"I got something to say. I killed your baby today. And it doesn't matter much to me. As long as it's dead."
For some reason these crooning lyrics of Glenn Danzig's classic Misfits song buzzed about in my head after the Mayweather vs. Pacquaio fight. Maybe because it's easy to imagine Mayweather singing this song with the kind of gratuitous enthusiasm that Jamie Foxx accomplished with the national anthem. But I mention this not because I think it's a catchy but crude way to start this article, but because I think there's a weird overlap to the way Danzig waxed quixotic about death, and how the public has waxed philosophical about prizefighting.
When all was said and done, the so called 'fight of the century' inspired nothing but disapproval. Mike Tyson weighed in, mirroring what most people thought of the fight. And yet it offered exactly what was easily predicted. The fluid mechanics of Floyd Mayweather overcoming the dynamic bustle of Pacquiao.
In my quasi-breakdown of the bout, I tried to tease out the nuance of each fighter's qualities. But as the fight whimpered along, there was something else taking place in the ring. The beauty, to the extent that such a grace exists within the sport's violent precinct, of a good prizefight is that victory isn't measured by civilization's metaphors. It's measured in violation. And so men (and women) compete as much with their physiology and their psychology. I'm no prizefighter, but fight or flight isn't just a switch; it's a declaration. Out of fight versus flight is a consilience of expression, and a display of the truth William James noted when reflecting on the 'fact of personality as a condition of events.'
Ignoring this truth is what creates the rift between casual fans, who thought the bout was awful and a waste of time (as well as way too much money), and hardcore fans, who believe in respecting the scientific craft on display.
But just like there is something to be said for Mayweather's brilliant lead right hand, there is just as much to be said about the media flurry outside of the ring. In a lot of ways, the false starts, and legal disputes informed the action inside the ring. This is a bout in which the contract was so engaged in the minutia of it all, that lawyers determined it'd be worth noting who would step out onto the scale first. Nevermind the discussions about blood testing.
And then there's Mayweather himself. Floyd, more than just an outright delinquent, harbors not just indiscretions, but a harmful philosophy. Daniel Roberts documented Mayweather's history in as comprehensive a way as you'll find:
"It has been more than two years since Floyd Mayweather has been released from prison, and his behavior—and his attitude towards women—seems little changed from before. And yet the media continue to treat him gently and deferentially. The failure of the sports media to ask any of the questions raised by his conduct, let alone hold Mayweather responsible for it, only enables a pattern of behavior to continue.
No one is saying, or should be saying, that Mayweather should be banned from his profession or forced to accept less money than he deserves. But what Mayweather deserves is a function of what he can earn, and what he can earn is tied directly to his public image."
Megan Garber expanded on this discussion to speak to how these attitudes persist in the first place. "We are not good at distinguishing between "actor" and "character." We are not conditioned to see celebrities, in particular, as holistic people, subject to the complicated constellation of entitlements and responsibilities that personhood entails for the rest of us.
...In the same way we strive to balance "work" and "life," as if the two can be tidily extricated from each other, we insistently distinguish between "talent" and the dirtier stuff of practice and struggle and desire."
It would be negligent to focus solely on Mayweather, however, as if this was simply a matter of white hat versus black hat. Manny Pacquiao, after all, is a man of god. And like most men of god, the impression of authority helps construct the illusion of imperative. And so he's used his actual authority in the Philippine House of Representatives to help foster his discriminatory views on same sex marriage and family planning.
None of this is to conflate either man's indiscretions. As Charles Pierce argues, said indiscretions are culturally shared any damn way. But the bout, with its false starts, and erratic disputes seemed informed as much by their craft as by their convictions; authoritative in their intentions, superficial in their actions.
My position isn't really neutral when it comes to both men, or what I agree with many casual fans to be a lackluster fight. Despite how I've written about similar controversial figures in the past. And yet I can't really bring myself to be outraged even though the fight was awful, and both men have little in the way of moral credibility. Like the Misfits song, some forces exist beyond boundaries, and even the most heinous acts can be forgiven as long as it doesn't drown out the sound of our own entertainment. A lot of us, myself included, have been complicit in a bout that has largely been considered a collective violation. Violation is a fitting word for a prizefight that echoes Ian Littlewood's perfect description of sex which he defined as a... 'successful raid on the kingdom of propriety'. Oh but what a raid it could have been. 10 years ago.