“How did you meet Mayweather?”
This is definitely the question I have been asked the most number of times in my life. The answer is simple; we had a mutual friend named Earl Hayes. Hayes was a songwriter and rapper who was signed to Jimmy Iovine. You can find some of his features on Apple Music, there’s a music video with 50 Cent called “Double Up” on YouTube and a ton of unreleased music coming soon with Prime Maximus, producer of hits such as “Jizz In My Pants,” “Sweet Serenade,” and “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley.”
Hayes was my road dog, and we got into plenty of crazy together. He and I first met at PF Chang’s at the Beverly Center in 2003, at a dinner for one of Snoop’s artists named Tiffany Foxx. Hayes sat right across from me at the dinner table. I had no idea who he was, but he jumped into the conversation when he overheard me talking to the guy next to me about the Lamborghinis that we owned. I don’t know if you believe in fate or destiny, or whatever you want to call it, but just the previous night, I was looking at the credits on MC Jin’s album “The Rest Is History” for a particular producer. I was working on my album at the time, and a friend was going to introduce me to a guy who had produced a track for Jin. As I was flipping through the album pamphlet, I noticed “E. Hayes” in many of the song credits. Sure enough, Earl Hayes sat at the same dinner table less than 24 hours later, standing out in a red hat and oversized red jacket that was decorated with a bunch of patches. I’ll never forget that day. Life changed dramatically from that point onwards, with colorful life experiences leading up to the first time I went to the Mayweather Boxing Club in early 2012.
It was a hot afternoon. Floyd was training for his fight against Miguel Cotto, but when Hayes, Prime, and I walked into the gym that day, the first person I actually noticed wasn’t Floyd. It was 50 Cent, running on the treadmill to the left of the door leading into the boxing area. I don’t get star struck, but you definitely don’t see Mr. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ doing cardio at your local gym. I pretended like I didn’t notice him, and the three of us walked past 50 and into the next room where Mr. 42-0 was training. It was my first glimpse at Floyd’s training regimen. He was in the back, first punching the heavy bag as a crowd of people looked on, and then transitioning to jumping rope. Nobody paid us three any attention; we observed the spectacle from the opposite side of the room. It was just another day on the Hayes and China Mike show! It was surreal; I had no idea we were even going to visit training camp that day. We had started off the morning in Los Angeles before taking another spontaneous trip to Vegas. What can I say; life was about being young and reckless back then!
At the gym, there’s no formal bell or any type of announcement signaling the end of the day’s training session. And of course—if you’ve watched HBO 24/7, you’ll already know this—training for Mayweather doesn’t stop just because you’ve left the gym; midnight runs are part of the Champ’s routine, too. But that day, training was over when the crowd of people followed Floyd through the doors leading back into the room where the treadmills were. Hayes went to talk to Floyd and I took Hayes’s car keys and went to wait inside the car with Prime. When Hayes came back 20 minutes later, I was ready for the next adventure. As usual, no questions were asked. I didn’t care what we were doing or where we were going.
We sat idle in the car for ten minutes or so until Floyd came out of the gym. He got in his black SLS, and then a squad of cars followed him out of there like a presidential motorcade. Hayes made a left to keep up with the SLS, following until we arrived at what appeared to be a Teppanyaki joint. Cars started to fill up the parking lot, and everyone followed Floyd into the restaurant. Right before Floyd walked through the doors, Hayes was like, “Floyd, this is China Mike.” Floyd looked back, and without missing a beat, he said, “What up, China Mike. I’m American Floyd.”
That was our first introduction. There was no script. The boxer’s reflexes obviously transcended the boxing ring into normal conversation. I had met professional athletes before meeting Floyd, but this was a different type of encounter. In the midst of 20 people ushering their way into the Champ’s post-workout snack house, with five bodies between us, he showed off his perfect smile and acknowledged my presence. That brief moment communicated a lot about the person he was. He was inviting yet assertive. He was the epitome of the American dream, and he knew it. He had no idea who I was other than the prefix “China,” which was given to me by Hayes either because it was a differentiator from all the other Michaels he knew or because I needed a nickname to be cool in Hollywood. Whatever the case, the name “China Mike” stuck, and no, I never found it offensive.
It was a good meal. We didn’t talk business that day because there was nothing to talk about. When I woke up that morning, I didn’t expect that in few hours I would be having Japanese food in the afternoon with Floyd Mayweather and Curtis Jackson. I was still soaking it all in. Later that evening, we would go to the Adventuredome at Circus Circus with HBO’s camera team and film for 24/7. I have a fear of roller coasters, so I didn’t get on any rides; still, I quietly observed the star power in effect as the entire Adventuredome was shut down and kept open for one individual.
After I met Hayes, the extraordinary became the ordinary. There was no intention of doing any business with the undefeated boxer at the time. I had just finished working as a digital strategist for Ogilvy advertising in Shanghai, and I was just back in American catching up with everyone. Vegas trips were like going to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans, but each visit to Sin City always ended in an epic story. This encounter with Floyd and 50 was no different.