The May-Mac Promo Tour: An Orgy for the Clueless and the Classless

And so it’s finally over.

That would be the four-day, four-city, three-country, two-continent promotional blitz clearly designed to hype a bogus event by stirring the most abhorrent passions of tens of thousands of the clueless and the classless to a flaming crash alongside the pay-per-view highway, rubber-neckers who apparently don’t know or don’t care that they are being played for suckers.

But wait, the unprecedented vulgarity and obnoxious behavior gets to continue for six more interminably long weeks, an orgy of orchestrated or perhaps even genuine debasement of human dignity that will culminate on Aug. 26 at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena with what most likely will be the most disappointing conclusion since Geraldo Rivera hosted a two-hour live television special on April 21, 1986, The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults, which turned out to be no mystery at all. When the vaults in a long-shuttered Chicago hotel once owned by the notorious mob boss were finally pried open, there was absolutely nothing in them. After all that mounting anticipation, the climactic conclusion revealed that there was no there, there.

Despite the frenzied and profane cheers of McGregor fans who have deluded themselves into believing that the potty-mouthed Irish martial artist can actually defeat the equally crass Mayweather in an exhibition match held under boxing rules, logic dictates that he has about as much chance of delivering the goods as Rivera – who has been embarrassed by his role in the Capone caper for these 31 years – had of finding anything of interest in that rusty safe. But even if McGregor scores a monumental upset, and the in-ring action is more compelling than what boxing fans are accustomed to seeing from the risk-adverse Mayweather, it can’t or won’t change a simple fact.  As the two merry hucksters laugh all the way to the bank with their ill-gotten gains, millions of spectators will have to look into a mirror and see the reflection of an enabler who helped defile whatever remains of the nobility of combat sports, and in a broader sense the fabric of civilized society. Or perhaps they’ll just see the face of someone who flushed $89.95 (basic) or $99.95 (high-definition) of their disposable income down the toilet, and a lot more if they went into hock for obscenely pricey tickets to the live show.

My passive interest in this abomination began and ended in the 26 or so minutes that Mayweather and McGregor shared the stage for the second stop of the whirlwind promotional tour, the one in Toronto, which at least fulfilled the promise that records will be broken. By my count, McGregor dropped 21 F-bombs and Mayweather 14, with a combined 20 additional cuss words that your mother would have washed your mouth out with soap had you uttered them in her presence when you were a kid.

That made Mayweather-McGregor in Toronto the unofficial but likely undisputed champion of verbal filth spewed during a boxing-affiliated event, putting it on a par of sorts with the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street, a 2013 film that, over the course of its 179-minute running time, managed to include the F-word and all its variations a record 506 times. (Yes, someone counted.) Thus the old standard of 435 specific expletives, set by director Spike Lee’s Son of Sam in 1999, went down as emphatically as did Michael Spinks when he was blown away by Mike Tyson.

I did not catch the first leg of the four-city tour, the one in Los Angeles, but after I streamed the cursing contest in Toronto, I vowed to not view any portion of the stops in New York and London, as well as the fight itself on Aug. 26. Although I am no stranger to coarse talk – hey, I served in the Marine Corps – my appreciation of language’s power to ennoble, uplift and inspire is such that I try to avoid, as much as possible, wallowing in the sewer of casual vulgarity. And when I do slip – which happens more often than I would care to admit – it is a cause for me to confess that transgression to my parish priest.

But to hear commentators Brian Custer, Paulie Malignaggi and Brendan Schaub tell it after Mayweather and McGregor gleefully plunged into that sewer, the art of trash-talking suddenly had risen to new and impressive heights.

“I’m a little hoarse,” a seemingly calmed-down Mayweather said when he joined with the trio to discuss what had just transpired on the stage. “Shouting loud, screaming loud. But we’re giving people what they want to see, want to hear.”

As dismaying as that possibility may have been to those who still maintain some minimal level of decorum, Malignaggi, a former two-division world champion, suggested that some higher plane of communication had just been realized, and with it a cause for celebration.

“Floyd, do you think this is going to be the new way to promote boxing?” Malignaggi asked, deferential as can be. “It’s so innovative, man. People in boxing aren’t used to this. In the UFC, MMA, in wrestling, you see this kind of promotion, in-your-face stuff. You’re bringing it to boxing. You think this is going to be the new way, the modern way, to promote boxing as well?”

Replied Mayweather: “Paulie, you know I was doing this 20-something years ago. You’ve been in the fight game a long time yourself. We used to trash-talk extremely loud. Muhammad Ali and fighters from the past paved the way for me to be where I’m at. They were talk-talkers also.”

Mayweather concluded by saying that McGregor was “bringing the young Mayweather back. It’s exciting.”

Trash-talking is one thing. Slinging bags of spoken excrement to get a rise out of audiences that seemingly no longer are satisfied with a fighter’s threats to beat up the other guy is quite another. And for Ali to dismiss opponents as an “ugly bear” or “gorilla,” which is hardly in good taste, is not the same as Mayweather unleashing a tsunami of profanity as was heard in Toronto. Ali never did that, and it’s a safe bet the Nation of Islam would not have allowed it in any case. Even the younger version of Mayweather, cocky and brash as can be, only occasionally strayed into such blatant and unvarnished crudity.

But the rapid change from Mayweather, raving lunatic, to Mayweather, reasoned and calculating, is evidence that he – I don’t know enough about McGregor to hazard a guess as to what makes him tick – is evidence that he always knows exactly what he is doing, and why.

Booed by pro-McGregor crowds at each of the tour’s four stops, Mayweather again demonstrated that being the object of resentment, even hatred, has contributed to his status as the biggest money-maker in boxing history. You say you can’t stand his guts? That you’re eager to pay that hefty PPV subscription charge because you want to see him finally get his come-uppance? Hey, that’s all right with him. The pay for villains is as good as it is for heroes, and frequently better.

“I am always the villain,” he said prior to his June 25, 2005, bout with the popular Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City. “That’s all right. I know how boxing works. You have to have a good guy and a bad guy. I don’t mind being the bad guy.”

Every actor with an established persona knows that you risk losing your core following by venturing outside the box, which is why, say, Clint Eastwood basically plays a version of himself in every movie. When Mayweather experimented with an image makeover prior to his May 22, 2004, matchup with DeMarcus Corley, it soon became apparent that he was out of his element.

“Our plan is not to tap into the thug image as a way to build Floyd up,” said Lewis Hendler, who, along with his partner, Neal Menaged, had made their fortune through the sale of women’s hair-care products before they convinced Mayweather to allow them to manage his career. “We’d like to see him make the transition to mainstream rather than to pin himself to a particular culture which is fairly limited in terms of marketing potential.”

The union of Mayweather with Hendler and Menaged proved to be a one-shot deal, and a return to perceived thuggery proved a brilliant business move by the fighter. Mainstream for Mayweather was as bad a fit as the time a middle-aged Pat Boone – Pat Boone! – tried to recast himself as a black-leather-jacketed punk rocker. Forever comfortable as the bad guy, Mayweather raked in a staggering $220 million for his conquest of white-hatted hero Manny Pacquiao. Amazingly, 67 percent of respondents to a social-media poll prior to Mayweather’s May 2, 2015, bout with Pacquiao picked “Pac Man,” a 2-1 underdog, to pull off the upset.

So why is this Mayweather fight different from any other? For one thing, there is no good guy; McGregor might receive a majority of the cheers, but his behavior is as repugnant as Mayweather’s. It’s like trying to choose between supporting Attila the Hun or Vlad the Impaler.

For another, a victory for Mayweather – who is or should be the pure-chalk pick – makes him 50-0, whereupon he will claim to have surpassed Rocky Marciano’s cherished record of 49 wins without a loss. His chest-thumping claim to be “TBE,” or the best ever, will be repeated more often and more loudly. And it’ll be as legitimate an accomplishment, from a purely boxing standpoint, as a cache of counterfeit three-dollar bills.

But that won’t be funny money Floyd (and McGregor) will be banking when the PPV receipts are totaled. The rich again will become richer, and they’ll be doing it by pulling off the most fraudulent, most cringe-worthy and vilest scam in the history of sport.

If you choose to cross over to the dark side, fine and dandy. I’m taking a pass. Hey, a legitimate attraction – Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez – takes place on Sept. 16, also at the T-Mobile Arena. And even if it doesn’t turn out to be the Fight of the Year, at least I won’t feel as if I have to take an extra-long shower after watching it.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

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