As much as the sport of boxing is struggling to stay relevant in the 21st century, there never seems to be a shortage of entertainment whenever Floyd Mayweather Jr. is preparing for his next fight. Whether you love the guy or hate him for his general arrogance or the way he flaunts around his money, you can’t deny that he is single handedly keeping the sport on life support. His fight this past weekend against Victor Ortiz was marred with controversy and a hilarious post fight interview, but the more fascinating story is the racial tensions surrounding the event itself. And while it’s no secret that race has been a constant variable in the realm of American sports, it is exemplified no better in any other sport than boxing. This is nothing new, however. The unspoken rule when watching two boxers of different races square off has always been to root for the guy who more closely resembles our own ethnic background.
Since the days of Jack Johnson and his unapologetic fondness for white women, which cast society into a frenzy over the dangers of the black athlete, it was a number one priority to find someone who could defeat him and prove once and for all that white athletes were superior. Not just for the sport itself, but for the symbolism of their continued dominance in American history. Same story with Muhammad Ali, another brash and cocky fighter who was better than anything the sport had seen at the time. And sure, you can blame it on his unwillingness to fight in the war as well as his association with the Nation of Islam that sparked the population’s hatred for him, but conservative white America was never a fan of his to begin with. The fact that he dominated most anybody he faced was really the cause for everyone to pray and pray for his downfall.
Is it because, like his predecessors who were also considered very arrogant black men, that the world wants to see Floyd Mayweather lose his crown as boxing champion? So much that they rely on the hopes of a fighter who publicly refused to take a drug test before what would be billed as “The Fight of the Century.” And because no one has been able to successfully defeat him in the ring, it has become commonplace for many to attack Mayweather’s legacy instead. The claim that he hasn’t fought anybody worth fighting holds very little ground considering that boxing is much less glamorous and demands far less attention than it once did, which is no fault of his own, but does beg the question as to whether the sport of boxing has lost its luster because it has been completely dominated by people of color for so long; from its best boxers to its promoters. But unlike Manny Pacquiao and, at one point, Ricky Hatton or Kelly Pavlik, Mayweather has seldom received praise or recognition for his accomplishments in the ring. And while Floyd does make it easy for the general public to not like him, whether it is because of his arrogance or his tendency to flaunt his money around, it must be taken into account that if he didn’t do these things, he wouldn’t be able to draw the audience that he does and make $40 Million a fight as it is. And whether you want to admit it or not, without him the sport of boxing would be even less of an attraction than it is now. Sure, you can say that Pacquiao still draws attention, but if we’re being honest, most people are only interested in him because they believe he will be the one to take Mayweather down.
It’s quite alarming to read a number of post-fight comments on various social networks from people professing their “hate” of a man they’ve never even come close to meeting before. And while I’m guilty of saying I hate Tony Romo, the reality is I just really hate the uniform he wears and that dumb ass star on his helmet. Please don’t confuse this piece as me comparing Mayweather’s life to the struggles that Ali and Johnson had to endure. I’m simply pointing out the similarities of how they are hated so much in the public’s eye. The only difference between then and now is that it’s frowned upon to be blatantly racist, so people have to look for reasons other than the color of his skin to dislike him. All I’m asking is which is the real reason?