Floyd Mayweather fought a rematch on Saturday night against Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pre-fight tracking suggests that pay-per-view buys were disappointing and, once again, Showtime will lose millions of dollars on a Mayweather event.
But the ring action and pay-per-view numbers aren’t the most important story surrounding Mayweather-Maidana II. Their first fight was contested on May 3, 2014 (four days after Floyd’s foot-in-mouth comments regarding the racist remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling) (http://bit.ly/YLxmqn). Mayweather-Maidana II was intertwined with another important social issue: violence against women.
Over the years, Mayweather has had significant issues with women and the criminal justice system. In 2002, he pled guilty to two counts of domestic violence. In 2004, he was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery for assaulting two women in a Las Vegas night club. Then, on December 21, 2011, again in Las Vegas, Judge Melissa Saragosa sentenced Mayweather to ninety days in the Clark County Detention Center after he pled guilty to a battery domestic violence charge involving Josie Harris (the mother of three of his children) and no contest to two charges of harassment. According to the indictment, the battery domestic violence involved grabbing Harris by the hair, throwing her to the floor, striking her with his fist, and twisting her arm in front of two of the children. The harassment included threatening to kill Harris and her then-boyfriend or make her and the boyfriend “disappear.” Mayweather served 63 days of his ninety-day sentence after receiving 27 days off for good behavior.
More recently, on September 4 of this year, Shantel Jackson (Mayweather’s former fiancée) filed suit against him in California, claiming that Floyd assaulted her shortly after his release from prison. The suit includes causes of action for assault, battery, false imprisonment, harassment, defamation, and the infliction of emotional distress. Jackson reminds some observers of Robin Givens. Her attorney is the equally likable Gloria Allred.
One of the many troubling aspects of Mayweather’s conduct is the manner in which the powers that be have responded to it.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t suspend Mayweather’s license after he pled guilty to battery domestic violence. Judge Saragosa delayed the start of Floyd’s jail term so he could fight Miguel Cotto on May 5, 2012. Golden Boy continued to promote his fights. And World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman declared, “Beating a lady is highly critical [but] it is not a major sin or crime.”
HBO (which was televising Mayweather’s fights on HBO-PPV at the time) aired a special in which Michael Eric Dyson (a professor at Georgetown University) interviewed Floyd and compared him with Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as an oppressed black athlete that the system was trying to silence. The comparison with Brown seemed like the most appropriate of the three, given the fact that (despite an impressive record of community service and his status as possibly the greatest football player of all time), Brown once had the unfortunate habit of being physically abusive toward woman and, in one instance, threw a woman off a hotel balcony. But that awkward circumstance went unmentioned, as did the two previous Mayweather convictions involving violence against women.
“Martin Luther King went to jail,” Mayweather told Dyson. “Malcolm X went to jail. Am I guilty? Absolutely not. I took a plea. Sometimes they put us in a no-win situation to where you don’t have no choice but to take a plea. I didn’t want to bring my children to court.”
Dyson then segued to the idea that there was a ”racially-based resentment” against Mayweather and declared, “I think about Jay-Z on Ninety-Nine Problems, when he goes – the cop asks him a question, and he says – ‘Are you mad at me because I’m young, rich, and I’m famous and I’m black. Do you got a problem with that?’”
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Dyson’s interview with Mayweather is another piece of the puzzle in the ongoing cycle of domestic violence against women, particularly in the African-American community. And in the interest of equal time, it should be noted that Showtime (Mayweather’s current home) has also been derelict in its response to Floyd’s conduct toward women.
That brings us to former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
As the world knows, Rice was arrested on February 15 of this year (and later indicted for third-degree aggravated assault) after punching his fiancée (now his wife) and knocking her unconscious in an elevator at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Rice agreed to enter a pre-trial intervention program (which, if satisfactorily completed, would lead to dismissal of the criminal charges against him). On July 24, he was suspended for two games by National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, who seemed intent on brushing the incident aside. Thereafter, Goodell was widely criticized for the leniency of the punishment. On August 28, he admitted that his response to the occurrence had been inadequate and announced that, henceforth, acts of domestic violence or sexual assault by NFL players or any other league personnel would be met by a six-game suspension with a second offense calling for a minimum suspension of one year.
Then, on September 8, TMZ posted a surveillance-camera video of the punch. Videos do more than confirm that an incident occurred. They have the potential to imprint the gruesome nature of a violent act on the consciousness of the nation. The public was already aware that Rice had punched his fiancée in an elevator. The video made it “real” and ignited a firestorm of outrage. That same day, Rice’s contract was terminated by the Ravens and Goodell announced that Rice had been suspended by the NFL for a minimum of one year.
Then Mayweather had his say. On September 9, Floyd met with reporters after his “grand arrival” at the MGM Grand and was asked about Rice.
“I’m not here to say anything negative about him,” Mayweather answered. “Things happen. You live and you learn. No one is perfect.” Floyd also voiced the opinion, “They had said that they suspended him for two games. Whether they seen the tape or not, I truly believe that a person should stick to their word. If you tell me you’re going to do something, do what you say you’re going to do.”
“Have you seen the video?” a reporter asked.
“Oh, yeah. I seen the video.”
“It’s kind of disturbing,” the reporter pressed.
“I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households also,” Mayweather responded. “It’s just not caught on video.”
“I wish Ray Rice nothing but the best,” Mayweather continued. “I know he’s probably going through a lot right now because football is his passion. Football is his love. It’s no different from me being in the fight game. If they told me, ‘Floyd, you got the biggest deal in sports history’ and a couple of months later they say, ‘Your deal is taken away from you.’ Oh, man. It’s not really just the money; it’s the love for the sport.”
Then, further referencing his own history, Mayweather declared, “With my situation, no bumps, no bruises, no nothing. With O.J. and Nicole, you seen pictures. With Chris Brown and Rihanna, you seen pictures. With Ochocinco and Evelyn, you seen pictures. You guys have yet to see any pictures of a battered woman; a woman that claims she was kicked and beat [by me].”
Mayweather’s comments elicited a strong response.
“It’s impossible to hear that and not feel sick to your stomach,” Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated wrote. “The implication is enormous: Other men beat their wives worse, so what’s a woman in an elevator knocked out cold. Mayweather will fight in another casino this weekend. The MGM Grand will host the proceedings. It’s Mayweather plastered on the side of the hotel, his likeness stretching for dozens of stories above a sign that reads ‘Home of the Champion.’ Showtime Pay-Per-View will televise the bout. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be pocketed. It would be shocking if the same network and casino executives who opened their arms to Mayweather – and the money his fights produce – have not condemned Rice this week. Everybody has. But there’s an obvious double-standard involved here, and one highlighted by Mayweather himself, in the one part of his comments that rang true. In Rice’s case, there is a video. In most cases of domestic violence, there is not. The tangible evidence, the way anyone with a television or Internet connection can see Rice load up, swing his left fist, and crumple the woman he wanted to and did marry to the floor, somehow made it more real to the public. But it’s not more real. It’s just more visible, more visceral.”
On September 9, reacting the outrage over his comments (and possibly, their potential to turn off would-be pay-per-view buyers), Mayweather issued a non-apologetic apology.
“If I offended anyone, I apologize,” Mayweather said. “I didn’t mean to offend anyone, and I apologize to the NFL and anyone else that got offended.”
Maybe boxing fans should be thankful that Floyd didn’t wear a Ray Rice jersey into the ring on Saturday night.
To repeat what I’ve written in the past: Somewhere in the United States tonight, a young man who thinks that Floyd Mayweather is a role model will beat up a woman. Maybe she’ll walk away with nothing more than bruises and emotional scars. Maybe he’ll kill her.
* * *
And a note on the fight —
Floyd Mayweather showed once again in his rematch against Marcos Maidana that he’s a very good fighter.
Maidana is not what Lennox Lewis used to refer to “a pugilistic specialist.” He’s a brawling straight-ahead fighter who, two years ago, was outboxed for ten out of ten rounds by Devon Alexander. Paulie Malignaggi once observed, “You learn in the first six months in the gym what you need to beat Maidana. After that, it’s just a matter of practicing till you get it right.”
In Mayweather-Maidana I, Marcos fought with passion. This time, he fought like a man who was showing up for a paycheck.
Mayweather is physically stronger than Maidana and far more skilled. On Saturday night, he kept the action in the center of the ring, controlling both distance and tempo. Also, Floyd knows how to take care of himself on the inside. He holds. He’s rough. He uses his forearms and elbows well. And he’s a fifteen-round fighter, who tires less than his opponent as a fight goes on. Marcos seemed to tire early on Saturday night.
The only real drama came in round eight when Mayweather pushed Maidana’s head down in a clinch, jammed his glove into Marcos’s face, and then complained to referee Kenny Bayless that Maidana bit his glove. Two rounds later, Bayless took a point away from Marcos for using his forearm to push Floyd to the canvas in a clinch. That made the judges’ final tally 116-111, 116-111, 115-112 in Floyd’s favor (which was generous to Maidana).
In a post-fight interview, Jim Gray pressed Mayweather about fighting Manny Pacquiao in his next outing. Perhaps that reflected the unhappiness of Les Moonves (president and CEO of CBS Corporation, which owns Showtime) with another multi-million-dollar loss on a Mayweather fight.
Mayweather told Gray that he’s open to the possibility. But for years, Floyd has found reasons not to fight Pacquiao. Most likely, he will continue to do so.
Here, the thoughts of Sugar Ray Leonard are instructive.
“Highly anticipated fights are what made boxing what it was,” Leonard told Steve Kim earlier this year. “When these fights don’t take place, no question, it bothers me. I could not see myself not fighting Tommy Hearns. I could not see myself not fighting Roberto Duran.”
Leonard, it should be noted, came out of retirement to fight Marvin Hagler.
Meanwhile, Mayweather says all the time that he’s his own boss. Virtually every fighter wants to face him because of the money involved, so Floyd can make any fight he wants happen. That’s why the onus is on him if there’s no Mayweather vs. Pacquiao at 147 pounds and no Mayweather vs. Gennady Golovkin at 154.
Floyd is building his legend on YouTube and Twitter. The real greats of boxing – fighters like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and the two Sugar Rays (Robinson and Leonard) – fought the toughest available opposition and built their legend in the ring.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His most recent book (Reflections: Conversations, Essays, and Other Writings) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.