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Imagine for a moment you are Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather.
Imagine waking up in a house the size of your average-sized shopping mall every morning, surrounded by luxury. Imagine you have a closet containing more designer clothes, shoes, and accessories than a Macy’s department store. Imagine that two of the most difficult decisions you have to make on a daily basis are which out of the million dollar, diamond encrusted watch collection should you wear, and which of the fleet of luxury vehicles should you drive.
Then imagine you only have to pick up the phone to have anything you might need, want, or desire at any given moment, day or night, catered to. Imagine all your ‘friends’ are bought and paid for – laughing and smiling on command, willing to be the butt of your jokes and antics – no matter how distasteful or vulgar. Imagine you and you alone dictate how you spent every minute of every day without having to consult with anyone. Not only that, imagine you dictate how everyone around you spent every minute of every day; dictating when they eat, shit, party, sleep; their entire existence dependent on keeping you happy, satisfied, entertained, and amused. Finally, imagine not ever being able to know for sure if the people in your life who tell you they love you actually do love you or if it’s your success and your money they love.
This is the nightmarish existence of Floyd Mayweather, pound for pound best boxer in the world and undoubted all time great, as he approaches his 45th professional fight looking to maintain an unbeaten record which confirms that in boxing terms he’s playing chess while everybody else is playing chequers.
The glimpse into his life afforded first by HBO’s 24/7 documentary series and now Showtime’s All Access equivalent reveals a man whose life has been ruined by obscene wealth, excess, and the distorted worldview and self aggrandisement it has engendered. Basing his identity solely on his status as the king of a sport from which he’s amassed the kind of fortune which makes a more convincing case for communism than Karl Marx ever could, you can’t help but feel sorry for Floyd Mayweather. The product of a dysfunctional upbringing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, rather than being liberated from the emotional and psychological damage wrought as a consequence, his inordinate success in the ring looks to have exacerbated it.
As we follow him surrounded by flunkies and sycophants wherever he goes in the lead-up to the fight on Saturday, courtesy of Showtime, we are given a guided tour into the ugly face of the American dream, wherein happiness, respect, validation, and self worth are the products of material wealth and the ability to buy anything you want when you want it.
The cars, the clothes, the private jets, the women, the fame – this is the source of America’s enduring promise and the cancer eating away at its very soul.
In the ring Floyd Mayweather is a joy to watch. He brings the kind of artistry to his craft that reminds us why boxing transcends every other sport in the combination of skill, courage, resilience, speed, agility, balance, timing, and endurance it embodies. Outside the ring he reminds us of the degeneration of the struggle of black people in America against racism, poverty, and inequality. Consider when Muhammad Ali was in his pomp and stood against the entire sporting and political establishment on a point of principal, willing to sacrifice not only his career and money but his very liberty in the process. Consider how he used the platform of his status as the heavyweight champion of the world to speak out against injustice, against the war in Vietnam. Look at the way black athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith used the medals ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Olympics to make a stand for their people with a clenched fist salute which still today inspires hope and defiance in the face of injustice and poverty. The gesture ensured that their careers as athletes were over, but what they gained was far greater and much more enduring.
Can anyone imagine Floyd Mayweather putting himself, his wealth and fame, on the line for a cause greater than himself? Did he speak out against the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman recently for example? On which issue has he ever raised his head above the parapet in the knowledge that his fame has given him the platform from which he can make a difference.
You may argue that he isn’t obliged to, and you’d be right. But who could argue that Ali’s greatness was and remains bound up with his willingness to stand for something more than the size of his bank account or the cars in his garage?
This coming Saturday Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather will again take centre stage in Vegas, earning himself tens of millions of dollars as he puts his unbeaten record on the line against Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. As a spectacle and as a sporting occasion the excitement generated by the fight will be phenomenal, as every Mayweather fight is. But make no mistake: we are talking about a man whose life is so divorced from reality that the boxing ring is the only place he experiences anything approaching purity and honesty in his life.
Rather than an example of the rewards which hard work and dedication can bring, the life of Floyd Mayweather speaks to the truth that making a huge amount of money and being rich are two different things.
John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1