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Floyd Mayweather Jr is an undefeated boxer who could arguably be considered the greatest fighter of his generation. He is a champion many times over, a success story many surely wish to emulate.
His status as the greatest – though still to be fully cemented in stone should he win his bout against Filipino pugilist Manny Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas – is something he scratched and clawed for to attain over the course of a 19-year professional career.
His success makes him easy to look up to. Hopeful kids from around the world probably spend hours dreaming of the day they’ll become like their idol Mayweather.
Young boys and girls see Mayweather as a hero, and that was all I could think of through 9:34 minutes of watching ESPN’s Outside The Lines episode on Mayweather’s history of domestic violence.
The short documentary recalls the times Mayweather allegedly battered women in the past and how the boxing industry, the media – and as a result the public – basically let Mayweather off the hook without much criticism.
That’s when I saw a huge red flag.
Of the at least 7 times the 38-year old boxer was accused of allegedly assaulting 5 different women, he was only truly punished once.
Mayweather could have gotten a 34-year sentence, per Mike Gallego of Deadspin.com, for battering Josie Harris, the mother of 3 of his 4 children, in front of them in 2010. Instead he got 90 days of jail time but was let out after just two months due to “good behavior.” He was never suspended, nor his boxing license revoked.
“To suggest somehow that we should have second-guessed that punishment, I don’t think that that’s the role the Nevada State Athletic Commission should be in,” said Pat Lundvall of the Nevada Commission. She was one of 5 commissioners that voted unanimously to grant Mayweather a license to fight Miguel Cotto before he served his time in 2012.
Mayweather was allowed to delay his sentence to give way to the fight. Aside from time in prison, Mayweather was also ordered to 100 hours of community service and to complete a 12-month domestic violence program. He was also made to pay a fine of $2,500.
“Do I think that domestic violence is a very serious issue? Absolutely,” Lundvall said in the same Outside The Lines episode. “Mr. Mayweather was punished by the criminal justice system. He served his punishment. He paid his debt to society.”
SB Nation’s Tyler Tynes explains that particular circumstance quite simply: “In a dying sport that only has, potentially, 10 noticeable stars depending on the demographic, Vegas can’t afford to punish its biggest draws.”
If Vegas cannot punish its top dogs, it enforces the law on other boxers. For perspective, the commission, who can revoke a fighter’s license for anything upward of a traffic violation, suspended and revoked the license of two other boxers at around the same time for testing positive for marijuana, according to Deadspin.
“I disagree with your characterization strongly,” Lundvall told John Barr of Outside The Lines. “The criminal justice system had decided what this man’s punishment was. A judge made that decision and we paid respect to that decision.”
I thought of the message that sent to the young boxers training in dingy gyms for the night they’ll sell out the MGM Grand. More importantly, I thought of those same young boxers who would retire to their hotel rooms after that sellout night, and how they would treat the lady doing housekeeping or their girlfriends or wives.
“He may have a boxing license. He does not have a license to hurt women,” Gloria Allred said on Outside The Lines. Allred was the lawyer of Mayweather’s former fiancée Shantel Jackson, who also sued Mayweather for allegedly physically abusing her. “He doesn’t get a pass, he doesn’t get an exception because he’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.”
Think about Ray Rice and how he paid the price for punching his wife in an elevator. He was terminated from his team the Baltimore Ravens and was suspended indefinitely by the National Football League or NFL. His suspension was overturned and now, despite his superstar status in the NFL, it’s likely he will be forever known as the player who hit his wife.
Think about Chris Brown, too, whose musical career took a huge hit after his infamous assault on ex-girlfriend and fellow artist Rihanna back in 2009. He, too, was criticized for the minimal punishment he received after leaving his then-girlfriend Rihanna’s face barely recognizable.
Brown was sentenced to 6 months of jail time or community service, 5 years of formal probation and domestic violence counseling. But if the court did not punish him severely enough, the incident left a lasting effect on his life over the past years since. His reputation is all but tarnished, with his name being top of mind in discussions of domestic violence.
Unlike Brown, Mayweather does not suffer from the same stigma. Against the facade of his unbeaten record, his contributions to boxing, and the upcoming marquee fight of his life, so few remember Mayweather’s unacceptable actions outside the ring.
Why should anyone care, some would say, it’s all in the past, right? Others would argue, why is this topic even relevant heading into a bout with Pacquiao?
Simply put, you should care because nobody – male, female, young or old – deserves to be abused. And nobody, not even one considered the greatest boxer in the world, should get a free pass for assaulting someone.
According to a 2010 report by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and as summarized by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence organization, “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US.” That translates to roughly 10 million men and women.
A 2011 CDC report also states 4,774,000 women in the US suffer physical violence from an intimate partner each year.
Safe Horizon, a victims’ services agency helping those affected by crime and abuse, says 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Abuse is always relevant, wherever you go. Its cause is rooted deep into human nature as a result of generations of hard-wired beliefs and traditions.
This issue takes even heavier weight because Mayweather is a public figure. He has a social responsibility to set the example, especially since he’s living in an era of transition from closed and fixed perspectives to more open beliefs. More than that, he has vast and powerful influence on many cultures. How he acts dictates what kind of influence, good or bad, he will relay to others.
It is having so much power at the touch of his finger tips and using that power for good. If he can make successful businesses from the ground up with just his influence, and get the world to stop turning on one night inside the ring, think about the kind of change he can spawn from simply voicing his opinion.
Unfortunately, Mayweather is already known far and wide for something else: his “Money” persona.
“When it comes to females… even though you can’t drive 10 cars at one time, but.. you got people that got 10 cars. So, you’re able to keep maintenance up on 10 cars. So, I feel that, as far as when it comes to females, that same thing should apply. If you’re able to take care of 20, then you should have 20,” Mayweather said in his documentary film called 30 Days in May.
This is how the pound-for-pound king views women. This is the basis for how a worldwide boxing phenomenon treats women. Yet he has two daughters. One of whom speaks so highly of him.
“We hang out a lot, we play around. My dad is my best friend,” one of Mayweather’s daughters said in a video posted on his Facebook account in the lead-up to this week’s mega-fight.
Mayweather, according to his former alleged victim Harris, believes his wealth, his cars, and his possessions are all symbols of his success and his achievements.
To own a fleet of cars makes him feel accomplished. To have his women live in properties he owns makes him feel in control. To have all the money in the world to spend on his every whim is, for him, proof of his greatness — more than his boxing belts.
“That is the reward. He prides himself off that more than the belts,” Harris said in a story on Yahoo. “He loves that he can hop on a private jet or buy any watch or buy any ring.”
It comes as no doubt, therefore, that Mayweather has constantly denied abuse allegations against him, ironically employing his same brand of in-ring evasive tactics.
“I say I want everybody to tune in May 2nd, Mayweather versus Pacquiao, this is a fight that you can’t miss,” he dodged Barr’s question about his troubled past on Outside The Lines.
Asked if he had no desire to comment on the issue, Mayweather answered: “I’m blessed to be where I’m at. I have 4 beautiful children. I’m truly, truly blessed to be where I am today and with hard work and dedication, you can be anywhere in life.”
He added before walking away: “When it’s all said and done, only God can judge you. But I don’t want people to miss this fight. This is an unbelievable match-up, Mayweather-Pacquiao. May 2nd. Be there.”
According to Deadspin, Mayweather never even told his side of the story in his infamous case against Harris, where the woman claimed she was hit multiple times on the back of the head resulting in contusions and a concussion. One of her and Mayweather sons managed to call the police before it got worse.
“If I really did what they said I did as far as beating a woman, assaulting a woman, I’m Floyd Mayweather. They would have brought pictures out, instantly. Still no pictures, no nothing,” Mayweather denied the allegations, as seen on Outside The Lines.
Mayweather is stubborn and he is proud. He can’t be forced to change his way of thinking if he has proven it works. And his denial did the job.
His convictions, which caused him to be denied an Australian visa earlier this year, have not haunted him the way it did other public figures. All of the negativity threatening his name and his brand is buried beneath a legendary boxing career, piles of free-flowing cash, a thick layer of self-confidence and the elaborate trappings of a shiny, bright and ideal life.
It’s almost unfair if you really look at it.
But this, after all, is the same man who had no qualms declaring he is better than even Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson. It’s not enough to be the greatest in his generation, Mayweather considers himself the greatest of any generation.
“No one can ever brainwash me to make me believe that Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali was better than me. No one could ever brainwash me and tell me that,” Mayweather told ESPN sportscaster Stephen A. Smith.
It’s that mentality that makes it nearly impossible to pull him out of his own elaborate world and, consequently, change how he perceives women. He even had something to say about how women should dress.
Mayweather may live and thrive in the boxing world, but he’s not confined to that niche anymore. He has long broken through the barrier and taken on the world. Children admire him, and he has to take responsibility, if just to set the record straight. Tell the truth and own up to it.
We can’t know for sure what goes on behind closed doors and in the darkest parts of Mayweather’s mind. We don’t know for sure what’s true and what’s a lie, but one thing is certain: As a global sports icon, whose influence transcends social and cultural borders, he has to be someone worth looking up to.
It may not be a conscious choice on his part and he may or may not care about putting up appearances or portraying a squeaky clean facade to inspire the youth, but admit it or not, it’s already part of what he signed up for.
Certainly there is a huge difference between Mayweather the boxer and Mayweather the man. His legacy in the sport is all but secure, regardless of what happens this weekend. And, I daresay, it will remain intact regardless of his exploits outside the ring.
But there is something to be said and something to be questioned about his true greatness as a person and the memory he will leave behind.
For most of the world, he will be remembered as the legend who changed boxing forever. But for the women he allegedly hurt, the mother of his children, and the few who can set truth from lie, his name will barely be uttered. His memory will be one they won’t want to rekindle.
If Mayweather does not care about using his power and influence to affect real, significant change, then at the very least, he should consider what kind of legacy he wants to leave behind as a person. Because that, regardless of how much history he writes as a boxer, is what will matter in the end. – Rappler.com