Hero or Villian?
We are now several weeks removed from his latest fight but my circle of friends is still engaged in vigorous discussion of whether or not boxing champion Floyd Mayweather is the greatest fighter of all time. What should not be arguable is that he is the biggest draw in professional boxing right now. Given the purses that he commands every time that he steps into the ring, he has a fair claim to being the biggest draw in all of entertainment. Like many before him, he has carved out this public success despite a well-documented history of domestic violence for which he has even served jail time. This is not surprising, as America has never required its icons to be exemplars of non-violent and egalitarian relationship building. Suspected and even confirmed personal lives as rapists, abusers, and womanizers have never prevented America from showering money and praise on its idols.
One could assume that Mayweather’s success is in spite of suspected transgressions against women – that Americans are inundated with allegations of intimate violence and simply don’t react to them one way or another. However, it’s certainly possible that Mayweather’s success is actually boosted to some degree by his violent persona.
Mayweather himself forces us to consider this when he does such things as relentlessly harassing an opponent’s wife at ringside (see here). Given that the man already has a criminal conviction for domestic abuse from which he should be trying to distance himself, I have to assume that this move either indicates that Mayweather has an extreme lack of impulse control or that, being the master self-promoter that he is, he understands how to cash in on America’s collective apathy for violence against women.
If this is indeed an intentional play to increase his notoriety (and his earnings by extension), then I wonder if he does these things to position himself as the protagonist who ingratiates himself to audiences by appealing to everyman fondness for the subjugation of women; or if he is positioning himself as a must-watch villain by reveling in acts that Americans deplore. This expert marketer probably has a better understanding of the collective climate towards violence against women than do many sociology professors. The man has made himself must-see TV for a lot of Americans. He clearly appeals to something in our consciousness and I refuse to believe that his base consists largely of boxing purists who tune in to see his technical expertise. If you cannot muster the strength to turn off the television when Mayweather entertains by harassing women, perhaps you can still recognize your ability to determine if his out-of-ring antics cast this icon as a villain or as a lovable everyman.