In their pursuit of record breaking numbers and endless riches, the two premier faces of combat sports have referred back to the oldest trick in the book, and we are all falling for that trick once again
Heading into the press tour extravaganza this week, both Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor had one objective — sell their fight. Achieving such an objective was easy, tickets to the press conferences were free and went like hot cakes. The narratives of two men from contrasting sports, demographics, and philosophies were already on the table for both protagonists to tap into whilst working their oratorical “magic”.
However the main narrative used is the one which elicits the strongest reaction from all corners of the globe. The one that gets everyone from the paid writers to the online hype-men to turn away from the TV screens and the conference podiums and furiously type away at their desks. Both men on a quantifiable level have some awareness of this reality — their circus show very easily can switch into a phoney racial battleground, where observers pick sides and the internet generation virtuously scrutinize and voice resentment.
This is a reality not at all removed from combat sports DNA — with an entrenched history of fights sold on racially-based narratives and an assembly lines of individuals who rightly or wrongly bemoan their creed or culture for their public misrepresentation.
So at the exact moment in Los Angeles this past Tuesday where Conor McGregor looked across the Staples Center stage to see Floyd Mayweather shadowboxing and shouted “Dance for me, boy!”, people should have anticipated the direction that the promotion was headed in.
If the 29-year-old Irishman was just a common self-conscious individual then he would have been somewhat reluctant to make sweeping statements which carry racial undertones in the environment he inhibits. McGregor, the ultimate showman, is a figure that many in popular culture like to target their misdirected aggression towards, owing to the belief that he is lauded for qualities that Black Americans, like Mayweather, are persistently vilified for.
McGregor also, to quote the late great Charlie Murphy is a “habitual line stepper” – one who has a tendency to stray slightly below the bar of acceptability in the socially conscious enclave that we live in – with a backlog of comments about former opponents which can be (and have been) construed as excessive or vitriolic.
By the third step of the tour in New York this was evident. In an attempt to address the allegations of racism, Conor came across as that kid at school who had listened one too many west coast hip hop albums. His desire to put on a show conflicts with foresight and in the eyes of a casual observer, McGregor’s grave dug deeper and deeper.
But while the inclination would be for offended parties to gravitate towards Mayweather and hold him as the beacon of black resistance, his own past should all but disqualify him from the receipt of excess sympathy. Forget his well-documented criminal misadventures against black women, Floyd certainly isn’t going to kneel down in protest Colin Kaepernick style. He himself frequently crosses the line with his views on other cultures, has made proclamations such as “All Lives Matter” and neither him nor his father or team members have made anything resembling a meaningful outcry about the missteps of his hundred million dollar dance partner. Floyd “bemoaned” the disrespect of his eldest daughter yet still put her front and centre on the stage with him every night. He also waxed lyrical about McGregor’s lack of respect for women – a statement so ironic that Floyd certainly can’t even believe it himself. Who’s kidding who here?
Every stand you take pays a price and Mayweather has never appeared willing to compromise for or give to the people. His sole existence is to take money from them. It is likely that both men are desensitized from the storm such a narrative brings. Lord knows the insults hurled at men behind closed doors in boxing gyms near and far are certainly of a similar nature. Yet people will still lose sleep over the fact that there are seldom apologies given or measures put in place to prevent racial flames from reigniting again. When you are bludgeoned consistently for a living, all sense of decency is simply an afterthought.
Division drives chaos, but above all it drives profit and the rise of this divisive and uncomfortable topic will serve to drive up interest in a fight devoid of intrigue, and it will drive up the profit margins for the main men. Any writer or critic may feel like they are fighting the good fight by calling out people on their crimes, however that battle couldn’t be contested in less suitable surroundings.
Mayweather vs McGregor — What Divides Us Will Forever Drive Us was originally published in sundaypuncher on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.