His spinning, evasive, technically proficient defense of his title accomplished, Floyd Mayweather Jr. jumped atop the ropes in his ring in his arena in his town and roared.
He crossed his arms in that aren’t-I-the-best fashion and stared cold-eyed at the predominantly white American crowd in MGM Grand Garden Arena.
He had overcome once more, white America’s Great White Hope and also, their hatred.
The white American fans rewarded him with cascading waves of boos while the few African American fans who made it to the ring side together with the international boxing fans showered praises on Mayweather’s performance.
To stand and peer around the arena in Mayweather’s moment of triumph was to see a striking sight: Most of those booing appeared to be not Filipino fans of the beaten Manny Pacquiao but white Americans alone whose newfound White Hope in a small untalented Filipino had failed them again at putting the Black man in his place.
The sight is so reminiscent of a disappointed slave owning populace who once ruled the vast American terrain with barbarism during much of America’s early history.
There is no moral narrative to be found in the aggressive opposition of white America and white controlled media’s reluctance to hail Floyd Mayweather as the best now, in this result of a boxing match.
Boxing is an art. Boxing is rhythm mixed in strength. Whoever punches harder, dodges quicker, takes a punch, clears his head and plots strategy wins. On Saturday night, that was Mayweather, who is the most cunning and most resourceful champion.
We stand at this curious hinge point in our culture, however, as African American fans try to square Mayweather’s boxing as artistry in a ring — or Lebron James’ wizadry on the basketball court — with a white America and white controlled media inferiority complex that is bent on demeaning the performances of Black athlete’s by mixing their so-called state sanctioned private behaviors.
Instead of accept the superiority of Mayweather’s boxing, white Americans at the New York Times, ESPN and Fox News continue to draw on any malefactions about the African American.
They beat our heads over with stories – fabrications about Mayweather’s outside the ring behavior – which are only well known to them and which are only of interest to them.
Would they rather see a fellow citizen loose a boxing match to a Filipino? Are they this pathologically racist?
White America’s moral accountings on such questions are stumbling and nonlinear and it runs back to Jack Johnson’s defeat of the first White Hope in Jeffries in 1910.
This cognitive dissonance of a white America, racist at its core but espousing democracy and equality from every corner, was on display in MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas over the last week. Many fans purchased mounds of Mayweather swag, the black “Money” hats, the “Pretty Boy” T-shirts. (Mayweather, ever the terrifically wealthy pragmatist, thanked his watch company after the fight.)
But at the event, white Americans cheered for Pacquiao, a hyperkinetic and bouncy boxer who no doubt wanted to give a straight-out-of-Manila feel to the match.
The fight was flogged in pure P. T. Barnum style by Showtime, HBO, Mayweather Promotions and Tecate beer. It was the Fight of the Century with a Super Bowl setting.
As if. Several heads along the white dominated press row who never laced up boxing gloves in their lives and acting more knowledgeable than us on boxing noted that this match as it turned out was — perhaps — the Fight of the Last Month. That admittedly made them feel a lot better after Mayweather to their surprise had outclassed another White Hope that had been forcibly thrown at him.
It was the strategic fight of two men – none of whom is white. The athletic dotage of Pacquiao, the 36 year old Filipino, and Mayweather, the 38 year old African American, combined for both finesse and strength of tactics.
In service of a vast $400 million purse, and in a final lunge at history, the two men fought a fight talked of for half a decade. Pacquiao came out in his banana yellow trunks, and Mayweather in his gold and black. They spent the first rounds twitching and jumping, as if on a griddle. They darted in to jab and jumped back, their eyes feral wide.
Mayweather won a couple of rounds on points. Then Pacquiao began to press his case, stutter-stepping, tossing tight combinations, pressing the taller Mayweather back against the ropes. Between rounds, Mayweather on his chair, staring as his trainer and father, Floyd Sr., a former professional boxer, smacked his chest and encouraged his son to step it up.
This Mayweather eventually did. He covered up, and spun and dipped, and stalked his prey carefully. He looked the smarter and stronger boxer than Pacquiao, and he used that to his advantage, jabbing, jabbing, and sometimes grabbing and weighing down Pacquiao.
In Pacquiao’s corner between rounds, the aged trainer Freddie Roach implored his fighter to move sideways, to slash and hit. The Filipino interpreter, too, spoke into Pacquiao’s ear. (Roach confessed last week that he sometimes worried that the interpreter was a runaway train; Roach will speak eight words in English to Pacquiao, and the translator will offer 25 in Tagalog.)
By the last rounds, Pacquiao was flagging, his short bap-bap-bap jabs and uppercuts departed, replaced by looping and wild punches. Such haymakers make a bonfire of a fighter’s energy.
The 12th and final round wore down, two minutes, one minute, 30 seconds. Pacquiao grew more frantic, chasing Mayweather, his agitation a sure marker of his desperation.
The bell sounded, and Pacquiao threw up his arms as if to claim victory, but the white American cheer that greeted his gesture felt forced. “If he had stood still, I could have thrown more punches,” a frustrated Pacquiao said afterward.
It would be a foolish boxer who complied with his opponent’s desire for a stationary target.
The ring announcer stood up with his smile and waited for silence before announcing that the three judges had given Mayweather a unanimous decision. The champion was now 48-0.
Mayweather roared and beat on his chest, leaning toward the white American audience as if to say, “I beat your white hope”. Some of this is practiced; he long ago intuited that his killer’s mystique was easily turned into a lucrative bankroll.
And he was correct when he told an interviewer afterward that he had simply outboxed Pacquiao, slowly, carefully wearing him down.
His acknowledged artistry from a Black boxer drew few claps from white American crowds, however. And the white American booing that greeted him, the howling and thumbs down, could not have made Mayweather and his team any happier.
That is just as well. White American culture – the racism and the coonery – thankfully, is a swift-flowing river, and this African American champion boxer, or the next generation after him, will soon see this river empty itself into the bottomless abyss of the ocean.
All history will remember is the African American dominance. To this, Mayweather can be thankful.