Friday, April 30th, 2010

Floyd Mayweather As The Great Black Villain

FLOYD!"Shane Mosley says ‘Floyd Mayweather fights for money.' You fuckin' dummy; I'm a prizefighter. That's what I'm supposed to fight for: a prize. Duh!"Floyd ‘Money' Mayweather.

People say that Floyd Mayweather is arrogant, that he doesn't care about "boxing" in the abstract, only himself. This is the opposite of the truth.

Floyd Mayweather is "boxing" in the flesh; undefeated in 40 bouts, 25 by KO. He is not some ideal that animates the (very fun) prose of Joyce Carol Oates. His supposed arrogance is actually a disquieting kind of humility.

The evidence: Mayweather helps run a boxing gym for children. He does under-the radar charity work. His demands for Olympic style drug testing are essential to the survival of the sport, which, unlike the world of mixed martial arts, lacks effective governance. He risked what could easily have been the biggest payday of his career to enforce them on Manny Pacquiao.

For all Mayweather's boasting before a fight-the kind of boasting he's done this week before tomorrow's bout at Las Vegas' MGM Grand against Shane Mosley-about how much greater he is than his opponent, how he is doing a favor for them by being in the same ring, he has never failed to congratulate his victim almost immediately after being declared the winner. "Ricky Hatton is still a champion in my eyes," Mayweather said. In the champ's eyes and no one else's.

It's Mayweather's boasting that has more truth than his sincere gratitude to his opponents. 40-0. Biggest Pay-Per-View numbers ever. And yet the first thing that comes out of his mouth while the gate is still being counted is how great the bum on the floor is.

Mayweather is a rich, stylish, socially-conscious black man. He plays "uppity" on television. It is a lucrative deceit and probably a fun one. But it is a condescension to our prejudices, and a conscious one. An unsettling homage to boxing's glorious racism, to the popular fascination with and hatred of Jack Johnson.

The editors of HBO's "24/7" have (wittingly or not) played along. A few years ago in preparation for the (embarrassing) De La Hoya-Mayweather fight, the crew captured The Golden Boy quietly watching the Masters with his father-and then cut quickly to the motor-mouthing Mayweather getting primped in his home salon. He's tossing around cash and insults the way old men drop seeds from a park bench.

Then the exquisite detail: 50 Cent enters the scene on a Segway. This is followed by more insults and the glittering of obscene wealth squandered on what we are supposed to think are obscene black men. Mayweather goes out of his way justify the unjustifiable suspicions of white fans. And he embodies revenge on them for black fans.

The racial component is essential, of course. I watched the Mayweather-Hatton fight in a bar outside of North Charleston. When Mayweather finally unleashed on Hatton, the black patrons beat their chests at the noticeably quieter whites. "Your boy is down!" one guy said. He held onto my shoulder as if the amazingness of Mayweather made his knees weak. "That white boy is down!" I was actually rooting for Mayweather, the American in the fight.

In the entertainment business-and before it is a metaphor, boxing is entertainment-only Floyd Mayweather has the balls to script such a great black villain. He has the sense to cast himself. And only he has the talent to pull it off. Mayweather's classiness is in allowing his opponents to be the good guys. He extends this kindness even when they are painfully grasping social climbers like the "legacy-conscious" Shane Mosley.

I refuse to condemn Mayweather as a kind of "minstrel" pugilist. That's just the flip side of the same "blacks don't deserve money" attitude he is exploiting. Mayweather is not just subverting racism to his own ends, he is turning it into a kind of personal grace.

"I'm better than Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson. I would never say there is another fighter better than me. Absolutely not," he said on last week's episode. I don't know if he believes it. But with his 40-0 record, his business acumen, his marketing guile and his obvious if overshadowed concern for the sport itself-he's not just the better fighter, but the better man.

"Baby I'm a bank robber," he says. That too, if he wants.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is a contributing editor to The American Conservative. He writes from Mount Kisco, New York.

20 Comments / Post A Comment

saythatscool (#101)

He's also one of the greatest tacticians and trainers in the sport ever. All thanks to his old man who is also one of the best. Were it not for a fatal flaw of drugs in his past, Sr. would be still running that show.

HelloTitty (#830)

I just wanna know why he stood up Chilli in last week's episode. On the other hand, good call.

Nobody wants Ursh's sloppy seconds.

janine (#248)

If you say so, man. Though I will say, as a Black woman that consistently favors Black people in Implicit Association Tests, I wish dude would shut the hell up and box. He's the Dave Mustaine of boxing; this is not a good thing. Besides, in this match, wouldn't Moseley be the more threatening one, hanging out with all those Muslims?

janine (#248)

The blah, blah, blah also diminishes his hotness, which is otherwise great.

If only we could have our black people/entertainers/sports heroes as quiet, grateful mutes.

All of my favorite athletes have always been the loudest. Word to Barkley.

jfruh (#713)

"Dave Mustane of [x]" = my new go-to insult.

janine (#248)

Man, you sure did destroy that straw man! I'm not talking about "black people/entertainers/sports heroes." I'm talking about Floyd Mayweather, who's not pulling it off. If Mayweather had half the gift of gab as Barkley, I'd follow his every TV appearance, as I do with Barkley. How can you even compare the two? That's like accusing someone of not liking Hip Hop because they don't like The Game.

Fair enough. I did go a little too far.

But chances are if you don't like The Game, I don't care for you as a person.

janine (#248)

Yeah. I'm more [adjective] like [celebrity].

1. Why does Mayweather act the way he does? Because fuck you, he's the motherfucking champion. That's why.

2. 50 Cent entering any scene on a Segway is pure comedy.

3. Thanks for writing a good article with a wider perspective and not just shitting on Mayweather and saying he's only fought bums. He's mostly fought bums because most of the fighters of his generation are bums.

Matt (#26)

NUMBER THREE. SO FOR REAL. The main reason to love Mayweather is because he's the only real fighter out there!

Hamilton (#122)

I think giving him any noble motive for not fighting Pac is pretty charitable, but other than that I feel you. Mayweather beats Mosley by decision. And he probably also beats Pac by decision, so FUCKING FIGHT HIM ALREADY.

Grant G Brown (#3,366)

No shit. You can't argue about Mayweather's talent. I'd say it's a stretch to envision his incessant egotism as either self-aware or deliberate. He might amp it up for the cameras but it's always there.

Is this article meant to be satire? I can't tell. The charity work was part of PBF's drive to rehabilitate his image. How under the radar is it if a sports photographer tags along? Remember back when he fought De La Hoya it was DLH who was the main draw, and the PPV champ. Until then his numbers were dismal.

The steroid testing demand vs Pac was initially a bit of pre-fight theatre, a head game, but it ended up being financially disastrous. Pacquiao is the only fighter alive who would give PBF serious competition, enormous numbers, and possibly the respect he clearly craves. So bring it on.


sigerson (#179)

who are you and why are you allowed to spew this crap here? Get the fuck out.

Wrapitup (#975)

Admins, please IP ban this nut.

paulybrklynny (#406)

Good column. Mostly agree.
But, he's dodging Pacquiao.

I think Mayweather wins that fight, but its too close for him to chance it. He won't do it, and the drugtesting is amazing bullshit.
He demanded that stipulation before his previous 40 fights?

He's a bully. He may be the best, but he's still a bully.

PaulB (#4,723)

One of the best ever, quite simply. His technique is flowingly flawless and he hits hard, what more can you ask of a boxer?

I'm a white Brit and I was astounded when he fought Hatton by the number of people, people who I had thought knew boxing, who really gave Hatton a chance. I knew exactly how that fight would go and I won a bundle, cheers Floyd!

As for all the showbiz and gobbing off, I do understand that this is and always was a necessary part of prizefighting but I personally can't pretend to be interested in it so he can say whatever he likes basically! That said, "50 Cent enters the scene on a Segway" may be the funniest thing I've ever read so perhaps I should pay more attention to the 'Mayweather Beyond The Ropes Show'!

sigerson (#179)

Did anyone else see and hear Mosley ask Nazim Richardson to "throw in the towel" in the 10th? Seriously, that guy was willing to lay down. He was so winded that he couldn't even keep his gloves up. Pathetic effort that makes Mayweather look foolish for agreeing to fight a 38-year-old tomato can.

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