Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: An Existentialist Perspective on the Superfight



by Adam Staley Groves

I. Poetry and Boxing

Boxing is often related to poetry. The coming “superfight” could be judged by a standard derived from that.

Muhammad Ali was no doubt a lyric boxer and he remains a poet-boxer unique among poets and boxers, unmatched, unmatchable. Observation tells me most professional boxers fall short of Ali’s lyrical majesty. ‘The poet’ may well be a disposition one is born with. If that is true, that one can only be born a poet, it seems necessary to conclude that few reveal the poetic disposition Ali resounded. And in want of a standard those who are bold enough to assert they have reached that level are ethically bound to the call of their vocation.

By ‘poetic disposition’ I mean the ephemeral articulation between the poet and the boxer, what creates the figure in the combatant. I am not referring to the beautiful lyrics of Ali, though they were greater now than at the time they were uttered and why being “The Greatest,” as Ali called himself, is true when watching him fight. At least, it is true for the time being, and true for a long time to come.

The poet and the boxer: a standard contemporary boxers are hard fought to match. Mike Tyson seems to be approaching that status. Similar to Ali, Tyson represented something greater than his time. He was a boxer and perhaps poet; perhaps a poet we have not recognized. And similar to the greatest poets, Tyson studied boxing history, its philosophy and theory.

If Ali and Tyson represent the poet-boxer, and this is the highest standard of the sport, it is due to an ability to think poetically. A dispositioning unique to the boxer, is thus what urges boxing to represent a high if not the highest standard of humanity (if we really do consider it poetry).

The poet-boxer thinks disposition, the ephemeral scheme of what Fernando Pessoa calls “depersonalization.” And by thinking it, thinking between ‘the poet’ and the boxer, should the public figure be judged. They should be judged without conclusion, for in truth they exceed conclusive remarks by the public. For they can only be judged on their movement which is the exemplar majesty of their ability to think dispositioning, and that is truly remarkable, if not pleasurable, to observe force controlled by the dynamic of skill, concentration, discipline and lyric.

To think the thinking of dispositioning could mean that the Poet appears as a figure within boxers. Perhaps why athletes insist on thanking god(s), that is otherwise thanking something of themselves. I do not mean that the Poet is a god. The theistic overtone is probably a result of an ambiguity of existence unique to athletes. (And put bluntly, why we might not understand the messiah-like reference to themselves in third person.) What I mean by this existence is something generated between an oscillation of ideality and reality. What emerges is the figuration of the Poet in the boxer, what is thinking and what is thought. For they merge as a view of thought: dispositioning affords the positioning of the instantaneous, that scheme of the depersonal, the plan that cannot be given yet is a gift, and given only at that moment when its movement is about, abundant and feeding reflection, needing recognition. It is not supernatural, it is supernormal and for that reason human at its utmost expression of contingency and uncertainty.

The trainer would also have to exceed what is seen, that is, they must also have access to the essence of disposition. Boxers are superior to academes in this regard, that the body is the most perfect instrument to express knowledge (so says Goethe). This is true of students and teachers. After all knowledge makes a claim on the body, and what better way to counter that factical problem if not to learn about natural force rather than merely reflecting upon it? The boxer merges both idealist and realist modes through training and fighting. What concerns the existent (more boxer than poet) are those terms secondary to natural force: being, time, transcendence, paradox, and the relentless truth of any plan. Plans fail. For it is neither poet nor boxer, rather dispositioning itself that belies strategy. Tactics, in the failure of strategy, rely on sensing the possibility of being, the essence offered by particulars of the moment. Superior to the academe is the boxer-poet, that the body of the academe is more or less the body of an administrator, more a minister, a priest of some sort, that fatherly, or paternal figure of the trainer. A boxer is not an administrator, a boxer knows far better what it means to think in a depersonalized way.

What does it mean to think or fight in a depersonalized way, that is, by a poetic disposition between poet and boxer? It means that the boxer has to be multiple boxers, not one boxer, but many, and that is why the greatest boxers achieve the status of lyrical poet. The poetics of disposition means a constant embodiment of the instantaneous fiction of particulars found in the engagement with the other that they fight. It means the instant fiction between the poet and the boxer within the thought of the combatants, that is between feeling and technical embodiment or what emerges in the moment and movement of fighting. Tyson as well as Ali were great boxers in that their style—though in some sense one supreme style—understood the fiction of other styles in its singular expression. You would be hard pressed to call Tyson an outside fighter, and Ali a power puncher. Style is the expression between the idea of god and its importation into the world, so says Wallace Stevens, and I am apt to believe that.

II. The Superfight

How then does one judge the superfight? Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao both have a singular style. Just like Ali and Tyson, their singular style is supreme because it overcomes other fictions. Mayweather is called a defensive genius, Pacquiao a genius of angles. Pacquiao is considered to have a power advantage and Mayweather, a speed advantage.

I do not want to write too much on the technical possibilities, for that really deludes the poetic import of the event into a near dead schematic—there remains so much analysis out there, and I am not an analyst.

Pacquiao wins in two ways. First, Pacquiao represents what is good and true about humanity, he has the advantage of a cause, he fights (as he says) for the fans and for Filipinos. Living in Southeast Asia I sometimes believe I feel the significance of this, as much as I can. I am not being sympathetic, I am being honest when I say that Mayweather is a loser because he represents the necrotic mentality of bankerism. He shamelessly calls himself “Money.” True, there will probably always be, as long as there are humans, poets people like Mayweather. Yet his poetry is misanthropic, therefore it is not poetry, it is all calculation, no love, just empty numbers and analysis. Ali’s poetry was never such a thing. Ali represented something greater than his time because he thought about it. In the earlier stages of Mayweather’s career he represented something greater than his time by virtue of his gifts, and he spent that long ago in the most conspicuous way. So by poetry I mean that the gift of talent is to have the courage and character to think poetic disposition, that space between poet and boxer utterly wasted by Mayweather. Beyond the square circle he represents a dead poetry of a dying earth and merciless world, which is not poetry rather banal facticity; not life, for “Money” is “The Best Ever.”

Have I placed too much significance on Mayweather? Yes. His victory or loss on May 2nd means everything. Why? Because Pacquiao’s poetic value does not exceed the same strata of time as does Mayweather’s. Their timing of time will unfold in the ring. Pacquiao exceeds time in another time, in another time he seems to win. It would take an amazing change of the engine of representation and fate at work in the spectacle of the televised event for Mayweather to lose. All the money placed on this fight, all the nerves bound up in the heat of flatscreens is frightening to contemplate, especially in a flash, when the screen goes quiet. Yet the problem with time is that humans are essentially temporal, at least that is my understanding of a man named Martin Heidegger, who himself fell victim to his time, ecstatic so much that he was not retrospective enough when standing outside of himself, in the mode of the depersonal comes the question of care. A boxer worlds, increasingly for the superfight as a window to some type of world. Yes, I have just made Mayweather into Heidegger, but stranger things have happened. For both failed to become the poets they deserved to be, or the world deserved. One must learn to be depersonal, that the outside of the self is the eventually the interior of the self, the ideality becomes reality in the oscillation that forms the content of existence.

Yet more than what “my heart tells me” I think Pacquiao wins. And whatever time that takes place in I will look to live in it as much as possible should it not be on time, or in my time. At any rate, I think he does win by decision, or that decision I have just made. Because I decided that he would considering a comment from “Mrs. Grene” whose words that follow were taken from a favorite philosopher of mine, that to watch the superfight (already a very abstract way to participate) means to “‘attempt to grasp human nature in human terms without resorting to the superhuman or to what could be called the subhuman’.” Humans should strive to be “independent of purely scientific categories, on the one hand, and purely religious categories, on the other” that we are best to reject “excuses that materialism can give, or seems able to give” and further refute “the aid and refuge offered by supernaturalism and religion.” For there “can be no purely materialistic explanation, therefore no excuse for our responsibility; nor can there be any refuge outside this world.”

Existentialists taught us to respond and while I do realize to be materialistic and a materialist are different, they confounded in that god-like supernaturalism of the contemporary concerning money as being the best ever. It would seem Pacquiao offers the better alternative for a global, people’s champ. As odd as that seems, the scientific banality of Money meets the hot religiosity of Pac Mac’s fever. We’ll see soon enough.

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.