Television and the Decline of the Sweet Science

Floyd Mayweather once complained that boxing commentators, except for the boxers among them, are biased against black fighters. The disrespect shown Mayweather by some sports writers when he finally met Manny Pacquiao on May 2, 2015 is proof of his assertion. Fight moderator, James Brown, who hosted the fight for Showtime/HBO, was right when he condemned the description of the fight as one between good and evil, a description proposed by Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer.

Mayweather was cast as evil because of charges of domestic violence, for which he served time, but Brown pointed out that Pacquiao was hardly the Saint portrayed by the media; the Huffington Post has also charged him with reactionary politics while serving as a congressman–that is when he showed up for work.

The Post reported on Pacquiao’s antifeminist, antigay views on the day before the fight, views that weren’t covered by Melissa HarrisPerry during her and David Zirin’s fight day rant against Mayweather. Zirin is one of these guys who has become a volunteer black feminist, joining in on the bashing of black men, but ignoring the abuse of women who belong to his ethnic group, in this case the abuse of many Jewish women in American households and Israel.(He is also silent about the embrace by MSNBC’s catholic clique of Cardinal Dolan, who has been accused of shielding priests accused of pedophilia.) This abuse has been documented by Jewish feminists. Even Gloria Steinem, whose accusations against black men are often vitriolic, has covered up this kind of misogyny. She told The New York Times that she’s embarrassed when a person of her background is caught in a scandal, yet she rages, bitterly, against the living black male writers and the dead ones like Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes. She and Henry Louis Gates, 1 Jr., who has been

disgraced, handle black male writers becoming pariahs in the marketplace.2Though Gates cast me and other black writers as misogynists, the hacking of emails belonging to the Sony Corporation revealed that he begged Sony’s CEO Michael Lynton to give an award to his friend Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual harassment by an Italian model.3

But even if Zirin decided to discuss misogyny in the Jewish community, Mrs. HarrisPerry’s white feminist producers, who feed her the lines that single out black men for crimes against women, wouldn’t go for it, nor would their boss, Brian
completealiRoberts, who supports Stand Your Ground and Voter Suppression. The two, Zirin and Melissa HarrisPerry, concentrated on Mayweather, even though public figures who, like Pacquiao, hold such views about birth control and gays, are called out each week by Mrs. HarrisPerry. He opposed a bill that would increase the government funding for contraception and family planning services, according to

USA Today in 2011. The boxer is also adamantly against abortion, which is illegal in the Philippine Constitution. “God said, ‘Go out and multiply.’ He did not say, just have two or three kids,” Pacquiao said. He also believes “It’s sinful to use condoms and commit abortion.”

During a 2013 interview with the National Conservative Examiner, Pacquiao discussed President Obama’s support of marriage equality. Pacquiao was quoted as saying, “God’s words first… obey God’s law first before considering the laws of man. God only expects man and woman to be together and to be legally married, only if they so are in love with each other. It should not be of the same sex so as to adulterate the altar of matrimony, like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah…”

David Zirin called Mayweather a coward on the same show. He has every right to criticize Mayweather and ignore the offenses committed against women by men belonging to his background, but as far as I know Michael Jordan and Pele aren’t abusers. He has an itch in his groin about them, too.

The campaign to demonize Mayweather worked. Before the fight, a public poll revealed that over sixty percent of the public was for a Pacquiao win while only a little over thirty percent supported a Mayweather victory. On the same day, CNN commentator Sam Cornish brought on Larry Merchant, who he called “The greatest TV boxing analyst of all times.” He referred to the love that Merchant received when he told Mayweather that if he were “fifty years younger he would kick Mayweather’s ass.” This was after Merchant goaded Mayweather with a nasty remark about his for once being as “exciting in the ring as outside the ring,” referring to his alleged domestic abuse charges. He said this after Mayweather had knocked out Victor Cruz, which those sports writers, who don’t know anything about boxing, dismissed as an illegitimate knockout. Mayweather said that Merchant wasn’t “shit” and that he didn’t know anything about boxing, a sentiment with which two-time Heavyweight

Champion George Foreman and Gene Kilroy, Muhammad Ali’s former business manager, would agree. Maybe, because he was seeking a lucrative contract from Showtime, Mayweather apologized to Merchant, but in my mind no apology was necessary.

Only after Oscar De La Hoya tried to remove Larry Merchant as a boxing analyst did Merchant apologize. This apology came after he insulted Mexican culture. This insult was reported by Roberto Rodriguez and Patrisia Gonzales on their site Latino Spectrum, on April 25,1997. “This sucks!” They quoted him as saying.

“As the mariachis began to play a song. Larry Merchant, one of the announcers for the televised Oscar De La Hoya/Pernell Whitaker boxing match, couldn’t have expressed his disgust more vehemently. You’d think cockroaches had just crawled onto his feast. While another announcer reminded the audience that De La Hoya was indeed an American, Merchant bitterly complained that having mariachis play before the fight was a marketing ploy to get “Mexican fans—not Mexican Americans—but Mexican fans to support De La Hoya.”

“This sucks!,” Merchant exclaimed, with an unadulterated hatred rarely heard on a nationally broadcast sporting event. We wondered what gave Merchant, TVKO boxing analyst, the right to insult millions of fans in public?” It tells you something about those who control boxing that Larry Merchant is a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame and Eddie Machen, who gave Sonny Liston all that he could handle, isn’t. These must be the same middle-aged guys who judge the Grammys and the Oscars.

During the interview conducted on the day of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, Merchant said that Mayweather was “the best pure boxer of his time,” but added a dig. He said that Mayweather would “rather watch a dramatic fight than to be in it.” This is one of the strange comments about a black boxer from one of those sports writers who, like those in the past, lost their minds over Jack Johnson’s “Golden Smile.” Rather watch a dramatic fight than to be in one? His opponents have hit Mayweather with power shots that would have knocked out boxers with lesser skills. That was the case in this fight when one sports writer said that the hardest punch in the fight was thrown by Pacquiao.

ESPN’s Michelle Beadle was brought on Jim Lampley’s show “The Fight Game” to criticize the fight. All she did was parrot her patriarchal bosses. She called the fight lot of hype. She, like the Bloomberg feminist Kavitha Davidson, didn’t attend the fight. 

Cage Fighting or the “Sweet Science”?

Well, the late great trainer, Emmanuel Steward, whom I interviewed for my book on Ali, would call Mayweather the winner because he threw more punches. Mayweather landed 67 of 267 jabs, to Pacquiao’s 18 of 193; he landed 81 of 168 power punches to Pacquiao’s 65 of 236; he landed 148 punches of 435 thrown, to Pacquiao’s 81 of 429.

Mayweather survived Pacquiao’s 81 blows to exhibit an artistry that is rare in these days when boxers are encouraged by TV commentators to fight in wild flurries, like the brain damaged and defense challenged James Kirkland, hoping that one lucky shot would defeat an opponent. Mayweather escaped the less-skilled boxer’s attempts to trap him on the ropes and kept him at bay by drilling him with jabs. That kind of fight might not make good television but, for boxing aficionados like me it suffices. The boxing that television producers and their commentators seem to desire is covered by cage fighting. In fact, Dana White of UFC came on to castigate both Mayweather and PacMan for a dull fight. Maybe it wasn’t homicidal enough using the standards of UFC?

One of the most disappointing comments came from Teddy Atlas, who, except for the boxers, is the best of the fight commentators. He said that the fans deserved more because they paid one hundred dollars per ticket. More of what? Of course, Atlas had picked Pacquiao to win, just as he predicted that Canelo Alvarez would defeat Mayweather. He lost.

So after Mayweather beat Pacquiao, they criticized the way he won. One sportswriter called Mayweather a coward for the way he fought. The most hypocritical comment about the fight came from feminist sports writer Kavitha Davidson of Bloomberg. She’s brought on by the wealthy white men who own NBC to diss the brothers. Even though she didn’t watch the fight, she was there to criticize Floyd Mayweather’s domestic violence record. She works for Michael Bloomberg, who, when mayor supported Stop and Frisk. Black and Hispanic women complained that the police used “Stop-and-Frisk” as an excuse to molest them sexually. If she addressed former Mayor Bloomberg’s allowing his police to assault black and Hispanic women, sexually, she’d be fired.

The Times account of the fight written by Michael Powell was vicious, hateful and bizarre. It was titled “Mayweather Wins, Preens and is Booed.” Like the Bloomberg feminist, he couldn’t help dragging other black athletes into his copy. They were: Ray Rice a domestic violence perp, and Adrian Peterson, who was accused of harsh punishment of his child. (When a black mother punched out her child before live television during the Baltimore riots, the same accusers of Peterson hailed her as the mother of the year.) I can’t wait to see an article about Tom Brady’s cheating with deflated footballs in which Lance Armstrong is cited. Powell even called Mayweather, “Darth Vader.” He ended his rant with a crazy, bizarre paragraph. As if to wish harm upon the boxer he wrote, “Our culture, thankfully, is a swift flowing river, and this champion boxer and abuser is in danger of getting swept over its rapids.”

Unlike the sports writers who were disappointed that PacMan didn’t knock out this “preening” braggart, those who have spent some time in the ring, ex-champions Bernard Hopkins, Lennox Lewis and Paul Malignaggi gave Mayweather his props. Hopkins called him one of the “top fifteen fighters of all time.” Malignaggi said that Mayweather won because he “controlled the range.” As for Pacquiao’s claim that he won the fight, Malignaggi called him “a poor loser.” Their opinion was overruled by Lampley’s guest, Max Kellerman, a boxing commentator who said that the fight was “a minus.” The following Saturday, former champion Roy Jones, Jr. agreed with the boxers and gave a point-by-point analysis of Mayweather’s skills.

“If you can’t catch it, you can’t hit it.”

Hopkins and many other fighters believe that the goal of boxing is to hit and not be hit. This strategy accounts for Hopkins’s lengthy career. As Lennox Lewis said, speaking in admiration of Mayweather’s strategy, “If you can’t catch it, you can’t hit it.” Is Mayweather the first fighter to be accused of “running,” a charge made against him by a sore loser, Pacquiao.

Experiencing burning eyes at the end of the fourth round in his first fight with Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali wanted Angelo Dundee to stop the fight. Was Angelo Dundee wrong when he told Ali “to get out there and run?” Sonny Liston claimed that Ali ran in their first fight.

Marvin Hagler accused Sugar Ray Leonard of running during their fight. And Henry Armstrong accused Sugar Ray Robinson of running. The sportswriters who criticize Mayweather’s tactics admire most of these fighters, and so there must be another reason for their venomous comments about Mayweather.Domestic violence? A number of fighters from Jake Lamotta to Sugar Ray Leonard have been accused of domestic violence. Both are in the Boxing Hall of Fame. Domestic violence is at terrible crime but often women can give as well as take. It’s black males, among all American ethnic groups, who are most likely to be killed by a woman.

The typical perpetrator of violence against children is also a woman. In 2012, the majority of those who committed violence against children were women!4

One of those wealthy white men who uses their influence in the media or assign surrogates to single out black men for crimes against women is Jim Lampley. He was one of the fight’s commentators, even though he nurses a grudge against Mayweather. He can be accused of hypocrisy. He has complained about how “Mayweather’s history of allegations of domestic violence is hurting the sport, and boxing will be better off after his departure.” The irony is Lampley himself has faced allegations of domestic violence. According to an article by ABC 10 news published on Jan. 5, 2007, his fiancé at the time Candice Saunders reported, “Jim seldom drinks, but this evening he was drinking vodka and whiskey and became drunk. He

was also high on pot. Jim pulled me from the sofa I was on, but I wanted to finish the movie before going to bed. Jim began to yell at me and chased me around the apartment. He grabbed me and threw me against a wall. He then threw me against another wall. He then threw me against the door and I collapsed.”5

Because of television and sports commentators, who know as much about boxing as many jazz critics have a knowledge of jazz, boxing is at its crossroads. Will it continue to make room for those boxers like Mayweather, who practice “the sweet science,” or will it become a kind of human cock fight?

I agree with Maxboxing commentator Allan Scotto’s summary of the fight: “For some, it has almost become an obsession to wait and pray for the man to come and beat Floyd Mayweather.” He wrote. Then he listed all of the fighters who were supposed to have beaten Mayweather but failed: Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti and Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Marcos Rene Maidana. But, he adds, “After five years, Mayweather and Pacquiao agreed to terms and the super fight was made. As is the case with most of Floyd’s fights, the ending is shrouded in controversy. Floyd ran too much, Floyd didn’t engage, Manny hurt his shoulder, etc. etc., ad nauseam.”

“The truth is that Mayweather boxed Pacquiao’s socks off.” 6

Ismael Reed’s latest book is The Complete Muhammad Ali, from which this essay is excerpted.


1 Steinem, Gloria, “ Do You Know This Woman. She Knows You.”Ms.” June,1982

2 Gates,Jr.,Henry Louis, Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women 18601960, Mary Helen Washington October 4,1987 NY TIMES





5 Lopez, James, Lampley Calling The Kettle Black in Mayweather Criticism, ThaBoxing Voice Sept.17,2014

6 Scotto, Alan. “Were You Not Entertained.” Maxboxing, May 4,2015


Ishmael Reed’s latest play is “The Conductor.”