Popcorn and beers around the world, then, for Saturday night-Sunday morning's staggeringly hyped boxing match in Las Vegas, as the fight game plays perhaps its last trump card in finally pairing Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in the ring.
The noise surrounding this sports event has been so insistent that it has helped to at least partially drown out the voices expressing unease and/or disgust at Mayweather’s history of physical violence against women which has followed him through his dauntless and charmless ascent to pinnacle of world boxing.
The moral conflict presented by Mayweather was outlined by Dave Hannigan in these pages earlier in the week, who outlined the few notable – if generally ignored – calls for a boycott of the fight.
And the attempt to separate Mayweather the human being from the fighter was explored by Louisa Thomas in a lengthy and immensely power essay on Grantland. com, which moved between Mayweather's precise, beautiful, controlled manner inside the ring and his unconscionable treatment of women outside of it, with seven accusations of assault brought by five different women and leading to two guilty pleas of battery.
Just three years have passed since Mayweather served out the prison term handed down for a thuggish assault on his former girlfriend – and mother of three of his children. For the crime of daring to have a boyfriend.
The hyper interest in this fight has overshadowed all the other major sports events in America this week. The aspirations of LeBron James and Clevelanders in general of bringing a first NBA title to the city may have gone into a tailspin after Kevin Love, their gargantuan centre, popped his shoulder during a fractious series with the Boston Celtics.
The most eye-catching event was the one that nobody saw: the Tuesday baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles played behind closed doors at Camden Yards in response to the rioting prompted by the death on April 19th of yet another African-American, Freddie Grey, while in police custody, the latest flashpoint in the crisis relationship between African-American males and the police authorities.
In 2009, when Mayweather returned from an almost two-year absence from boxing by summarily toying with and then defeating Juan Manuel Márquez in the MGM Grand, he made the point of noting: “If Floyd Mayweather was white, he’d be the biggest athlete in America.” He went on to put his views of race in stark perspective, peppering his observations with the n-word and concluding that he would always be outside the comprehension of the media and many fight fans: “At the end of the day, they still look at me as a n*****r.”
It was confrontational and uncomfortable for those present and it led the late George Kimball, commenting in this newspaper, to agree that Mayweather was never going to be universally loved. "But boxing fans don't dislike him because he is an African-American," he corrected. "They dislike him because he's an asshole."
Almost six seasons on, Mayweather is still unbeaten and as the spotlight falls on the canvas in Vegas he can say that for this week at least, he is the biggest athlete in America. His uncanny knack for survival and reinvention and that unerring cultivation of that 48-0 record has left him bulletproof.
The relative rarity with which Mayweather boxes has enhanced his public appeal and the inexhaustible will-they-ever-fight storyline in which he engaged Pacquiao for so long has led to the clamorous excitement for this weekend’s bout – and to the inevitable tagline of the fight of the century.
You only have to look at the films of Mayweather skipping rope – let alone boxing opponents – to get a glimpse of the overwhelming combination of speed and smoothness and dexterity and foot work and power which he has used to blunt the best intentions of opponent after opponent. You can easily see why he holds such a magnetic appeal for so many sports fans across the globe that will be paying out and staying up to watch him fight tonight.
In the Philippines, where Pacquiao is a walking god and an elected congressman (the rarest of combination punches), governmental agencies are using this weekend’s fight to try to bring attention to the epidemic of domestic violence committed by men on women: an NSO survey carried out found that one in every five women aged between 15-49 were victims of either domestic or intimate relationship assault.
There may or may not be substance in the assertions of trainer Freddy Roach that Pacquiao will be motivated by his loathing of the idea of domestic violence when he attempts to leave Mayweather knowing what it is like to be beaten for the first time.
Exchange of blows
But any suggestion that tonight’s exchange of blows will offer some kind of retort – or worse, vengeance – to the acts of violence which Mayweather has inflicted on women down the years is just wrong.
Even if Mayweather is humiliated by Pacquiao this evening, it won’t be any kind of victory or atonement. Tonight’s engagement is a sports contest, governed by rules, making its participants vastly wealthier that they are right now; a boxing fight between two males of equal weight and physique. It doesn’t really matter what happens in the ring.
What does matter is that Mayweather has survived as a consummate boxer and boxing showman despite evidently possessing a shamefully cowardly and despicable streak within. Behind the dazzling footwork and the sleek presentation and the unblemished record of career wins which has already ensured his place in boxing history, there exists a very bleak and small-spirited man.
So to watch, to not watch, to root for Pacquiao or to still be dazzled by Mayweather . . . it doesn’t matter. Mayweather had everything: the brilliant athleticism and boxing brain and smarts. He could have invented himself whatever way he wanted. There is a sense no matter what happens in Vegas in front of the cameras, Mayweather’s history of violence is going to be as much a part of his story as his skill as a boxer.
So it doesn’t matter how many more fights he wins: Pretty Boy Floyd beat himself the first time he struck out at a woman.