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Floyd Mayweather Jr. just can't say right thing on Ray Rice incident

 Floyd Mayweather Jr. just can't say right thing on Ray Rice incident
Floyd Mayweather speaks during a news conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday to promote his title bout against Marcos Maidana on Saturday. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Wednesday was clean-up-the-mess day at Floyd Mayweather boxing headquarters.

Didn't work.

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The event wasn't planned that way. These pre-fight gatherings are meant to be orchestrations of adoration for the two gladiators who will box in the Saturday night show. This show is Mayweather, the unbeaten and highly skilled welterweight, against Marcos Maidana of Argentina, who almost beat him in May.

The list of boxers who have almost beaten Mayweather is a short one. He is 46-0 and gets hits less than Usain Bolt playing paintball. Maidana actually inflicted a cut over Mayweather's eye last time and it was a huge deal in boxing.

The public relations spiel this time was supposed to be about how brave and fan-friendly Mayweather was in giving Maidana another shot.

"I want to give the fans what they want to see," Mayweather said.

In truth, what the fans want to see — and why they keep buying tickets and pay-per-view showings — is Mayweather getting knocked on his butt. His cockiness is legendary and off-putting.

But that's an old story.

Wednesday brought a need for major surgery, the removal of Mayweather's foot from his mouth.

Tuesday, he had met with a small group of reporters at the MGM Grand, just after he had made his "Grand Arrival." They still do such things in boxing. It's like Ben-Hur is fighting.

Mayweather was asked about the Ray Rice case that is currently stinking up the NFL and destroying Roger Goodell's reputation. For those of you who have the good common sense not to follow boxing closely, you might wonder what the relevance is.

It is this: In 2012, Mayweather spent two months of non-leisure time in a Las Vegas jail after accepting a plea bargain in a case in which his former girlfriend, Josie Harris, accused him of assaulting her. He did so, she said, in front of two of their children.

Then, just last week, a former fiancee — note the repeated use of the word "former" — sued him. Shantel Jackson said that her grounds were assault, battery and defamation.

So now, with the video surfacing of Rice left-hooking his then-fiancee and now-wife, Janay, into an elevator railing and into unconsciousness, questions to the richest athlete in the world with a similar rap sheet were fair game.

This is how he should have answered the question, which would have ended it all on the spot: "I am the last person in the world who should comment on that."

Instead, this is what he said:

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• "I wish him [Rice] nothing but the best."

• "When it is all said and done, I wish something positive will come out of this situation. I'm not here to say anything negative about him. Things happen. You live and you learn. No one is perfect."

• "I think there are a lot of worse things that go on in other people's households. It's just not caught on video."

• "I know he is going through a lot right now because football is his passion."

Any compassion there for the female involved? Ah, nope.

And so, Wednesday dawned. News conference day. The cast of characters was interesting.

Oscar De La Hoya wasn't on hand, as usual, even though his Golden Boy Promotions does the bulk of the work on this fight. Golden Boy's former chief executive, Richard Schaefer, who split acrimoniously with De La Hoya, was in the hotel, but not at the news conference.

MGM's president of sports and entertainment, Richard Sturm, who was once labeled the "president of putting up the wrong posters" by rival promoter Bob Arum — after MGM had sprinkled the hotel with signs for an upcoming Golden Boy show the week of an Arum fight — gave his usual speech.

Mayweather advisor Al Haymon was thanked several times for his contributions, but made no appearance. Which is typical. At last count, only eight people have admitted to ever seeing Haymon in person, so we continue to contend that he doesn't exist.

Finally, it was up to Leonard Ellerbe, longtime Mayweather friend, confidant and manager, to address the elephant in the room.

"The hating and criticizing, you guys have to stop," Ellerbe said. "So many find ways to criticize and denigrate. We find ways to bring him down. This is why boxing isn't big, like the NBA. Lots of fighters make substantially more money since Floyd put the sport of boxing on his shoulders.

"We must find a way to acknowledge greatness [Mayweather] when we see it. There have been other great fighters, but he is the whole package. We will never see anything like him again."

Then Mayweather took the microphone and thanked God for his success.

After the formal proceedings, Mayweather was asked to comment on Ellerbe's rant. He said Leonard is a great guy and "if that is his opinion, I have to respect that."

After several sycophant questions about training camp, the topic came back to Rice. Mayweather, now fully aware that this had become a big deal, issued the athlete's signature non-apology apology: "If I offended anybody, I apologize."

Ellerbe, sensing something going downhill at a high speed and out of control, finally stepped in and said, "We do not condone this kind of behavior. No more questions."

Sad. I missed my chance to ask what portion of Mayweather's multimillion-dollar purse would be donated to domestic abuse causes.

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