Wrap artist secret to
Floyd being pretty

May 18, 2004 2:31 AM

Give the kid a hand. No, give the man a hand. Before we start celebrating Floyd Mayweather Jr., the heir apparent to Roy Jones Jr. as boxing’s best, we’d better thank the man he thanks, 75-year-old Rafael Garcia.

Garcia is one of boxing’s greatest wrap stars.

When it looked like the only thing, besides his temper, that could possibly hold back Mayweather from being a Hall of Fame fighter, Garcia wrapped the kid in figurative pink ribbons. Mayweather, after a career of fighting his hands more than his opponents, has not been bothered in the last two years, or since Garcia started wrapping the fragile mittens.

The hands look almost as delicate as a piano player’s. It’s tough when you make your living smashing them into someone’s head or ribs. There was one punch Mayweather landed, against Carlos Hernandez, I believe, when he almost went down himself from the pain.

Garcia seems to have stopped that little problem of "this is going to hurt me more than you." And Little Floyd is moving blithely through the divisions.

He won’t get to Oscar de la Hoya, who is trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr. But the kid apparently is on a straight course to greatness. He has won titles at 130 and 135 pounds and next Saturday makes his junior welterweight debut against Demarcus (Chop Chop) Corley, a former 140-pound title-holder. There’s no line that I know of on this one-sided matchup, but it’ll be a good study to see how Little Floyd handles the weight as he gets bigger.

The straight course to greatness does not go around tough opposition, but through it. Mayweather, before even his soon-to-be former promoter, Bob Arum, thought he was ready, went out and whipped the talented and solid Genaro Hernandez for his first world title, defended it against such as Angel Manfredy and Diego (Chico) Corrales, as well as future 130-pound champions like Hernandez and Jesus Chavez.

For his debut at 135, he went after the toughest lightweight of all, Jose Luis Castillo. Oh, you didn’t think he beat him? So he did it again. Convinced now?

I am. The late Eddie Futch, the greatest trainer of them all, used to tell me that Little Floyd did things he had not seen in years. In fact, Eddie’s wife, Eva, told me that the last fight they went to together was when Mayweather brilliantly destroyed Diego Corrales. He is a master of defense. No one fights on the ropes as well as he does. No one gets off the ropes as well as he does. He stands in your face and twists his upper body out of the way of your punches.

Last year, against highly respected Phillipe N’Dou, he put on a dazzling clinic, switching from defense to offense with lightning combinations, letting his hands fly because he no longer has to keep them under wraps.

Granted, N’Dou is not Kostya Tszyu, or even Sharmba Mitchell, or some of the other stars that figure to be juicy paydays for Mayweather in the near future. He has an outstanding challenge to all fighters up to 154 pounds. Yes, I would give him a chance against Winky Wright or de la Hoya or Sugar Shane Mosley. He is that good.

Garcia has taken care of his hands, but Mayweather’s temper now needs to be kept under wraps. He’s a target, he says, but knowing that should make him shy away from those public places where targets are most liable to come into the foggy sights of drunks.

You could see the temper flare when, after Cory Spinks defeated his buddy Zab Judah, Mayweather went nose to nose and chest to chest with the genial welterweight champion. Then, suddenly, Little Floyd got angry. It did not win him many brownie points with the media.

He has not been well promoted by Arum, who has concentrated on de la Hoya and the Hispanic market in recent years. But he also has not been media friendly. Once, he had a New York Times reporter escorted out of the gym. He wanted to be alone. Then he complains why he’s not getting de la Hoya money.

Little Floyd should be huge. He is charismatic and a smile that can light up a room when putting on the charm. But all these out-of-the-ring talents pale when compared with his in-the-ring prowess. The kid can flat out fight and hopefully, he’ll be kept healthily and safely under wraps for him to develop into the superstar boxing needs.

Can you draw?

Boos to all casinos who give it away by offering such miniscule odds like 12-1 on a draw when they rake it in from both sides, as in the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez bout (which I originally scored for Marquez by one point, but after seeing it again on TV, thought a draw was perfect).

Odds on a draw should be at least 25-1.