LAS VEGAS (AP) — The big question surrounding Floyd Mayweather Jr. coming into this week wasn't about how well he can fight but how well he can read.
Sure, Marcos Maidana gave him fits his last time out, so much so that they are fighting again Saturday night. But the fight seems like just another big payday for Mayweather, which may be why a lot of people on social media thought it was more interesting that the boxer was captured on a video struggling to read a radio station promo.
Mayweather's estranged BFF, rapper 50 Cent, found the whole thing so funny that he offered to donate $750,000 to charity if Mayweather could read one page of a Harry Potter book out loud. That helped spark a debate over the literacy of the high school dropout, who responded by posting copies of paychecks from his last two fights.
"Read this $72,276,000.00," Mayweather tweeted.
Mayweather addressed the issue in a conference call with reporters last week, pointing out that he gets paid to hit people, not read things.
"I would be perfect at reading if it was how I made my living and fed my family," Mayweather said. "Once again, intelligence and education are two different things."
That Mayweather's reading skills — or lack thereof — are fodder for online debate isn't surprising. He's rich and often outlandish, a combination that opens him up to the haters almost as much as it draws wannabes to his corner. Watching him struggle over some simple words got laughs.
But now there's something else to consider about Mayweather, and it's not funny in the least. It was raised last week in a civil lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles by his former fiancee, and goes directly to a problem far more serious than Mayweather's reading ability.
Shantel Jackson claims in her suit — filed by noted attorney Gloria Allred — that Mayweather publicly humiliated her by posting a sonogram of her pregnancy online and then claiming she aborted their twin fetuses. Jackson also claims Mayweather assaulted her and kept her a virtual prisoner in his Las Vegas mansion at times during their seven-year relationship.
Certainly, there are two sides to the story. These aren't criminal charges, something Mayweather is quite familiar with because of past domestic abuse problems.
This is a fighter, you remember, who spent the better part of the summer of 2012 in a Las Vegas jail cell for assaulting his former girlfriend in front of their children. Mayweather claims he was railroaded by the legal system. He pleaded to reduced charges rather than face trial on felony counts that could have put him away for a lot longer.
If nothing else, the lawsuit is a reminder that things are not always what you see on Showtime when Mayweather waves around piles of money and invites people to look at his vast collection of cars. The image Mayweather likes to project of himself as a fighter who is also a crafty businessman is in sharp contrast to the image Jackson paints of him in her lawsuit.
Surely Mayweather can't be happy about a wave of publicity that paints him as an illiterate abuser of women, even when he has a fight to sell. But with his continued refusal to fight Manny Pacquiao in the only bout true boxing fans want to see him in, any publicity might be good publicity for the rematch with Maidana.
Yes, he and Canelo Alvarez set a money record last September for their bout, but that had more to do with the popular Mexican fighter than it did with Mayweather. Meanwhile, Mayweather's first fight with Maidana in May was such a box office clunker that the Showtime network would not even announce how many pay-per-views it sold.
For the rematch, Mayweather offered up his 154-pound title to go with the welterweight title on the line to help convince people to pay $74.95 for the bout. Showtime is also experimenting with starting the fight an hour earlier than usual to see if fans in the Eastern time zone will be more inclined to buy it.
It just might be, though, that the problem is this: The more people see and hear about Mayweather, the less they want to pay to see him fight.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg