For the Love of Money: Why Do We Hate Mayweather?
It’s May 6th. It’s been a solid 4-5 days since the “Fight of the Century”. I’ve given myself enough time to first mourn Pacquiao’s loss, then to deny Mayweather’s victory, then to finally accept what just one week ago I wouldn’t have believed I would admit about this fight.
I was bored.
And I’m talking about the kind of bored that makes you use italics just now because normal text can’t show enough how disappointing this fight was.
Now I’m by no means a boxing expert (my viewership depends completely on whether Pacquiao is fighting or not), but let’s start with what we know: Mayweather won this fight, he proved himself to be the better boxer, whether Pacquiao had an injured shoulder or not. Based on the pure objective of this sport, Mayweather hit his opponent and wasn’t hit back, and that, my friends, is How to Win Boxing 101.
But let’s be real, nobody wanted to see good boxing. That’s like watching the Spurs vs. Pistons in the ’05 NBA Finals and getting a hard-on for the teamwork, defense, and hustle plays. (Yeah, right.) We all wanted the two best fighters of the present time to be exactly that: fighters. Defense is highly respected, but offense is highly celebrated. Why else do people love watching the Warriors this year? (They do have an elite defense, but nobody talks much about that.) They want to see Chef Curry and/or Young Klay working a light simmer for 3 quarters only to hit full boil in the 4th with 6 straight threes, and 17 SportsCenter highlights whether they make the basket or not.
Now as a loyal Filipino, I’m all for jumping on the “Mayweather is a pussy” train, but it ignores the real problem with the backlash towards the fight.
We’re all pretending like we didn’t know Mayweather would fight exactly the way that he did.
We’ve seen it 48 times, and 48 of those times have ended in the same way, Mayweather victorious. What would really make this one, which may actually the most important one to his legacy, any different?
So, that means that it was up to Pacquiao to create the chances to get some offense brewing. From the first round, Pacman didn’t come out as the aggressive blur from wild angles that we had been so accustomed to seeing. There are a lot of possible reasons for this: the injured shoulder, Mayweather’s jab/reach, Mayweather’s hugging technique (from which spawned some of the most hilarious Vines and Instagrams I’ve seen since), Pacquiao’s recent general decline in athleticism, etc.
There’s a whole discussion to be had about the fight itself and what happened, but let’s take a step back. We can blame Pacquiao (who, to be clear, I don’t think deserves ALL of the blame), Mayweather, Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s corner, our own expectations, the marketing team for this fight, the Burger King, and Jim Buss (because lately everything bad has to somehow be this asshole’s fault).
All of my Filipino loyalties aside, why is it that Mayweather is so universally disliked as an athlete?
At this point in time, we are literally witnessing greatness (no Lebron). He is one victory from tying the great Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0, but the fight he’ll always seem to lose is the one outside of the ring with the general public.
We know the basics: the arrogance, the flaunting of his extravagant wealth, the loud mouthed trash talking, the domestic violence, etc. But for all the athletes that have passed through time, when has one this good been hated to this point of disrespect? Every athlete has their share of haters, but even the non-fan who just watched for the hype is more likely to be on Team Pacquiao.
We love Pacquiao because he seems very simple, very approachable, very genuine. He fights for the pride of his country, and we, especially Filipinos, love that. He gives massive amounts to charities and the less fortunate back home. He walks to the ring with a smile on his face, and acknowledges people as he passes. He pauses during his training to save cats from trees and help the elderly cross the street. He fights crime wearing a giant Pacman costume screaming “waka-waka” while assaulting criminals and evildoers all over town. (Wait, did I make those last few up?)
But with Mayweather? There’s something about him that people will always just root against no matter what. Most will tie it to the domestic violence, creating the same stigma that has followed Chris Brown since the Rihanna incident. For many people, talent means nothing when a person will physically assault a female.
If it’s not that, they will point at something else in the long list of Reasons Mayweather Sucks (written mostly in Tagalog). But I think it’s a little different than any one flaw. I think the main reason people root against Mayweather so heavily is that his personality just doesn’t match his fighting style.
Now this is by no means an article to persuade you, the reader, to like Mayweather. This isn’t an “aw shucks, this guy Floyd isn’t so bad, plus he’s a gosh darn heck of a boxer!” kind of piece. I just find it interesting that the best boxer of our generation just doesn’t enjoy the same kind of discipleship as someone like Jordan, Gretsky, Jeter, Brady, among others. There’s just something inherently off-putting of the guy despite his boxing prowess. For as much as how aggressively confident and provocatively loud Mayweather is outside of the ring (I mean, the guy wore a sombrero and Mexican colors to his fight with De La Hoya, which is both slightly offensive and insanely hilarious), within the ropes he is literally disappointingly calculating and defensive.
The two sides just don’t add up, and that is what creates the problem between Mayweather and the people. For a guy like Pacquiao, we see the passion and pure enjoyment in his attitude. This is a guy that genuinely enjoys what he does. He walks to the ring with a smile on his face as big as the one he carries when he leaves it (usually). But with Mayweather, we see a guy that takes this completely as what it is when inside the ring, a job. He does what it takes to win, and I can’t knock him for that, but as far as entertainment value, I’d rather watch Jordan Spieth win the Masters (a GOLF tournament) again.
And honestly, we don’t want our sports icons to treat their crafts like a job. We don’t want them to care more about reputation and earnings than pride and victory. We want to see the killer instinct, the “I’m going to beat you by taking it to you” attitude of the Kobes, the Pacquiaos, the Westbrooks, the Bradys of today, rather than the “You can’t beat me because you can’t hit me” attitude of Mayweather. As a sports fan, I want to see greatness overcome just good as a measure of desire to win. Now some can argue that this is exactly what Mayweather does, and I understand that. He plays defense and counterpunches in the right spots to be calculated and effective.
But for me personally? I’ll take the offensive showcase every time. I love the head to head battles in basketball between two prolific scorers (Bird vs. Nique, Harden vs. Durant, Curry vs. Irving, Kobe vs. the whole other team), because as they trade baskets constantly trying to one-up each other, you can literally see the desire for victory on both sides. We will always universally respect a player’s “will to win”, referencing a player’s ability to take over a game. And the most visible measure of this is through offense, the player who strings together a scoring onslaught to drag his team to the W.
Now this isn’t to discount the value of defense, because true champions play both sides. And that’s what Mayweather is, a true champion, a real winner with a flawless record. But most of the population will always hate him, because the audience will never favor the guy who does simply what is required by the rulebook to win. People don’t favor the one who uses something that is annoying yet legal (aka clinching, the boxing equivalent of the Hack-a-Shaq) to win. They love the guy/underdog who leaves the blood and sweat on the floor, the guy that leaves exhausted, battered yet victorious because he took the battle to his opponent (think Jordan flu game, Isaiah Thomas vs. the Lakers in ‘88, Benny vs. The Beast in The Sandlot). But not the guy who leaves unblemished, both physically and in record, and furthermore remind you that he is. (Think ’15 Wisconsin vs. Kentucky, ’07 Giants vs. Patriots). We like people and/or underdogs that rise to the challenge and give it their all.
Is Mayweather the greatest boxer? Of this generation, that’s likely. I respect his skill and his career, shit I’ll even admit his greatness. But let’s not pretend that we really honestly want to watch him dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge without any red balls flying in the air. (Pause?) We all like to see a person like Mayweather lose, especially from the comfort of our couches at home.
And despite his legendary status, it’s interesting to know that Mayweather could go undefeated for 52 more fights and he still wouldn’t be the People’s Champion. (Cue The Rock’s eyebrow). But he’ll just keep dodging all that hate just like every opponent’s punches over his illustrious career.