Leonard Ellerbe once had prizefighting aspirations of his own—growing up in northeast Washington, D.C., as an amateur fighter—until hand injuries derailed his boxing passion and set it in another direction. After meeting Floyd Mayweather through the boxer’s uncles early on in his career, Ellerbe left a six-figure job as a strength and conditioning coach to join Mayweather’s team to do security. “Nobody starts at the top. I started at the bottom and worked my way up,” relays Ellerbe.
Two decades later, Ellerbe has risen to the top of the industry by becoming 12-time champion Floyd Mayweather’s right-hand man as the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, forming the most powerful duo in combat sports. “I’m blessed to be in this situation I’m in,” says Ellerbe. At 40 years old, Mayweather will become the third athlete ever to eclipse the billion-dollar mark in career earnings once he steps foot in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (Aug. 26) to take on Conor McGregor.
The grind doesn’t stop for Ellerbe, who hasn’t had a day off in weeks, and the passion to further the legacy of Mayweather Promotions will last long after Mayweather officially retires from boxing. VIBE caught up with Ellerbe shortly after the Mayweather-McGregor world tour of press conferences, which included sold-out stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn and London.
VIBE: Conor McGregor versus Floyd Mayweather, Saturday, August 26th. That feels good to say.
Leonard Ellerbe: It’s going to be sick, bananas. It’s going to be lit, as the kids say.
What did you think of the world press tour, and did you accomplish your goal with it?
The Brooklyn stop was second to none. It was an unbelievable turnout. The presser was just on fire, filling up arenas for a press conference. I think we did accomplish our goal.
I was there as well—the atmosphere was second to none. I found it funny when you checked ESPN boxing analyst Dan Rafael after the press conference in Brooklyn. I know you two don’t always see eye to eye.
Right: I told him no matter what you say or the sh*t you write, you can’t convince people not to watch. They’re going to buy this fight if they want to buy it.
What have you learned about Conor McGregor over the past month or two?
I learned from Conor that he’s everything that I thought he was. He has a dynamic personality that captures people’s imaginations and attention. He has an enormous following because people believe in him. He has a cultlike following.
Is Paulie Malignaggi the right partner to spar with Conor? (Editor’s Note: This interview took place before Malignaggi left McGregor’s camp.)
I haven’t seen any of the sparring, but it’s definitely a smart move. Bringing in a guy with a lot of experience, I like the move. You could tell he’s taking it very seriously. He’s trying to figure out a way to take down Floyd.
Is this the biggest fight ever?
This is the biggest fight in the history of combat sports.
Will it be tough for this fight to actually live up to the hype?
No, I think we’re going to get a knockout, and I think Floyd is going to look his best ever.
Does passing Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 boxing record have any meaning to Floyd?
Well, it means more to the fans and the media than it means to him. He’s happy sitting at home, riding around in his jet with all his friends and family.
Since you know him best, what’s your personal favorite fight of Floyd’s career?
I like the Arturo Gotti fight and the Diego Corrales bout. The Gotti fight was Floyd’s first headlining pay-per-view in Atlantic City.
At what point was Floyd Mayweather at the peak of his boxing powers, in your opinion?
There’s so many. I’ll go with Canelo [Álvarez], that was one of my favorite fights. He [Floyd] won every round.
Which Mayweather fight had you the most worried about Floyd?
The Marcos Maidana fight. Maidana II, when he got buzzed in the fourth round. The Mosely fight as well.
Most would say the De La Hoya bout that resulted in Floyd winning a split decision.
F**k out of here. There was no split decision with De La Hoya. He beat him easy. Anything can happen, though. Floyd got that dog in him, a granite chin. He can take it.
What are these last couple weeks of preparation like until August 26th?
I think it’s more being mentally prepared and knowing that he’s looking forward to going out there and performing at his best.
Have you noticed any changes in his training regimen?
He takes a little more time off. It comes with time. Your body’s a little more sore. You move a little slower, and it’s OK. You use the wisdom and experience you’ve gained over the years to your advantage.
So what’s next for you? Any more stints with Dancing With The Stars or WWE lined up?
No, we’re going to continue to promote these fights. We got Gervonta Davis, he’s next up. We got Badou Jack. All these young guys are going to be in a position to be in big events, and that’s what we’re going to make happen. I’m blessed to be in this situation I’m in. We have a great team led by Nicole Craig. All of these people are key components in us being successful.
How did you end up meeting Floyd?
I met Floyd through both of his uncles, who were good friends of mine. I started out doing strength and conditioning and actually security. Nobody starts at the top. I started at the bottom and worked my way up.
Did you leave a six-figure job on the table?
One hundred percent. I was training high-profile athletes, celebrities and entertainers. A couple news anchors in Washington, D.C. A couple football players and other businesspeople as well. I had a vision and Floyd’s had an incredible vision; I’ve followed his lead, he’s followed me, and we’ve put together an unstoppable force. We’ve changed the game.
Can you let us in on any big names that will be in attendance on fight night?
I know a bunch of athletes are trying to go. A lot of the NFL players, it depends on their schedule, I know they’re trying to get here. I can say LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant and Draymond Green have reached out.
Alright, so August 26th, McGregor versus Mayweather. What happens, Mr. Ellerbe?
Someone’s getting knocked out.
Contact your local cable provider to order Mayweather vs. McGregor on August 26 at 9 p.m. EST on Showtime Pay-Per-View for $99.99.