I learned decades ago from legendary Washington Post sports writer Bill Gildea that boxing offers any number of moments fit for the theater of the absurd. So upon arriving at Constitution Hall last night expecting to cover a 7:15 news conference promoting Floyd Mayweather’s rematch against Marcos Maidana, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too alarmed when told the three private jets carrying the principles and their respective teams were grounded at Teterboro airport because of severe weather.
At that point, there were probably two dozen or so reporters waiting in the media holding area in the basement trying to determine whether to wait it out or call it a night. The consensus was to sit tight and hope those planes would receive clearance to depart, figuring once airborne that Mayweather would arrive within 90 minutes, even if he was to land at Dulles airport instead of Reagan.
Killing time for sports writers often involves eating, at least in a perfect world. Thank goodness for the Swanson Communications public relations staff, most notably Lisa Milner and Kelly Swanson. Lisa was the point person who not only made certain we were fed but also provided frequent updates, which for most of night went like this: “They haven’t left yet.”
By this time, Kelly, who was with the traveling party on the ground at Teterboro, suggested a teleconference with Maidana just to get that formality settled. Because honestly, Mayweather is always the story, and his opponent is a footnote, at least until the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of his generation loses.
We connected with Maidana and his trainer initially via a land-line speakerphone that was barely audible, even in the bowels of Constitution Hall away from the music blaring through the speakers surrounding the stage. Once it became clear this wasn’t going to work, the press corp moved to more secluded space on the main level. Turns out this was Mayweather’s dressing room.
As intrepid reporters who rarely gain this type of access, the first item my fellow boxing scribe Dan Rafael of ESPN noticed was a box of LifeSavers Gummies. Apparently Mayweather enjoys these, or perhaps they were intended for one or all of his four children. In any case, Dan and Lisa wound up sharing the box. All of us just hoped Mayweather wouldn’t notice, or if he did, wouldn’t be mad.
The waiting, and much Tweeting I might add, continued through a Wale concert that was supposed to have happened after the news conference. The Grammy nominated rapper instead became the opening act, but the District native and avid Washington sports fan didn’t seem to mind. Neither did the thousand or so fans who braved heavy rain to wait in line for the free performance.
It was shortly after Wale’s set when we finally got word Mayweather’s plane was in the air. This was at approximately 10:45. By the time Mayweather arrived for the media session at 11:20 or so, there were four reporters left in the room.
I’ve got to hand it to Mayweather. Not only didn’t he mention the missing gummies, he also spent 20 minutes answering all of our questions thoughtfully and patiently, even as the clock approached midnight on what was becoming an 18-hour ordeal for the champ. Mayweather had started his day with a morning news conference in Manhattan to kickoff a five-city, four-day, cross-country press tour, yet you couldn’t tell he was working on little if any rest.
— Gene Wang (@gene_wang) July 15, 2014
VIDEO: Floyd Mayweather compares Marcos Maidana gloves to Antonio Margarito, Luis Resto — http://t.co/uIflQHOxZK
— David Greisman (@fightingwords2) July 15, 2014
With my midnight filing deadline drawing near, I gathered my belongings and thanked Mayweather before exiting his dressing room and planting myself on a bench next to an outlet in the hallway outside the main stage. There I cobbled together the story that appeared online and in this morning’s print edition.
Most of that process remains a blur. That’s what happens when you’re trying to write 600 words in five minutes. Still, the entire experience was one for the books. I’m pretty sure I’ll never cover another news conference that begins anywhere close to midnight. But then I remind myself this is boxing, so who knows.