Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr., who should be in jail, is still boxing, and on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the world champion, a recidivist abuser of women and wholly remorseless misogynist, unanimously defeated Manny Pacquiao in twelve rounds. The judges scored it 118-110, 116-112, and 116-112. It wasn’t close.
Oh, in case you weren’t aware, Mayweather’s an unrepentant monster.
“Floyd Mayweather’s history of misogyny, expressed—as he is wont to do—through violence, is well documented and reprehensible,” Daniel Roberts wrote at Deadspin. “It extends over a dozen years and includes at least seven separate physical assaults on five different women that resulted in arrest or citation, as well as several other instances where the police had to be summoned in response to an actual or perceived threat from Mayweather.”
Delve deep into Mayweather’s odious past (if you have the stomach for it) and you’ll find the stuff of pure nightmares, like the time he showed up at 4 a.m. at the home of the mother of his children, Josie Harris, and dragged her by the hair while she shrieked in terror. He proceeded to beat the daylights out of her, dragooned his bodyguard into restraining the kids and becoming an accomplice after the fact and told his then 9-year-old son, “You call 911 or run out of the house, and I’ll ‘beat you.’”
This may have been the “Fight of the Century” but not in the way the promoters and armies of corporate partners intended. It was a crass, thudding monument to the utterly corrupting power of a $300 million event, and the myriad ways in which both the organizing bodies of the sport and the national press have been complicit in enabling Mayweather’s sins, while he smugly dances around any admission of guilt.
If this is what boxing has become and Mayweather is its true standard-bearer, then it probably deserves to die. It won’t, of course, for all the reasons that Allen Barra outlines here. To be clear, this isn’t about his skills in the ring. Even at his advanced age, he remains a dominant fighter. But 48-0 doesn’t mean much when it comes hand-in-hand with both Mayweather’s savagery and his tired persona—one that is “boring, grating, and multiply un-loveable in the way he ham-handedly performs himself,” as David Roth wrote at VICE Sports. Not when he wears a $25,000 mouthguard with gold flecks and a real $100 bill in it as a final fuck-you.
Or maybe the last, deeply self-unaware assault came in the form of this photo of Mayweather proudly displaying all the shiny toys that he bought while gloating “Welcome to my world.”
Or maybe it’s the horrible, crushing irony that on Saturday morning, Rachel Nichols and Michele Beadle, two journalists who challenged Mayweather and questioned his vile actions, would be denied credentials to cover the fight.
Why? Because Showtime and HBO and the city of Las Vegas have one more guaranteed fight to wring out of Mayweather, and as such are prone to whitewashing all the unpleasant things that he does when he’s not plying his trade.
Mayweather’s camp issued a series of hastily scrawled denials in response to yesterday’s overwhelming backlash. You can read Nichols’ description of her repeated attempts to gain credentials here. Better yet, you can watch Nichols knock Mayweather on his ass here.
Neither Beadle nor Nichols ended up attending. And yes, it’s grimly ironic that this ham-fisted attempt to silence those who dared tell the truth reveals Mayweather to be not only a violent and hateful abuser (who should be in jail), but as his own son said, “He is a coward.”
Sportswriters like Sarah Spain, Keith Olbermann, Roth, and Roberts have made it clear that they weren’t going to be tuning in, and groups like Breakthrough, a global organization working to prevent violence against women by transforming the norms and cultures that enable it, are encouraging a boycott. As Lynn Harris, the vice president of communications explained via email, “If boxing institutions are not going to step up and say that domestic violence is unacceptable, then we are.”
I didn’t join them, mainly because I wanted to speak with boxing fans and ask how much of Mayweather’s history was common knowledge, and if so, if it mattered to them at all.
That didn’t happen. I wandered from Midtown bar to Midtown bar that could afford the record licensing fees—most over $5,000—but they were all packed to the gills. The closest I came to gaining access was a gentleman’s club, and watching the fight surrounded by steam trays and beefy dudes with one eye on Mayweather and the other on sequined pasties and pulchritudinous flesh would have been just too perfect.
Instead I scurried back home and tapped into an—let’s say—extralegal online feed. Given my overwhelming desire to skip the entire affair, this seemed like a reasonable compromise, and I was not alone. (So many people set up illegal streams of the fight on Twitter’s new livestreaming app Periscope—even one from inside the arena—finding janky ways to watch this fight became a story of its own.)
And then, much to my total shock and serious dismay, I found myself liking boxing.
Yes, it does require sticking a hatpin into the part of your cerebral cortex that rightly considers both Mayweather himself and the sport as a whole to be barbaric and awful. You also have to find a dusty, unused drawer in your mind to cram the constant, swirling, Rovell-ian churn of commerce that surrounds this branded colossus, like the PR flack who repeatedly emailed me to push a spiffy infographic that solely tracked the various sums of cash that could and would be earned at each and every millisecond before, during and after the actual sporting event, as if that were all that could ever matter or be at stake here.
Then again, let’s be honest. There are very few entertainment options when it comes to sports that don’t require a certain amount of rationalization and/or kitty-cornering of your ethics in order to fully indulge in the totality of the experience. We fans are consuming some amount of state-sanctioned violence and toxic masculinity regardless of which particular combination of balls and sticks we favor. That this fighter in particular makes that choice particularly stark is a matter of degree, not difference.
But if you can accomplish that bit of mental gymnastics, not even the surrealistically deranged celeb-festooned mask of Las Vegas itself can take away from the drama, even if this one has been cast with non-heroes and all-too-real villains.
Speaking of which, no matter how many times Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, tried to sell this as a battle of “good against evil,” if you’re looking for a defender of women’s rights, it’s not Manny—a Bible-thumper who has used his massive popularity and considerable political heft to oppose LGBT rights and women’s access to abortion, contraception, and safe sex education in the Philippines.
The general consensus is that this wasn’t a particularly good fight, but I was totally hooked. There’s a stark, undeniable poetry to Mayweather’s tactical brilliance and downright cerebral, defensive style. Squint hard enough and you’ll see a prettiness and a grace to the manner in which he fended off all of Pacquiao’s futile, off-balance, frenzied attacks, even if it’s occasionally punctuated by moments of glib arrogance, like this borderline-cutesy head shake in the sixth round. Like staring at an iceberg that’s creeping ever closer to the bow of the Titanic, the inevitability of it all was awesome to behold.
By the end of the fight, I understood what Deadspin’s Roberts told me via email. “There’s also something embedded in the American DNA about boxing. Somehow, even when 98 percent of the population ignores the sport 11 months out of the year, when there’s a Mike Tyson or Oscar De La Hoya or, ugh, Floyd Mayweather, we somehow all know that man and in some way revere that man. We all feel like we should have an opinion on that man. And we all want to tune in for their biggest fights in a way that surpasses even the Super Bowl... It’s just primal. Boxing is a huge part of who we are.”
That’s undoubtedly true. And, despite all that, this is too: Floyd Mayweather should have been in jail. Floyd Mayweather should have been less of a part of who we are.