As victorious spectacles by African Americans who have devoted their lives to their own advancement and screw everyone else, Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s TKO win over Ireland’s Conor McGregor probably won’t be as satisfying to black America as O.J. Simpson being declared not guilty of a double homicide — but, to be fair, Marcia Clark threw fewer arm punches (read: virtually worthless) than McGregor did last week.
The horrors of Charlottesville, “both sides,” Sheriff Joe’s pardon, Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing unemployment — things have gone from systemically bad to aggressively worse the last few months for people of color in the U.S. Adding insult to injury was the so-called “Money Fight”‘s relentless racebaiting to hype what always promised to be more of a stunt than a legitimate boxing match. Boxing has always been tribal but the promotion for this fight served as an unfriendly reminder that The Great White Hope vs. That Uppity Negro is just as powerful a ticketseller today as it was when Jim Crow, the Mann Act and Jess Willard united to knock Jack Johnson out more than a century ago.
This is a time when Dubya’s “soft bigotry of low expectations” mutated from a fig leaf hiding the intent behind his destructive education policies into a two-headed monster. One head speaks through aging Beckys who post soft-supremacist garbage [“All Lives Matter!” “What about black-on-black crime???” “If I said ‘White Lives Matter’ you would of call me a racist, you hipocrites!!!”] whenever your mutual friend posts something on Facebook about yet another unarmed black person being killed by police. The monster’s other head speaks through television anchormen and political pundits when they wax rhapsodic about how Dolt 45 has “finally become Presidential” or “gotten his administration on track” after he does the bare minimum of what any real leader would do. (Despite Obama’s many shortcomings, he really blew the bell curve for grading Presidents so it’s no surprise to see Trump take his every test as a pass/fail.)
When the cultural histories of this era are written, let’s all promise to call bullshit on anyone who claimed McGregor had a great outing because he made it to the 10th round. Mayweather has never been a knockout artist, and he rarely showed no respect for an opponent’s lack of punching power by walking him down like he did in the later rounds. McGregor being pounded into exhaustion by a 40-year-old man (who hadn’t fought in nearly two years and whose prime was defined by his defensive wizardry and rumors that his fists were as brittle as uncooked spaghetti) is only good showing to boxing neophytes and maybe the assholes who say we should leave the Confederacy’s second-place statues alone to honor the average joes who weren’t racist (say, they were just like them!) but fought for honor or pride or some amorphous but totally not-racist principle, or something. All you really need to know about the relative “pop” of each man’s punches is that Mayweather played in a charity basketball game the day after the fight, while McGregor was informed that his license to fight would be suspended for 60 days on medical reasons.
Let us also never forget that McGregor’s cornermen eschewed the usual corner attire to look like a trio of bartenders fresh from their shifts at the Reich Chancellery’s rathskeller.
I lost five bucks betting that McGregor wouldn’t land one clean shot on Mayweather — I hadn’t taken into account that age and ring rust would slow Floyd, who had already clearly lost a step when he outclassed Andre Berto two years ago, and I fell for the hype over McGregor’s punching power — so I would like to make my fiver back by doubling down on another bet: Ten bucks says that white boxing folk will try to sneak an asterisk next to that 50-0 record, claiming that a bout against a fighter who the Nevada State Athletic Commission examined and granted a license to box wasn’t really a boxer. Like Eddie Murphy’s white guy in Coming To America’s barber shop, these are the same guys who will bring up the win over Joe Louis when you say that Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record was larded with mugs and tomato cans. Ted Lowry was a no-hoper, but he had just a good a shot against The Brockton Blockbuster as McGregor had against Money May.
Playing the negrocious villain since his breakout performance against the Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather’s campaign in the ring is bedizened with the same scenario nearly every time:
1. The fight is announced.
2. What passes for the sport’s independent press kicks into gear to promote the fight — frontloading a stream of POC experts picking Floyd to win but passively equivocating on the chances of his opponent getting lucky, and white experts insisting that this opponent will be the one to solve the Mayweather puzzle.
3. Floyd stars in a weekly reality show leading up to the fight that showcases how he’s young, black, rich and uninterested in currying white America’s favor, while his hapless opponent trains hard, is a good citizen, loves his family and insists that he and his trainer have formulated a plan that will finally defeat Floyd. (Oh, and there’s inevitably a tryhard moment, like shelling out the bucks to hold a training camp in the thin air of Big Bear, CA or, my personal favorite, Juan Manuel Marquez pissing in a rocks glass and then drinking it warm to get all of the vitamins and protein he just peed out. Serious, go google to see that video.)
4. Then, the fight itself: Mayweather gives away the first few rounds to observe his opponent’s moves, then he frustrates and outclasses the hapless bastard on his way to victory on the score cards, making even future Hall of Famers like Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao look utterly ordinary.
5. In the post-fight ring interview, The Money Mayweather persona drops and Pretty Boy Floyd emerges to praise his opponent, that guy’s family, all of that guy’s fans (who shelled out millions to see their man finally give Mayweather his comeuppance), Al Haymon, God, the Money Team, maybe his father and/or uncle, etc.
6. At the post-event press conference, Floyd usually shows up first because he doesn’t need a long examination by NSAC doctors nor triage work by onsite plastic surgeons. He doesn’t wear sunglasses like so many fighters (like McGregor, who might have borrowed a pair from Bono for his presser, they were so big) do to hide the already horrific facial swelling because he doesn’t get hit cleanly enough.
7. Then comes the flood of white tears and excuses: Mayweather cherrypicks his opponents, he waits until they’re shot like Cotto and Mosley or inexperienced like Canelo Alvarez or secretly injured like Pacquiao or were really blown-up lightweight like Marquez and Arturo Gatti or were robbed by the judges like Marcos Maidana and José Luis Castillo or got dropped by a lucky shot like Ricky Hatton and Victor Ortiz, vomit, rinse and repeat.
Aside from following the career of my fellow Southern Tier native/self-sabotaging fuckup Jon “Bones” Jones, I am not a regular MMA viewer. Despite the UFC’s efforts to limit unsportsmanlike moves and make the sport more acceptable to State Athletic Commissions nationwide, it’s still a sport that earned its early reputation as “human cockfighting.” That rep still shines in so many of the comments coming out of the online blamestorm that still consumes MMA/UFC discussion a week later. Apparently, luring a fighter with stamina issues into the late rounds and then dismantling him piece by piece — dragging him into deep water and drowning him — is just not a thing MMA fighters do. It takes a fine appreciation of the sweet science to be entertained by a Mayweather fight, it takes being an average/casual fan of boxing to find his fights boring, and it takes an MMA fan to be disappointed that Floyd didn’t throw his entire life’s work down the toilet and give them a brawl that would make Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama blush.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this hollow, cynical cash grab was that we had been warned about it more than 20 years ago. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: In The Great White Hype (directed by Reginald Hudlin, written by Tony Hendra and Ron Shelton), boxing promoter Fred Sultan (Samuel L. Jackson) says he’s more desperate for a white contender than White America is. Tired of lackluster returns on fights starring his world champion, James “The Grim Reaper” Roper (Damon Wayans), Sultan and his team search high and low for a credible white fighter — eventually finding Terry Conklin (Peter Berg), who defeated Roper when they were amateurs but hadn’t fought since. Despite being totally unprepared for a professional boxing match, Conklin is promised a massive payday, then licensed, ranked and hyped enough for white America to see him as a credible threat to take away Roper’s championship. I won’t give the rest away, as if you can’t see where this is headed. If you haven’t seen the film, you should — this satire examines professional boxing’s fundamental issues more thoroughly in its 91 minutes than most boxing documentaries could cover in three hours. Hype even gives away the secret that a fighter with the nickname “Irish” just means that he’s white.