Updated at: 04/30/2013 11:35 AM
By TIM DAHLBERG
(AP) LAS VEGAS - Floyd Mayweather Jr. was bleeding from the nose, something that seemed to bother his father far more than it did him.
A forearm that slipped inside the headgear during a sparring session Friday night was the culprit and Mayweather Sr. _ back as the boxer’s trainer once more _ let the sparring partner know he wasn’t happy about it.
"It’s OK, it’s boxing," Mayweather yelled back at his father from the center of the ring.
"But you got a fight next week," his father protested.
The nose got some attention from the cut man, but the sparring session went on. By the final round, Mayweather was landing some big right hand leads; enjoying himself so much that he asked for _ and got _ an extra three minutes in the ring.
His father wasn’t going to deny him that, which wasn’t surprising. In a camp populated by yes men, no one dares to say no to the champ.
He’s back in charge of his mini kingdom, doing what he enjoys best, getting ready for a fight. Next Saturday night he’ll enter the ring for the 44th time in his long career, and the oddsmakers in this gambling city are betting that he’ll finish the night with his 44th win.
"Always happy to go out there and do what I love," Mayweather said. "It’s always good to face a new challenge, another obstacle."
Just how much of an obstacle Robert Guerrero will be remains to be seen. He may be what the sharp guys here call a dog, but he’s a live dog. Coming off a dominating win over Andrew Berto and unbeaten in eight years, Guerrero represents enough of a threat to Mayweather to make it at least look like an interesting fight to those contemplating buying it on pay-per-view.
Those are the people Mayweather loves, the people who have made him incredibly rich. They buy Mayweather fights either because they love him or hate him, but buy them they do.
He hasn’t fought in a year, partly because he doesn’t fight a lot to begin with and partly because he spent more than two months of the last year confined to a jail cell. Mayweather served 70 days in the Clark County Detention Center for assaulting the mother of his children, an experience that seems to have sobered him, if just a bit.
"It can be rough on you," he said, icing his hands in the dressing room of the Mayweather Boxing Gym just west of the Las Vegas Strip. "You just got to say prayers and read the positive letters and know you’re going home some day. That’s the main thing _ I knew I was going home."
The jail sentence was hanging over his head the last time he was in the ring, but it didn’t matter. He engaged in a brawl with Miguel Cotto, winning fairly easily but paying the price by getting caught with more shots than he ever took in the earlier part of his career.
He’s a master defensive fighter who has been opening up in more recent fights, either because he’s slowing down or to improve his marketability. Mayweather understands better than most that defense doesn’t sell, perhaps even more so now that he signed what could be a six-fight deal with Showtime that will cement his place as the most well paid athlete in the world.
"That’s what it’s all about, going out there and performing and making it exciting," Mayweather told me. "I want people to come out and cheer and have fun and live life."
However anyone feels about Mayweather, his fights are events. Manny Pacquiao is in decline now, but even in his prime Mayweather was a bigger attraction, as he is always quick to point out. His fights on Mexican holiday weekends in Las Vegas are such a staple that the MGM Grand hotel already has him penciled in for the next one in September.
He’ll make another $40 million or so for this one, which will be for a piece of the 147 pound title. The titles are a nice adornment, but Mayweather keeps score by the amount of money he makes _ and he expects to make a lot of it for his latest night at the office.
The story line was supposed to be good guy against bad, but Guerrero ruined that after getting arrested for trying to bring a gun on a flight at JFK in New York. Still, Mayweather is pleased with what Guerrero is bringing to the promotion, even if he’s not so sure what he will bring in the ring.
"He talks a good game so now we’ll just have to see if he can fight the same way he talks," Mayweather said. "He’s doing a hell of a job with helping promote the fight, though."
On this evening at the Mayweather gym, the fighter keeps a close eye on the 100 or so people gathered to watch him spar in the sweltering gym. They are family and friends, and his hulking bodyguards only let in those that their boss personally approves.
The Bentley is parked sideways out front, just so there’s no mistaking whose care it is. Inside the gym, Mayweather does his usual lengthy workout and a five-round sparring session that delights those watching.
If he’s got ring rust after a year away, he doesn’t show it. The sparring partner is a lefty like Guerrero, but Mayweather seems to have no problem with the style. Mayweather was throwing punches before he began walking, and at the age of 36 he’s seen just about every style imaginable and has shown a remarkable ability to adjust mid-fight to anything his opponent has or is able to do to him.
That includes getting a bloody nose.
"It may happen in the fight," Mayweather said. "Comes with the territory."
The show is over, and the crowd is mostly gone now. Mayweather dips his hands in ice, and welcomes me in to the cramped dressing room. He’s gracious as he sits on a wooden bench, almost charming in a way.
But the answers are genuine, and it’s clear the desire to win still burns deep.
Besides, if he’s putting on a show it’s only because he has one to sell you next Saturday night.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)