Baltimore is on fire and this Friday the highest-paid African-American athlete Floyd Mayweather will enter the ring in the biggest fight of his career against Manny Pacquiao. Floyd has been criticized for his lifestyle and history of domestic-abuse while Pacquiao is politically outspoken and a member of Congress in the Philippines. This Saturday Floyd has the opportunity to stand for something bigger than himself and incorporate Baltimore, Ferguson and Black Lives Matter into his ring entrance. If Mayweather does this history will judge him kindly and it will be a legacy much greater than a victory in the ring Saturday night. It will also be a sign that yes we have all sinned but we can also be witnesses to truth.
The world has been waiting years for Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao and finally the public will get the fight it’s been craving for next Saturday. Mayweather and Pacquiao are two different men who have different cultures, histories, fan bases, personalities and career arcs. Part of the promotion to the fight has been the narrative of a good Pacquiao versus an evil Mayweather. The truth is a casualty of this simplistic narrative.
In examing this good versus Evil narrative let’s start with the obvious: Floyd comes off as a dick and Manny as a nice guy. One acts like a spoiled brat flaunting his wealth and position and the other comes off as a humble and likeable dude.
Pacquiao came from the grinding poverty of an island even known as poor according to Filipino standards and lived on the streets. He sold donuts to commuters in Manilla to make a living and found boxing which was his ticket. Fame, riches and success would follow.
Other writers have noted that Pacquiao came from much harsher circumstances than Mayweather. I beg to differ. While Pacquiao was malnourished in a nation of chronic food shortages, natural disasters and political turmoil Mayweather grew up a different kind of poverty.
Growing up in inner-city Grand Rapids, Michigan at the height of the crack-epidemic a young Mayweather was surrounded by violence and addiction. His father went to jail for his role in the drug-trade. This is the same father who used a young Floyd as a human-shield during an armed-altercation. Floyd witnessed abuse growing-up and would’ve internalized domestic-abuse as a method of conflict-resolution and model of masculinity.
The poverty of a young Floyd was compounded by the fact his mother was addicted to crack. Money for food was spent on crack and a young Floyd was often hungry and by his own admission frequently lived without utilities.
In his book The True American author Anand Giridharadas examines the difference in American poverty and “Third World” poverty. One of the areas the book covers is that while those in Third World countries may be materially poor they are most often family and relationship rich. Whereas the poor in America are often materially poor, come from dysfunctional families and are relationship poor. The American poverty of the book seems to define the life of a young Mayweather.
Now as two wealthy and successful boxers Mayweather has the image of being the King of Bling and Pacquiao a humble guy. The truth of the matter is both men like to live it up although Mayweather certainly favors a more conspicuous-consumption. Both men have splurged and each has splurged in their own preferred ways informed by their cultural tastes. They have also both had tax issues and serious gambling addictions.
Regarding family and women the record is also not as cut and dry as it may appear. Before anyone accuses me of minimizing the abuse of Mayweather let me set the record straight. Floyd Mayweather is an unrepentant serial-abuser of women. In any leauge sport Mayweather would’ve received a lifetime ban for his repeated actions. All of us who love to watch him fight are guilty of ignoring this truth and rationalizing. Furthermore, not only is Floyd an abuser of women he also continually till this day displays an extremely misogynistic attitude towards women. In all fairness if I had his money I wouldn’t beat women but I’d quite possibly indulge as Floyd does as my flesh is known to be weak when some panties are involved. So we all have to ask ourselves at times are we engaging in hypocritical righteous-indignation or are we jealous?
The point is not to defend Floyd’s record regarding women. It’s indefensible. Rather I want to note Pacquiao hasn’t exactly been palling around with the gender-studies crowd in the Philippines. While a happily married man now Pacquiao frequented brothels for years as a married man prior to recommiting himself to his Christian faith. This article ( while not that good especially when it comes to the writer inserting his theology and ignoring the culture of Filipino Catholicism) points out some of this history.
Another crucial part of this good versus evil narrative is that Pacquiao is a selfless servant of the Filipino people pursuing a career in politics while Mayweather is a narcissist only concerned with himself. I grant the fact Mayweather isn’t politically outspoken and hasn’t used his position to advocate for anything greater than himself as Muhammad Ali did ( and to a lesser extent as Sugar Ray Leonard and Larry Holmes did with apartheid). Mayweather has been sorta vaguely pro-black on occasion correctly pointing out no one has a problem when Mexicans, English or Puerto Ricans cheer for one of their own but when African-Americans do the same thing they’re accused of racism. This of course creates a backlash in a white American sports culture known for rooting against a perceived cocky and flamboyant black male.
The image of a political angel Pacquiao gets in the American media doesn’t square with reality. Pacquiao has engaged in ethically questionable behavior during his political tenure. This includes allegations of vote-buying, assaulting a political foe, and being allies with shady political figures.
You can say OK this is how the game is played. Granted. However, don’t make Pacquiao out to be an angelic political figure when he is knee-deep in a corrupt game. The Philippines after all has a history of electing celebrities and it doesn’t always turn out well.
May 2nd is a boxing match. Nothing more and nothing less. The fight won’t be a contest between good and evil. Both are flawed humans like us all. The two men are works in progress. Perhaps Pacquiao seems to be further down the road in a path towards positivity but what do we really know? All we know, and honestly really care about, is going to happen in the ring at the MGM Grand Saturday night.
I may write something more in-depth later. Right now I’m swamped so let me just jot down these bullet points regarding the fight.
Too late? : Some will say these fight is happening too late. The fight should’ve happened 4, 5 or 6 years ago. I agree, but it didn’t, and I’m just thankful we’re getting it now. Floyd Mayweather is still pound-for-pound the number one fighter in the world and undefeated and Manny Pacquiao is coming off three consecutive dominant wins ( two against undefeated opponents). These are still two very elite fighters.
Why the Wait: There are many reasons. The poor relationship between Bob Arum and Mayweather/ Al Haymon, the drug-testing issue, egos, money, etc. . However, I think Mayweather was pulling a Sugar Ray Leonard move. Leonard finally signed to fight Marvin Hagler after seeing him lose a step or town against John “the Beast” Mugabe. My hunch is Mayweather was waiting for Pacquiao to slow down before taking the fight.
The Fans: I find the language and behavior of both Mayweather and Pacquiao fans to be disgusting. Here is a news flash- this fight is not an affirmation or battle of conquest for any race. Whoever wins it will not be due to their race. Newsflash two- neither fighter gives a fuck about you or even knows who you are. Fans are taking this fight way too damn personal. Comment sections are full of racial vitriol I think we should all find disgusting.
The Personalities: I find the person of Floyd Mayweather to be pretty disturbing. Domestic violence complaints involving 5 different women. That’s a pattern. The media can sugar-coat and everyone can line their pockets: but that doesn’t erase the fact that despite being a great-fighter Floyd appears to be a deeply-flawed man.
Almost as disgusting as his record with women is Mayweather’s grotesque glorification of conspicuous-consumption. His idiotic spending habits along with his gambling addiction leads me to believe Floyd will one day be broke.
The fact Mayweather has the nerve to claim he’s better than Muhammad Ali I find utterly repulsive. Ali gave up the heavyweight championship of the world and went to jail over his opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali became a global superstar just as known for his commitment to Black Liberation as he was for boxing. Floyd provides no such inspiration.
Manny Pacquiao has a great back story. Rising from the grinding poverty of the Philippines to a hall of fame boxing career, a seat in the Filipino Congress, and becoming the most beloved person in his nation. Although at the end of the day Manny is human with his own complexities as this article points out.
My Prediction: I cannot see Manny Pacquiao winning this fight. This fight isn’t about personalities, race, religion, politics or who is a better person. The fight is about boxing. I see Floyd as just having too much defense for Manny which will lead to him getting reckless and Floyd counter-punching and pot-shoting all night. I only give Pacquiao a puncher’s chance within the first three rounds. If Pacquiao doesn’t stop Mayweather early, or at least hurt him badly, it will be a long night for the Filipino. My prediction is 116-112 Mayweather.
Future of Boxing: Big fights are good for boxing. My only criticisms are having the fight in a small-venue instead of a stadium thus out pricing hardcore fans and a weak undercard. I’m cautiously optimistic about PBC and happy to see the return of boxing to free TV. The sport needs this kind of exposure. However, if PBC fighters can’t fight HBO/ Top Rank/ Golden Boy fighters then we all lose out. Regardless 2015 looks like a very good year for boxing.