Maidana and “The Problem” with “Money” Mayweather
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Márquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Paradse, Nevada, September 19, 2009. Photograph by Ian McWilliams
by Adam Staley Groves
i. Run Down
On May 3rd Marcos “El Chino” Maidana (35-3) will fight Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. (45-0) to unify the WBC and WBA Welterweight titles. The event promises drama given Maidana’s December 2013 victory over Mayweather’s protégé Adrian “The Problem” Broner (27-1). Dedicated fans are right to consider redemption for “little brother” Broner suspect.[i] Mayweather’s brand depends on preserving his undefeated status an attractive fact for neophytes who perpetuate his mystique. Yet the specter of perfection matters less to the critics. Behind the spectacle two versions of Mayweather (45-0) who recently turned 37, seem closer to the truth. The first regards Mayweather as a defensive mastermind with perfect technique, a boxer who exhibits a dimension of rarely achieved. The other narrative portrays an athlete who controls far too much of his destiny outside the ring and does little to advance the sport when inside it. Tradition dictates that champions are always willing to face the best, yet Mayweather has consistently ducked—so critics allege—the most dangerous opponent that would grant him greatness, specifically Filipino phenomenon Manny Pacquiao.[ii]
If the Pacquiao fight has passed by and lost relevance over the last six years, that fact itself perpetuates a few things about Mayweather’s fights, that they have been, more often than not boring. That his incredible skill set is unduly magnified by cherry-picked competition.[iii] Though a few have come close to defeating Mayweather, the most probable was Jose Luis Castillo who arguably won their first match-up twelve years ago but lost by decision. There was “Sugar” Shane Mosely who almost knocked him out in 2010 and in turn was perversely held by Mayweather while he recovered from the blow. High hopes were stronger than hype in 2012 for Miguel Cotto, yet deflated when the Puerto Rican power puncher brutalized Money on the ropes to the delight of many but too lost by decision. That contest produced rumors of a possible Mayweather decline yet the last few years have been lucrative for Mayweather who has few problems dispensing easy competition. Especially when he schooled the handsome 23 year-old, Mexican superstar Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez. Critics called the victory a “master class” and it has only fueled the mystique of Mayweather as unstoppable among critics eager to claim who is and is not legendary.
However eager boxing’s intelligentsia Mayweather has not legitimately knocked anyone out in years save sucker punching Victor Ortiz. While it is typical for older boxers to score fewer knockouts Floyd’s tactics were present much earlier in his career. For instance against the late Arturo “Thunder” Gatti when he pulled Gatti’s head down and, as Gatti got distance and complained to the referee, Mayweather hit him in the jaw irrevocably altering the fight.[iv] Such moments are speech moments, possible political moments. And true that one must “protect themselves at all times” decency has no chance when winning is everything. And as Mayweather faces the 30 year-old Maidana the accusations about Mayweather who pushes and grabs opponents once they hurt him or get close to inflicting damage no longer matter. Maidana’s style is derelict of the fact. And if mini-money Broner came forward and paid the price against El Chino, Money Mayweather’s style is a whole other game. The two fighters are much different. Money employs evasive lateral and backward movements, he basically runs away, and if he gets trapped or decides to exchange he employs a fundamentally superior shoulder roll, that is deflecting punches by leaning back and extending the shoulder. Floyd’s movement creates a pocket in order to pummel the forward moving boxer who fills the gap. Maidana will have to chase him down, which critics think is the simply another replay of the same fight Floyd has had against most of his opponents. Yet in Maidana a relentless force is overwhelmingly obvious, and more importantly—if one is in to predictions—Maidana’s self-awareness seems properly underdeveloped for victory. That is, I get the sense El Chino is from another planet. When he was dropped from a body shot in the first round fighting speed king Amir Khan a few years back, he got up, and went on relentlessly to almost knock-out “King Khan” in the tenth, mauling him with serious uppercuts in nearly every round. Maidana seems equipped in a way no other opponent has been to face the veteran version of Mayweather, especially regarding mind games, a power Floyd has mastered. For boxing is truly a mental sport, especially when facing the mystique Mayweather has amassed.
ii. The Empty Sportsman’s Speech
This mystique Floyd did not invent, he simply represents the spirit of the times. Yet it’s not Mayweather’s ducking competition, in-and-out of the ring antics, smug comments, or net worth of $250 million he carelessly flaunts like a matter-of-fact jerk that bothers me. It’s not that TBE and TMT “the best ever” and “the money team” embroidered on hats, socks, and warm-up suits adopted by young athletes who sport this gear, kids eager to train in his gym or seeking the master’s approval. Watching Floyd paying said kids one-hundred dollars each after they spar a few rounds in his gym flaunting his brand gets pretty close to bothering me. Yet it goes beyond “Money” and “The Problem.” It’s that these men represent a penultimate phase of capitalism’s domination over human life, an emptying out the figure of the sportsman they could have been, removing from use a sportsman-like conduct vacant in banking CEO’s and politicians alike, actions that ridicule the possibility of a people’s champion. By exercising opulence and indignant antics emptiness is the mystique Mayweather as an institution embodies, something little brother sought to emulate before Maidana took him out. This mystique disregards a reality of decline for the poor, working, and middle classes. Rather than some bastardized version of the Koch Brothers, The Problem of Money reveals the decline of institutions people once invested faith in.
It’s a matter of speech and not the punch drunk sort. As it is not difficult to find Broner’s unprotected threesome or his flushing of twenty dollar bills down the toilet on the web predictable yet disturbing.[v] If you have seen “The Seventh Continent”[vi] maybe Broner is in his own way speaking authentically? In fact I think Broner exposed the flaws in the system that has perpetuated Mayweather’s mystique, something otherwise operating at lower decibels. “The Problem” tells us something about “Money” Mayweather in a magnitudinal way, in particular that phrase “About Billions” on Broner’s shorts the night Maidana beat up the clown (who previously dry-humped Maidana in the first round). If that was Maidana’s only speech act it reveals a possible end of the mystique of Mayweather, the bellwether of late capitalism, or it says much more about Argentine boxers of late that deserve high regard such as Sergio “Maravilla” (the Marvel) Martinez, as well as Lucas “La Máquina” (The Machine) Matthysse who recently fought a possible “fight of the year” with John Molina Jr. If Maidana made it clear after defeating Broner that someone needed to “stop him” he seems at best an anti-hero, and if we are hard pressed to find a savior in him, there he is. But why that guy? If it were not for the distant memory of anti-IMF (International Monetary Fund) fervor, those echoed in my hyper-progressive undergraduate experience as supposedly interesting, I would not have found Broner’s “About Billions” poetically relevant. Regarding things poetically relevant it seems boxers like Maidana share something with the likes of Siberian brawler Ruslan Provodnikov (who dines on deer hearts and raw fish during training) who knocked out Timothy Bradley twice in one fight but still managed to lose by decision. Or Russian Sergei Kovalev (who actually, accidentally killed someone in the ring before his rise to notoriety)[vii] and has been ducked by the current champion Adonis Stevenson. These fighters signal something remote, a report coming into a sequence we may not be able to decipher that echoes a departed yet relevant rhythm, something on the horizon.
Speaking in a genuine way by disrespecting money, Broner “The Problem” revealed something about “Money” Mayweather the man himself has carefully kept from view. I am trying hard to say Maidana could win hero or not, that Mayweather is a neoliberal mutant, a villain, a persona shaped by a morally inept institution flooded with money hampered by corrupt managers, commissioners, and judges. His defeat will have little to do with skills, just as unemployment is situated on that fact, just as victories are parts of events that are indifferent to the drama. It has nothing to do with these guys at all. There is, I believe, a sense of a time coming in this fight; it means more than we can fathom—which is also why I stay away from bookkeepers. It goes beyond Don King’s criminal entrepreneurship imitated to this day. It can be found in American college football that refuses to pay entertainers who pretend to be students, who risk their physical health encouraged by the cash machine of a pro career few obtain. Or Jerry Sandusky and his pervert purpose of charity, basketball team owner Don Sterling and his slaving, racist comments.[viii] It goes beyond what these mean as parts of a whole age.
iii. End of that World
Mayweather represents American decline, where the gospel of wealth’s invisible hand has written the lion’s share of fiscal policy just as Mayweather has chosen all his opposition. Mayweather’s un-sportsman-like conduct is analogous to disrespecting the Geneva Convention, in the form of Gitmo, the shady record of A-Rod and bobblehead baseball players pumped up with steroids, or the occasional neo-fascist football player and outwardly vocal fans teaming across Europe. This same unsportsman-like conduct maybe found in militants trying to overtake captured government buildings in Eastern Ukraine. We have begun to see Russia’s so called impenetrable defense.
Mayweather’s entire fighting style is ripe to punish the eager and aggressive boxer (or college graduate) who has to come to him for a lucrative contract or a job. After deflecting punches and slipping away, some say running, he chews his opponents up punch by punch, payment by payment. If you fail to see this same sense of spectacle in MMA it may be have much more to do with the broader, lawless reality of the sportsmen’s reality today, or moreover the plurality implicit in its combative style. More, if boxing used to be about working class wonders like Julio Caesar Chavez, MMA seems to be about the end of civilization, a hyper-reality bar fight. An aspect of MMA phenomenon may be found in the example of Bernard Hopkins, who is 49 years old and seeking to unify three Light Heavyweight titles. Recently he defeated Beibut Shumenov, soundly, he even knocked down the much younger champion in the tenth, quite impressive. So what’s his deal? I think it’s more toward what Franco Berardi called, when remarking of Silvio Berlusconi—in a very polemical and hilarious way—energolateia, or the worship of energy. More on Bernard “the Alien” Hopkins another day, for this interesting transhuman fact has found a stage in boxing.
There’s something about Maidana that, for whatever reason, does not care about the fact of Mayweather, that abides by something else, that promises to crack the façade. This fight will hopefully show that boxing and brutality makes humanity abundantly vivid in its supposed inhuman praxis. A paradox not yet lost to us today, boxing still reveals variations of speaking and saying, degrees of language expressed by bodies at battle. Boxers reveal humanity to humans, they are figures who find themselves in the “square-circle” who demonstrate a strength of character required to overcome adversity. Whether boxers represent social mobility or good versus evil, it is the spectator who is required to recognize something brilliant and dramatic about human conflict. A once sportsmen-like-conduct is all Mayweather has to say, that it has or had not come to an end. That the empty suit in this case was also empty shorts, dodging work in the ring. Regardless of the outcome one thing is sure Mayweather will never be the “people’s champion.”
About the Author:
Adam Staley Groves is a postdoctoral fellow with Tembusu College, National University of Singapore where he currently teaches the Humanities of Climate Change and Biomedicine. Adam holds MA and PhD degrees from the European Graduate School, and is pursuing a second PhD with the Centre for Modern Thought at the University of Aberdeen. His research engages poetry and technology. Co-editor and contributor with the online journal continent., Adam’s investigation of politics seeks the dignity and nature of human imagination to confront our technological age.