Dave Hannigan: Mayweather’s gruesome show of the absurd rolls into town again
Greatest boxer of his generation prostitutes his fistic legacy one more time
Floyd Mayweather and Logan Paul face off during a press conference to announce their June 6th fight at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
The body of Josie Harris was found in her car outside her California home on March 10th last year. The cause of death was an accidental drug overdose, a lethal cocktail of Fentanyl and Alprazolam.
A 40-year-old actress with a single movie credit to her name, she had three children with Floyd Mayweather Jnr, to whom she was once engaged. Her former fiancé also served two months in prison for pulling her hair, punching and kicking her in front of their kids back in 2010. One of six occasions she alleged he used his legendary fists against her.
“Nobody really knew our relationship,” said Mayweather, about a woman who was suing him for $20 million (€16.35 million) at the time of her death. “When we went through our ups and downs, our children was very small. I loved Josie, will always love Josie, no matter what we been through.”
The tragic end to Harris’s life was briefly touched upon as Showtime TV ran a typically soft-focus piece on its biggest box office draw last week. Nobody speculated about the profound impact Mayweather’s abuse or, indeed, the years he spent publicly traducing her reputation, might have had on her addiction. No mention either of how he has been credibly accused of violence against other women several times during his career. Discomfiting material didn’t fit the feelgood narrative. Too much Vaseline on the lens for that. This promo was all about selling Mayweather’s pay-per-view bout with Logan Paul, a YouTuber, because that is, apparently, an occupation now.
An event that might have been billed, “Mayweather versus one of those lads your younger kids love watching do offensive stuff on the internet”, the unique selling point for this grotesquerie next Sunday is it involves two of the more reprehensible people on the planet.
One, the superannuated greatest boxer of his generation, a despicable character with a lengthy history of hitting women. The other, a lowest common denominator spoofer coining it from online buck eejitry, his claim to widest notoriety being the time he posted a video of a young man hanging from a tree in Aokigahara, the so-called “suicide forest”, at the base of Mount Fuji. For clickbait.
“Yo, are you alive?” shouted Paul at the corpse in a bit that got six million hits before YouTube took it down. “Are you f**king with us?”
The schlock jock is 30lbs heavier, 18 years younger, and six inches taller than his opponent. As if any of that matters. His very presence in the ring with Mayweather is an affront, their combat a prospect so ludicrous the 44-year-old grandfather, six years removed from his last serious boxing fight, admitted last week that the bout represents “legalised bank robbery”. And he knows this only too well because he’s been down this road before and profited accordingly.
This is the same template that gave the world his tawdry encounter with Conor McGregor in Las Vegas four summers back. Pit two disreputable, dislikable characters from different worlds against each other in a ring, factor in some puerile WWE-style antics in the build-up, and hope enough rubber-necking rubes fork over $49.99 to watch the slow-motion car-crash. That farcical non-event in 2017, where he toyed with a vastly inferior opponent to offer the pretence of value, earned Mayweather $275 million (€225 million), more than he’d ever taken home from fighting real boxers like Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez.
A lesson there for everyone about the enduring, lucrative lure of the circus freak show. Roll up! Roll up! Come to see the Lobster Boy and General Tom Thumb, stay to watch the gifted little man beat up the court jester just like he used to pummel his girlfriend!
Unlike McGregor and his UFC pedigree, Paul doesn’t bring any athletic credibility at all, save some wrestling and football at high school in Ohio. Crucially, he does boast enough gullible pre-pubescents in his 23 million social media subscribers to lead Mayweather to believe he can make a handy $100 million (€81.7 million) for prostituting his fistic legacy one more time. Significantly more money than Muhammad Ali ever trousered for his bizarre exhibition bout resume that included clashes with an NFL lineman, an NHL enforcer, and the Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki.
Paul has been involved in brazen heists of this nature before, smaller-scale affairs that have prepared him for his role as the trash-talking clown in this more ambitious bank job. In two previous boxing matches, a stretch to even call them fights, he lost one and drew the other against KSI, another YouTuber and fellow novice in the ring. Their first encounter drew 21,000 to Manchester Arena while 1.2 million people bought it on pay-per-view. Astonishing, depressing numbers that neatly explain why we are where we are. In sports. In society. In dire trouble.
A sucker born every minute. A fool and his money soon parted. Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the people. The list of cliches fitting this particular moment stretches back a long way. Two thousand years ago, Seneca, a Stoic philosopher when Nero ruled Rome, came away from one visit to the gladiatorial arena so sickened by the quotidian gore and the bloodlust of the crowd that he wrote to his friend, “Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away.”
True then. True now.