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The Front Row with Tim Dahlberg April 27, 2010

| April 27, 2010 9:00 PM

LAS VEGAS - The entourage was down to a manageable level, if only because there's just so many people you can fit in a shower room. Floyd Mayweather Jr. left the rest outside, with a massive security-type stationed at the door just to make sure everyone got the message.

If anyone deserved a hot shower, it was the hardest working man in boxing. Mayweather may some day lose a fight, but it won't be because he comes in out of shape.

On this day, just blocks from the Las Vegas Strip, that meant a half-hour straight of hard sparring, followed by another half-hour on the heavy bag and then some work on the speed bag. Then there were sit-ups to do, mitts to pound and, finally, rope to jump.

His date with Shane Mosley was drawing nearer. Mayweather's work was intense, and so was his focus.

One of the entourage stepped in to get the shower running. Before he got clean, though, Mayweather came clean.

It is, he says, mostly an act.

That foul-mouthed, money-tossing, mansion-loving guy who entertains weekly on HBO's "24/7?" Well, someone has to play the villain, and it pays awfully well.

"The character I portray, sometimes people think that's what I am," Mayweather said. "It's not. Floyd Mayweather is my name, the guy called Money Mayweather is just a character."

Oh, yeah?

"I'm not at home throwing money around," Mayweather insisted. "I'm at my house with my children. The rest of it is all entertainment. It's all business."

Some of it, anyway. A few minutes later, Mayweather was talking about his NBA playoff bets, and how he had won about $30,000 gambling the night before. He's legendary in this city's nightclubs for spreading the cash around, and he's got his own customized armored car to drive when he has to go to the bank.

And most homebodies don't need bodyguards with massive biceps - seven of them on this day - to shield them against foes both real and imagined. They don't get mentioned outside courtrooms as possible police targets in a skating rink shooting investigation.

Then again, most fighters don't do conference calls with boxing writers from their daughter's school, like Mayweather did a few days ago.

"My daughter's getting an award today," he said. "She's like the No. 1 kid in her school."

If the lines between what's real and what's not are fuzzy, well, that's just Mayweather. Family man, would-be thug, boxer, helper of the homeless, he juggles all his roles with ease.

One minute he's humble. The next he's the greatest ever.

"Muhammad Ali was one hell of a fighter, but Floyd Mayweather is the best," he said. "Sugar Ray Robinson was one hell of a fighter, but Floyd Mayweather is the best."

Mostly, though, he's just a fighter. He was literally born into the sport and it permeates his entire being.

In the gym with him are his father and uncle, both former fighters and both trainers. Running around are small children, including one slick boxer he nicknamed "Cash Flow."

The bodyguards patrol the parking lot and guard the front door, but inside it's organized chaos. About 50 people gather around the ring to cheer Mayweather on as he takes on a sparring partner in a fight that never seems to end.

It's good preparation for Mosley, who could be one of Mayweather's toughest opponents ever when they meet next Saturday at the MGM Grand hotel arena.

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org

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