About one year ago, J'Leon Love escaped by the skin of his teeth on the Mayweather-Guerrero undercard with his undefeated record intact, squeaking past Gabriel Rosado via 10-round split decision on the night's pay-per-view opener. It was hardly a win that encouraged the idea of Love being headed for the sport's elite, not that getting past a tough fighter like Rosado was discouraging, either.
What came next, though, meant that Love had bigger issues. His win was changed to a no-contest after he failed a post-fight drug test in Nevada, which led to his being suspended for six months by the commission. One of Mayweather Promotions' most polished prospects had his chance on the big stage, nearly blew it, and then ultimately did blow it, testing positive for a diuretic in his system. Love had shown up late to the fight's weigh-in, and there had been rumblings all fight week that he was having trouble making the 160-pound limit, too.
It all came around. The Money Team chant of "hard work, dedication" didn't seem to fit Love at that moment. Floyd Mayweather, who has been the sport's biggest advocate for advanced drug testing, now had a fighter on his team who wasn't clean. He and Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe sat Love down and let him know that he was in danger of losing a great opportunity.
"Floyd and I sat him down and we had a very hard conversation with him," Ellerbe said this week during a media conference call. "I think at that point he made up his mind, he wanted to really commit himself and dedicate himself and not take the opportunity for granted. I think from that point on he completely changed.
"I noticed personally the dedication and the hard work that he's put in and it's showing up in his last two fights. I think in this fight he's obviously in a tough fight against Periban, but he'll be looking to be impressive and I know he will go out and do that."
Love, who has since won two times and run his pro record to 17-0 (10 KO) while moving up to super middleweight, says he was given the business by his bosses.
"Eventually, everybody needs to grow up. I've had my humbling moment and my grow up moment, so sitting there and getting torched by Floyd and Leonard, the conversation was not easy to listen to, but I needed that. I needed that," Love said.
"I am young. I'm still learning. I'm definitely there mentally and physically. We made the right decisions for our career and I have the best team behind me. It just opened up my eyes and I don't ever want to take another opportunity for granted again because you may never get them again or you may never know when you'll get them."
Love, 26, has experienced a wake-up call in more ways than just that talk with Floyd and Leonard.
"I see fighters come down to the gym and pray for a moment to sit down and talk to Leonard and Floyd and get that opportunity," he said. "And here I am, I'm fumbling with the opportunity and there's so many guys out there striving and working hard for the opportunity. It was a wake up call. I just have to remain focused, all the outside distractions, just leave it there."
Love will face super middleweight contender Marco Antonio Periban on the May 3 Mayweather-Maidana undercard, opening the pay-per-view broadcast once again. He'll be looking for something more definitive and with far less controversy and trouble than last year's fight with Rosado, and a win over Periban could put Love in line for a world title shot soon.
"I've been training extremely hard. I'm definitely focused. It really comes down to May 3," Love said. "I'm going to put my heart and all my determination into this fight. I know that Marco Antonio Periban is a very tough fighter, very skilled and he has a lot to prove and he has the experience of fighting for a world title.
"I have so much respect for him. His talent is respected, but we're definitely going to come in there and give it our all and make sure we come out victorious. I know that he's trying to make history for his country. I'm trying to make history for my family and me and do what I have to do to win this fight."
After calling Rosado the toughest fight of his career, Love added, With Periban he has a great skill set. He's tough, strong, he's tall, and he's a rangy fighter. He has a lot of skill and he has a good jab. Anything can happen in this fight and you can't look past anybody and a guy like him. He can upset a lot of people. He had a great fight with Badou Jack and he had another great fight with Sakio Bika.
"He's young and he's hungry. He has a lot to prove, like I said earlier and anything can happen in this sport. So, you can't look past anybody."