By Geoffrey Gray
Floyd Mayweather Jr. has fashioned a career by making the painful business of boxing look easy, but records obtained by Sports on Earth reveal a very different side of the undefeated champ: an embattled man very much on the ropes while spending time in jail. In the summer of 2012, Mayweather served 60 days of a 90-day sentence at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas after pleading guilty to domestic violence charges involving a former girlfriend.
"My mind is not the same," Mayweather wrote in one impassioned request from inside the Las Vegas jail. "I've lost weight I am stressed out I can't workout and I need some type of exercise." [Editor's Note: All quotations are unedited.] Records also show that Mayweather was disciplined by officials, written up for "borderline threatening" an officer and suspected of paying off other inmates to receive preferential treatment, including a Latino gang member awaiting murder charges.
Long known for his bluster and candor, the 37-year-old Mayweather, who faces Marcos Maidana on Saturday, has rarely talked about his experience in prison. Mayweather did not respond to multiple requests for comment through his publicist, and calls and messages to his manager were not returned.
Internal reports and documents from the jail, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, not only detail Mayweather's imprisonment for the first time, but also paint a rare portrait of the eccentric champion during one of the most difficult periods of his life. Known for his tireless training, speed and agility, Mayweather refused to eat nearly every meal he was served inside the facility, according to records, surviving instead on a diet of commissary snacks, including Chili Cheese Fritos, candy bars, packets of chicken ramen noodles and "kippered beef," a kind of beef jerky.
Because of his celebrity status, officials at the jail placed Mayweather in protective custody, where he was separated from other inmates and forced to spend 23 hours a day inside his cell. Normally the center of a huge entourage and the object of constant attention, Mayweather fought desperately to be released into the jail's general population or transferred to another facility, records show. He complained that the isolation at Clark County was wreaking havoc on his psyche, and the idleness posed a threat to his career.
"I'm just hoping this time don't have an infect on my job," Mayweather writes. "Out of 168 hrs in a week I only get 5 hours out of my cell its just not right ... I have not committed a felony so why am I being treated like a murderer or child predator?"
The domestic assault charges were not the first to be filed against Mayweather, and allegations of abuse against women have followed his father and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., as well as his uncle, Roger Mayweather, who also has trained him. For years, the younger Mayweather eluded those charges. In September 2010, former girlfriend Josie Harris claimed that once Mayweather learned she was dating another man, he stole her cell phone and hit her, in front of their children. Facing a felony conviction with a hefty prison sentence, Mayweather pled to a deal in which the charges were reduced to misdemeanors, with a two-month sentence in the Las Vegas jail.
Mayweather was punished at one point after attempting to intimidate an officer at Clark County, the reports show. On July 12, more than a month after he entered the facility, an issue arose when an officer discovered Mayweather had been given two hours of free time instead of one. The officer, named in the reports only as "Snowden," was discussing the matter with another officer, when Mayweather started to "yell out his cell as he butted into our conversation," Snowden wrote.
Snowden then recounted walking over to Mayweather's cell to speak with him. "He looked me in the eye and he told me that when he gets out of jail, he won't forget me," Snowden reported. To the officer, Mayweather's remark sounded like a threat. "I didn't say I was going to hurt you, did I?" Mayweather then said, according to the report. "Without that badge, you aren't tough. It would be different between us if you didn't have that badge on." Mayweather went on to tell the officer that he had police officers that worked for him as employees, and allegedly said to Snowden: "You're a pussy."
In response, Snowden took away Mayweather's hour of free time for a day. In his report, Snowden wrote that his rationale for the penalty was "for borderline threatening me and for being verbally abusive." In response, "[Mayweather] then told me I had a black heart," Snowden reported.
Mayweather quickly figured out the internal economy and politics of jail, the records suggest. After only five days in the facility, officers suspected that Mayweather, named as the world's highest-grossing athlete by Forbes in 2012, was bribing inmates in exchange for favors. During one hour-long session of free time, Mayweather was overheard yelling to an inmate named Paul Lopez, who pled guilty to murder last year and was then serving time for gang-related charges. According to newspaper accounts, Lopez and his co-defendants were indicted for beating a man to death with a bat.
"I am putting $500 on your books -- thanks for looking out," Mayweather told Lopez, the report states. The jail's internal investigation reported that $500 had been placed in Lopez's account by a third party, a person who had also deposited $200 into inmate Nicholas Howard's account. When asked about the payment, according to the report, Howard smiled and said, "It is what it is." The investigating officer then had a conversation with Lopez, who asked the officer if he could trade his privileges with Mayweather. "I want to give him my half hour in the dayroom, and I'll stay in the multipurpose room for my free time," Lopez said, according to the report. Ultimately, no disciplinary action was recommended.
The records also show that Mayweather received a variety of mail while imprisoned, from fans, lawyers and known criminals. Fans sent him the Quran and the Bible, as well as books such as Ask a Player Vol. 1., described as "mind blowing realism" and "THE BUTT NAKED TRUTH!" On June 28, Mayweather received a letter that was turned over to prison guards. "After close examination, the letter appeared to be soiled ..." a report states. "The contents inside the envelope had information in regards to current Los Zetas activity." Los Zetas is not just a prison gang. American government officials have called the organization "the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico."
Mayweather doesn't appear to have gotten into any fights in jail, but he did suffer a suspicious injury. At the end of his first week inside the facility, records show that Mayweather called a guard and asked to receive medical attention for bruised ribs. When asked how he could have hurt his ribs, Mayweather said,"I dropped a bottle of lotion and it rolled under my bunk," according to the report, and then "[I] bent over to pick it up and heard something pop." Mayweather then pulled up his shirt to show the officer "a bump on his rib cage." While it's unclear how a boxer so known for his ability to elude injury over 45 professional fights could have bruised a rib bending over for an errant bottle of moisturizer, Mayweather was carted off 20 minutes later for X-rays. The report doesn't include the findings of the X-rays, nor does it speculate on the cause of the injury.
The biggest issue that jail officers had with Mayweather, the reports suggest, was a sense of entitlement. Nearly every day, officers reported that Mayweather refused to touch the food on his tray, except an occasional orange or piece of bread. Records from the commissary show that Mayweather's favorite items were packets of oatmeal flavored with maple and brown sugar, chicken ramen noodles, bottled water and Snickers bars. Mayweather also seemed to keep his cell well maintained. During one inspection, a guard reported that "an excessive amount of linen was obvious," leading him to confiscate "6 extra pillow cases, 14 extra sheets, 5 extra towels, and 3 extra pants."
In the documentary 30 Days in May, which Mayweather produced and appeared in for Showtime, he described his experience inside a cell in general terms. "Mentally, I am f---ed up from the situation," he said after his release. "The American dream is to get a lot of money, but when you locked up, you don't care nothing about money. All you care about is being free."
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Geoffrey Gray is a best-selling author and reporter based in New York. A contributing editor at New York Magazine, he has covered boxing, bullfighting, tennis, female-arm wrestling, camel racing and high-end perfume.