Mayweather - McGregor: Enough Hate to Go Around

Tomorrow night, the world will watch the biggest boxing match of the current millennium. It’s a fight we never thought we’d see, and one that probably, technically, still shouldn’t even be happening. Call it money, luck, chaos, God’s will, or hell freezing over, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. is meeting Conor McGregor in the ring.

Never, since last November, have two more popular figures been despised this much.

image source: Dana White's wildest dreams. 
jk

I, like you, didn’t expect this fight to happen. McGregor (21 wins, 18 knockouts – 3 losses) is the current UFC Lightweight Champion at age 29. Mayweather (49 wins, 26 knockouts – 0 losses) is retired at age 40. Floyd is a five-division champion, has never been defeated, and is considered the best defensive fighter in boxing’s history. Conor is a multi-divisional mixed martial arts champion, and has the most knockouts in history for his weight class. Both are respected, revered fighters who will be remembered as legends for boxing and for mixed martial arts (MMA), respectively.

Consider, for a moment, the magnitude of this fight even being conceived. Floyd is retired. He has a 49-0 record and has defeated just about every notable fighter in the world. He’s also swimming in money, with an estimated net worth of close to $500 million dollars. Conor is the most popular figure in combat sports today. He’s considered one of the best fighters on the planet in multiple fighting styles. Yet, somehow these two are going to meet in a boxing match. McGregor is competing in his first professional boxing fight, against a man who has never lost. That this is happening is just silly… but it’s also hilarious because we’re guaranteed to see someone we hate get punched in the face.

That’s the big thing here: this is the “richest fight in boxing history” primarily because everyone hates one or both fighters. We are, as a planet, hate-watching this fight. The question is why. Browsing Facebook as the fight drew near, I kept seeing arguments for why one or the other deserved to get his ass kicked. I never saw “I’m excited for the fight!” It was always “I can’t wait to see [Conor or Floyd] get his ass beat.” In my confusion, I decided to investigate why we all hate these two men so damn much. Let’s learn to hate them together.

I have gone on record with this many times, but before this fight, I was a McGregor fan and I despised Mayweather. I believe my usual wording is “Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a garbage human being.” Now, the man has a family, and I’m sure no one is so rotten that they could be equated to garbage (except maybe the person you’re thinking of as you read this), but it really got under my skin that there are people who root for Floyd. My feelings about him boil down to three things: his criminal record, his public persona, and his in-ring performance.

I’m not sure which is most important but we’ll start on his colorful past with the law. At a glance, Floyd has more than four counts of both battery and domestic violence. There are 12 documented allegations of him committing assault, and five are against women. Most of his battery charges are against the mothers of his children. He was in a public relationship with a woman named Melissa Brim, which famously ended with Mayweather being convicted on two counts of domestic violence.

More recently, he has been embroiled in legal conflict multiple times over violence against another ex-girlfriend, Josie Harris. This is the more common story you’ve probably heard before. If not, here’s the story as told by Floyd’s ten-year-old son, to the police in the form of handwritten witness testimony:

A lot of that description is hard to read without being pissed, but the thing that always stands out to me most is that Koraun mentions Floyd took everyone’s phones during the altercation. That gets under my skin because Mayweather famously responds to any questions about domestic violence with a quick, smug, “No pictures.” As an example, here’s what he had to say to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on the topic: “If I really did what they say I did, as far as beating a woman or stomping a woman, I’m Floyd Mayweather, they would have brought pictures out instantly. Still no pictures. No nothing.”

If you’re wondering why he’s so focused on photographic evidence, it could be because he’s precisely right. There aren’t any pictures…anymore. Floyd apparently brings in so much cash to the city of Vegas, that no one has any problems destroying trial evidence. So, in 2011, after yet another domestic violence case, he filed a request to have photos presented in court destroyed after he’d been acquitted. That’s legal. What happens in Vegas, right?

Beyond that, though, he doesn’t have the air of a man who knows he’s done wrong. Ray Rice, the NFL player who famously attacked his wife on video, has repented several times. He’s shown tons of remorse for his actions. He’s been to rehabilitation. He’s taken all the steps you’d expect a man who truly feels like he made a mistake should. In contrast, exactly two names come to mind when I think about people who, despite all opportunities, never show remorse for their actions: Mayweather, and OJ.

All that said, his personal life isn’t the only reason the world hates him. He’s also, just an arrogant asshole. You’d have no trouble at all finding stories all over the internet of him being disrespectful, rude, or dishonest, but his arrogance is really his brand. You know that guy you hate being Facebook friends with because he does childish stuff like posting pictures of his money? Just… bruh…

No, it’s not domestic violence bad. It’s not “leaving your child with the memory of you beating his mother” bad. But it absolutely puts him in a Martin Shkreli-esque lane of “Somebody please punch this motherfucker in the face.”

Ultimately, though, my biggest problem with Floyd Mayweather Jr. is that he doesn’t even fit what I call The Michael Jackson Rule. The MJ Rule is basically that we as fans have to accept that sometimes, in order to continue appreciating a celebrity’s art, we have to completely ignore their personal lives. I love Michael Jackson’s music, and I avoid Googling him like it’s cancer because I don’t need the drama that was his life. Similarly, RIP to Bill Cosby’s comedic career. So I would like to appreciate that Floyd is a living, breathing boxing legend. Forty-nine and oh. When you think of boxing legends like Ali, Frasier, Lewis, Tyson… you can’t say any one of them is undefeated.

If you ask most people, they will tell you they hate watching Floyd, arguably the greatest boxer of all time, fight. The reason is that he sort of doesn’t fight. He’s a master defensive fighter, and he’s statistically the most accurate puncher of all time. This means his matches are mostly him running away from his opponent and sneaking in a few jabs here and there to outscore them each round. To him, and his fans, he’s being smart. He’s a fighter for a living, and surviving is the most important thing. People point to the health complications Muhammed Ali suffered after his boxing career, after so many years of grueling fights. Floyd, by comparison, has only been hit about 12 times in the last decade of his career. So, I can admit it’s smart, and, as a boxing fan, I can support not wanting to be hit in the damn face. But when you’re drawing record-setting cash payouts and you spend every big match literally hugging the opponent, you deserve to be called out for it. His opponents certainly take some of the blame, but the point is that Mike Tyson and Muhammed Ali went down as warriors. No one cares that they did in fact lose sometimes. Floyd’s 49-0 is real, but watching most of his fights, it looks like “49-o*”.

 

All of this makes it much easier to appreciate Floyd’s next opponent, Conor McGregor. His matches are almost the opposite of Mayweather’s. For starters, as his record indicates, most of them end with him knocking a guy out. For fans of combat sports, there are few things more exciting than knowing the likelihood is one of these men is going to walk out of this ring and the other will be carried out. In 90% of McGregor’s matches, the other guy was carried out. Still, he hasn’t hit legendary status yet, and he’s virtually hated by everyone who doesn’t hail from Ireland. It might be for good reason.

Alright, maybe this is just a thing with fighters.

 

Conor McGregor hate basically begins and ends with his gift for trash talking. This is a man who, no matter the opponent, either gets under their skin or annoys them enough to get a reaction. It’s either childish and unprofessional, or brilliant and no one knows for sure.

The thing is, the trash talker persona is entertaining until it goes too far. I watch the infamous Mike Tyson "I wanna eat his children” speech at least once a week, but I also understand that in sports, commenting about people’s families is sort of taboo. In combat sports specifically, given that you can be maimed for life or suffer even worse injuries in every single match, fighters are supposed to keep all rivalries between the combatants. As it stands, McGregor has made comments about several opponents’ families, saying, for example, that Eddie Alvarez’s wife and kids wouldn’t be able to recognize him after the match. Sure, it’s a lame insult, but that’s a thing that has actually happened after UFC matches, so fighters are supposed to be careful about those sorts of comments. Conor did not get that memo.

As a result, it’s unsurprising that McGregor’s mouth is stirring up more trouble before this fight. The start was his reaction to Floyd shadow boxing at their press conference over the summer. “Dance for me, boy. Dance for me, son. Dance for me.” Now, McGregor is Irish, and I’m told calling someone “boy” isn’t offensive in those parts. However, the guy is on American soil, telling a black man to dance for him, then calling him “boy”. At best, it’s a comment that you have to maybe put in the Mildly Racist pile, as you consider the source. In this case, though, the source is a fighter who said of Brazilian opponent Jose Aldo in 2015, “What I really want to do is turn his favela into a Reebok sweatshop. They work well over there.”

The thing about the Mildly Racist pile is that once it stacks up too high, it overflows into the Overtly Racist pile. This stuff builds up. So, when Conor back peddled from the “Dance for me,” controversy, he made matters worse by saying, “Do they know I’m half black? Yeah! I’m half black from the belly button down.” He followed that up by humping the air, which he called “a present for my beautiful, black female fans.” He has since said that it was all his way of having fun with the accusations because he’s “a very multi-cultured individual,” but it’s impossible to deny that this is a pattern. It’s racist at worst, and racially insensitive at best. It’s not a good look just a few years after he called a Hispanic opponent a “cholo gangster from da hood.”

Conor McGregor’s persona definitely flirts with arrogance. That’s a big reason this fight is even happening, and why people hate him. No matter how good he is, this is still a fight built on a disrespectful young fighter trash talking a retired veteran into a match. It’s on Floyd for letting this stuff get to him, but it says a lot about McGregor’s confidence that he’s stepping into Floyd’s ring to fight him on his terms, and still talks trash to him. If this was McGregor vs. any other boxer, it’d be a non-story. For fans of boxing, once America’s favorite sport, this is a slap in the face, and I’m sure Conor knows it.

Hell, it’s disrespectful to UFC fans who would rather see him training to defend his championship and improve that legacy, rather than go off on this campaign to fight someone over trash talk. Boxing is a part of Conor’s MMA style, but that he thinks he can match up to an undefeated boxing champion shows how little respect he has for the sport. Or how much confidence he has in himself…?


So what we have here are two alpha males with incredible skill and incredible egos, fighting in possibly the biggest match ever: a true immovable asshole against an unstoppable douchebag. Of course, I’m watching it. You are too. The implications are just too strong.

A Mayweather victory shuts Conor up and erases all these months of trash talk. It also solidifies him as being 50-0 and even more of a boxing legend, having beaten the leader of the new school of fighting even at the old (for the sport) age of 40. But, I’m always interested in the best story, which, in this case, is definitely a McGregor victory. An MMA champ beating any professional boxer would be a big deal, but if he can be the man to succeed where people have tried and failed 49 consecutive times, in his very first match…? Also, if we’re judging off wanting to see the worse human lose, punching your babymama is worse than making racist comments all day long. Regardless of what happens, we get entertainment, and they get richer, so no harm, right?

That is, assuming the whole thing isn’t just a publicity stunt.

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