For many a long-time boxing fan, Floyd Mayweather’s repugnance as a human being is an ongoing source of eye rolls, because what else can they do? There are the major evils, like the multiple convictions for battering women, or his racist and homophobic remarks about Manny Pacquiao, or his public disclosure of his ex-fiancee’s abortion; then there are the minor evils, like Skyping with Afghanistan soldiers living in dire conditions and giving them a tour of his opulent mansion, or the hypocrisy of suggesting Alex Ariza is a supplier of performance enhancing drugs and then hiring him.
None of it ever sticks in a way that hurts Mayweather. Mostly, it has helped him: The more villainous Mayweather is, the more headlines he generates for his peccadillos and grievous misdeeds, then the more people talk about him, and the more pay-per-views he sells. It’s part of why he does these things, although the other part is that he’s genuinely awful.
And it’s not as if the average boxing fan, even those who despise him, aren’t going to watch when he fights (some of whom watch him because they despise him). The best boxer in the world is always going to have an audience. Say what you will about his boxing style and whether it’s fan-friendly enough — to many, it is beautiful, to many others, boring — but the man sitting atop the pound-for-pound boxing throne cannot be ignored.
Yet there is some sentiment that the general public has finally had enough of Mayweather. If it has, it is remarkable that it has taken this long. As covered in this space this past week, Mayweather’s offenses equal or surpass (surpass, is my vote) those of Ray Rice, who is now out of a job in the NFL. Mayweather is the richest athlete on the planet every year these days, so it’s not as if he has flown under the radar. He is, however, the standard-bearer for a fringe sport with an expectation that its inhabitants are rogues, at best, and that isn’t nearly as regulated as the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL. That status has bought him his share of passes for his offenses. But has he finally exhausted the tolerance of the general public?
Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated suggests the answer might be “yes.” And it is true: Unlike no time in Mayweather’s time atop the sport, the negative attention from all sorts of mainstream media outlets has crossed from the “oh, look at how controversial he is, isn’t that neat?” threshold into “wait, this guy is seriously gross.” Mayweather has abetted it. It is not clear how cognizant he is of how much he has abetted it. Mayweather’s timing on his opposition to the extent of the NFL’s punishment of Rice was such that he maximized headlines about his remarks. The comments were covered extensively on 24-hour news networks. It certainly got him publicity. But it was of the kind that tested the boundaries of the saying that “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Consider this CNN interview:
That wasn’t the kind of jovial jousting about Mayweather’s boxing record that set the iconic Floyd Mayweather vs. Brian Kenny interview afire with “must-see” buzz. That was a deeply personal line of questioning of Mayweather at his core, and his answers coat one with a certain filthy dread. You can’t watch the interview and come away with the impression that there’s any ambiguity about Mayweather’s horrendousness; Rachel Nichols does a great job of cornering him, unlike most of his boxing opponents, and reveals that his defenses are hollow. That Mayweather subsequently reportedly ended the interview only reinforced the notion that Mayweather vs. women is an unhealthy battle for him.
It would be nice if the public has finally turned on Mayweather, beyond the “hate him so much, gotta watch him” dynamic and fully into the “can’t put any more money into his bank account” category. There are few boxers less deserving from a karma standpoint of his degree of wealth; there probably are boxers whose sins are worse, to be sure, but none of them have so enriched themselves as Mayweather has, none of them who are occupy the spotlight to the same degree.
Yet so far, dating back to his arrival as a mainstream star in 2007, nothing Mayweather has done has “stuck” in a way that has made the general public turn away from him. Jail time for an actual domestic violence conviction? Let’s give him one of his best PPV buy figures right before he heads to the hoosegow!
And, unfortunately, there remains a devoted fan base for Mayweather that supports him in these moments, or, at least, writes his domestic abuse off as nothing special. This probably says more about society a a whole than it does about anything else. It is not flattering.
Take this comment on an Uproxx article about the Nichols interview:
so its OK that Mayweather hits Men but not OK for him to hit Women?
This is beyond moronic, but it’s not atypical of remarks about Mayweather from his fans. You don’t have to be a genius to see the difference. It’s actually not OK for Mayweather to hit anyone outside of the ring, male or female, and it’s really obvious why. There are galaxies of difference, morally and any other-ly, between what two consenting adults/trained professionals do to one another under the regulatory eye of a state commission vs. what a trained professional does to a vastly physically inferior specimen who doesn’t consent, or else any random 105-pound model could get a boxing license to step into the ring with a 147-pound trained athlete without any static. We could go down a fairly deep rabbit hole here about the nature of morality, and there are certainly viable areas of debate about the acceptability of boxing as a sport, but you don’t have to be very bright at all to recognize that “male boxer vs. male boxer in consenting, regulated combat” is in a whole ‘nother universe from “male boxer, repeatedly, vs. female civilian in nonconsensual, unregulated combat.”
And yet, you can find boxing websites that will make this kind of recklessly false equivalency.
Next to this Bizarro World boxing academy is the church where all the hand-wringing, blood-loving saints who revel in two human beings slowly killing each other come to deliver sermons. “Mayweather is a serial abuser of women!” they cry while still sporting erections from the morning’s viewing of a particularly bloody and deadly “classic” fight.
Yes, clearly, these two things are no different from one another in any way. How utterly absurd it is, in an “opposite of Superman” kind of way, to find boxing morally acceptable and nonconsensual woman-beating beyond the pale. Admittedly, it’s a fringe website. But that this notion gets any currency from any website of any note whatsoever is all you need to know about the predominance of the Mayweather “What’s the difference if he hits a woman?” crowd among us. And let’s face it: The biggest, mainstream boxing reporters haven’t exactly distinguished themselves with the coverage of Mayweather’s issues.
Plus, if you explore the Internet much more, you can find people who think that Mayweather punching “whores” is no big deal, or who can cite all the other ways that Mayweather’s battery of women is perfectly valid.
That’s what those who want to see Mayweather shunned or otherwise punished for his crimes are dealing with: A. That he’s the best in the world and will always generate attention as a result; B. That he has arrived at stardom via villainy, a trope that has worked for him repeatedly under all sorts of disgusting circumstances; C. That those who find him villainous are willing to pay for his fights in the hopes he’ll get KO’d; D. That he is, to some eyes, an artist in the ring whose mastery must be watched (and I’ll plead “guilty” here for my own count, even if his fight this past weekend against Marcos Maidana was on the lower end of watchability); and E. That he has defenders for his behavior, including those who wouldn’t deny his guilt.
It would be a good thing if Mayweather’s paycheck was diminished by his outside-the-ring horribleness. It would also be hard to isolate it if it was; Maidana was one of his lower profile opponents the first time, and even the second time, and Mayweather’s marketability might be just as affected by his choice of opponents as his wrongdoing.
So far, the bad he has done in the world has escaped financial penalty. Would that the Teflon has, finally, scraped off.
(Photo: Stephanie Trapp, Showtime)