM: We'll see. We'll just have to see.
JW:How do you provide for your children—give them what you didn't have growing up—and still keep them grounded?
FM: I try to give them the finer things in life, but I also try to teach them about having manners and having responsibilities. My job is to keep a roof over your head and keep food in your mouth, and your job is to go to school.... I feel like of course people are going to respect me more than they respect my children because I'm self-made. I did it from the ground up. They're going to feel like my kids had it handed to them.
JW:How did [prison] affect your view toward money?
FM: I got offers and huge deals when I was locked up, with CEOs writing me, wanting to do business with me, Fortune 500 companies wanting to do business with me. But my main focus was just coming home and being free. You can have all the money in the world, but if you're not free, it's like being poor, because you can't do anything.
JW:What's your choice?
FM: All three.
JW:You gotta pick one.
FM: I can't.
JW:You're saying they're interwoven?
FM: I feel like this: Money can put you in a powerful position to meet powerful people. And the thing is this, if I give you respect you have to give me respect. If you've got money, you could put people in powerful positions. I wrote my fiancée an e-mail and basically told her: Seven years ago you were Shantel. When they see you now they don't even call you by your name. They just say, That's Ms. Jackson, and you're labeled as Floyd Mayweather's fiancée. So you've always got to be careful how you move and where you go, because if they define you with money, if somebody sees you as desperate, they do crazy things. So, every move, you've got to be smart.
JW:Tell us about your best investment.
FM: I don't want to put that out there. I don't want anybody taking the blueprint of what I do. Just know that I'm in a good position.
JW:I'll be honest with you, I think people would be surprised if they heard this interview. What happened to the flashy—
FM: See, you had a chance to meet me, so now you understand. You're like, Hold on. What the hell? No, you just see that on TV. I'm not just all flashy. When life comes to action, you gotta give them what they want to see. It's entertainment. I'm far from a dummy.
"YOU'VE GOT TO BE RICH AT HEART. IT'S NOT ABOUT CHASING MONEY. IT WILL COME TO YOU IF YOU'RE DOING WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO."
Photographs by ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED