No, Conor McGregor Did Not Make Floyd Mayweather “Fight Like a Mexican”

Let’s get this out of the way first: Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor was more entertaining than expected. After the fight, McGregor’s first words on camera were, “I turned [Mayweather] into a Mexican tonight. He fought like a Mexican.” And though it sounds odd, especially for the many casual fans who watched the fight without knowing much of boxing’s lexicon and history, McGregor meant the words as high praise. But to understand why it’s high praise, or if it even fits within the money grab of a fight, we must first understand a few things about boxing history.

Two of boxing’s most distinctive fighting styles intertwine with aspects of race and ethnicity: the first is Black Code. As the name suggests, African-American boxers used this boxing style beginning in the early 1900s and into the middle part of the century. Black Code comes from discrimination and black boxers knowing there was no monetary value in easily defeating white opponents—who’d just avoid them. The key was to make it seem as if they barely defeated their white opponents while avoiding serious injuries that put the victory in jeopardy. A serious injury, beyond that fight, would also keep them from earning money since they had to nurse themselves back to health instead of boxing.

Therefore, the Black Code revolved around a defensive style which completely controlled their opponent. In fact, great African-American boxers of the early 20th century, like Jack Johnson and Sam Langford confessed to letting their white opponents last longer, instead of ending a fight when they could have. Many fans saw this defensive orientated fighting as inherently lazy and cowardly, which in their minds, reaffirmed their prejudices. Today, the so-called Black Code is all but extinct, with some rightfully claiming Mayweather is among the last to use it.

 

The stylistic opposite of Black Code is Mexican Style. Unlike its predecessor that relies on defense, the Mexican Style is offensive-minded, focusing secondarily on defense—if at all. Mexican Style emphasizes an aggressive attack, particularly body shots that wear down an opponent who, as the rounds progress, will instinctually lower their hands inch by inch to guard their midsection. And as their elbows fall closer to the ribs and kidneys, their head becomes exposed for a potential knockout. In contemporary times, Julio César Chávez represents what Mexican Style is, who explained it as, “very aggressive” while further adding, a Mexican fighter goes, “forward with great heart.”

As a comparison, Chávez added, “The American style is always that you run around, you try to be elusive. The Mexican style is much better. I never tried to be elusive.” A perfect example of Mexican Style and part of what turned Chávez into a national hero was his first fight against Meldrick Taylor. And though it had a controversial ending,  no denying that as the fight wore on, Chávez’s punches took a toll on Taylor’s body. The punches slowed down the much quicker Taylor and forced his hands down far enough for Chávez to land a finishing shot to the head. This fight epitomized the Mexican Style; Mayweather’s showing against McGregor, despite what the latter says, did not.

McGregor’s claim both misrepresents what Mexican Style is while giving himself the benefit of doubt in changing how Mayweather fought. To say as much ignores that Mayweather—a notoriously defensive fighter—had to, first, lose complete respect for McGregor’s abilities and then, figuring he ran no risk of getting hurt, go on the offensive. This is exactly what happened.

After the fight, McGregor said he felt he’d won the early rounds before Mayweather changed his style—a change that McGregor was completely unprepared for, by his own admission. But anyone who has ever watched Mayweather fight understands that that’s exactly what he does. As usual, the first few rounds consisted of Mayweather on the defensive, attempting to figure out his opponent’s weaknesses. With McGregor, these flaws were obvious from the beginning as his jab was more of a slowly extending right hand that at times moved slightly faster than a Teddy Atlas fight breakdown demonstration. Throughout the fight, McGregor also turned from a southpaw to an orthodox stance, for only a few seconds at a time and for seemingly no reason at all besides wasting motion and energy. By the end of third round, McGregor was quickly tiring and Mayweather, like everyone else who knew what they were watching, understood he could not lose.

Beginning in the 4th round, Mayweather, no longer worried McGregor could hurt him, moved closer and boxed on the inside. At the end of the 5th round, as if still trying to sell what remained of the fight, Mayweather “pushed” McGregor, who by this point in the fight was too fatigued to even let off a primal scream that in earlier days he’d used, presumably, to convince us he could win.

By the 6th round, Mayweather continued attacking, at least compared to his usual Black Code style of fighting, while McGregor continued to showing himself lost as a boxer. At one point, with about 55 seconds left in the 7th round, he inexplicably ran towards Mayweather’s power hand, without even being forced to do so. This decision resulted in McGregor getting punched in the chin, knocked off-balance, and eating another left hand before continuing to walk backwards, away from Mayweather.

In the 9th round, Mayweather’s dominance continued as two of the three judges awarded him an 10-8 round. The score usually shows a knock down occurred during the round but McGregor never left his feet, he was just being completely controlled. Mercifully, the spectacle ended with the referee stopping the “fight” after Mayweather knocked McGregor backwards multiple times. And though he’d later complain of an early stoppage, when it occurred, McGregor wasn’t visibly upset as boxers often are when they feel they could have continued.

Remarkably, one narrative emerging from McGregor’s defeat was he earning a moral victory. Only a fighter who would never have to rely on a specific style of fighting to overcome the sport’s historic discrimination, could earn this distinction after losing a lopsided decision—which is what this was. All of McGregor’s supposed advantages, from age, size, and strength, count against him if he could not take advantage of them.

McGregor thoroughly lost to Mayweather; a fighter 12 years older and one who had not fought in almost 2 years. Mayweather was also likely outweighed by around 15 pounds on the night of the fight. And yet, despite having fragile hands and not having a knockout—technical or otherwise—since he controversially beat Victor Ortiz, 6 years ago, had the ref not stopped the fight, Mayweather likely drops McGregor before the fight ends. This is not even taking into account the horrible officiating that should have cost McGregor some points as he often hammer punched the back of Mayweather’s head and punched him while he hugged him from the back.

All of this adds up to Mayweather versus McGregor as an uncompetitive fight—maybe entertaining, but never close. And despite his insistence, McGregor did not turn Mayweather into a Mexican Style fighter. That, along with saying he tired, is just McGregor talking towards a potential rematch. Mayweather is who he has always been; a Black Code boxer who knew he had nothing to fear but still made it seem as if his white opponent had a chance.


Originally published on Remezcla.com

Explaining Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya’s Petty, Decade-Long Beef

loyd Mayweather will face Conor McGregor this Saturday, in what’s being billed as the biggest boxing fight ever. Three weeks later, Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez will fight Gennady Golovkin, in what should be the best pound-for-pound fight of the year. These two showdowns stand at opposite sides of the sport and yet both simultaneously symbolize boxing’s problem and attraction. The former is a spectacle; a cash grab sold on curiosity and an appeal to our most basic emotions, helped along by two fighters with an odd, loathsome charisma. The latter is among the most anticipated fights of the last several years and one in which both fighters—of whom English is their second language—have been relatively quiet, confident the value of the fight is enough to sell it. At these fights’ intersection and what they mean to boxing is Oscar De La Hoya—a former boxer and Alvarez’s current promoter—whose own career parallels boxing’s struggle between credibility and marketability.

In terms of monetary success, before Mayweather—who stands to make at least $100 million and as much as $400 million from this one fight—there was De La Hoya, whose career earnings reached $510 million. Part of De La Hoya’s success was his great appeal to casual fans, namely a large female following. But his economic success together with being sold partly as a Latin heart-throb led to questions about his greatness inside the ring. Mayweather, like De La Hoya, has also appealed to casual fans but through a different method. Rather than marketing himself on sexual appeal, a young Mayweather—who used to go by the moniker, “Pretty Boy Floyd”—understood his remarkable skill only attracted a limited audience, and thus, transitioned into “Money Mayweather.” This persona was a money-obsessed heel who embraced the hate so long as those giving it paid to see his fights, even if all they wanted was to watch him lose.

For the past decade, Mayweather and De La Hoya have developed a slow–brewing feud that has defined boxing in the 2010s. And while Mayweather has mocked his rival’s drug problem and called him jealous and a bad role model, De La Hoya has continually said two things about Mayweather. First is his insistence on having the “blueprint” to beat the undefeated fighter—a discovery made, but one he could not capitalize on, due to age and injuries, when he fought and lost a split decisionagainst Mayweather in 2007. The second is De La Hoya’s contention that Mayweather “hasn’t been good for boxing.” He bases his claim largely on Mayweather’s defensive orientated boxing style that, while admittedly flawless, is unentertaining and leaves costumers, who believed they were buying a high-intensity brawl, wanting more. A perfect example of this criticism was Mayweather’s thorough, albeit dull, domination of Manny Pacquiao—an event sold as the Fight of the Century–which resulted in lawsuits alleging fraud. But Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is nothing compared to the sham that is Saturday’s fight, making Mayweather vs. McGregor the epitome of De La Hoya’s critiques—a fight, he worries, from which boxing may never recover.

Despite Mayweather’s clear advantages, the fight’s promotion has led some fans—presumably from the MMA—to convince themselves McGregor stands a chance. He does not. It is a fantasy fueled by Mayweather claiming McGregor has several physical advantages over him including size and age. Mayweather has also insisted “this can’t be a defensive fight”—a claim that, if true, runs contrary to his entire career and negates the one thing he masterfully does. And while Mayweather, aged 40, is not skillfully the same boxer as when he defeated De La Hoya, he’s also not aged enough to influence this fight. It would take another decade before age slows down one of this generation’s best boxers long enough for a boxing novice to beat him. These points increase the validity within De La Hoya’s arguments but unfortunately for him, he lacks credibility.

Like just about every other boxing promoter, De La Hoya is prone to bullshit. If you hear him talk long enough, you hear his contradictions. He speaks, bordering on self-righteousness, as a guardian of boxing—a position he appointed for himself. Through it all, he begrudges business decisions that Mayweather made to better his situation while ignoring those he made when he was a boxer. Decisions like having a potential manager pay for his dying mother’s chemotherapy, hospital bills, and funeral—all on the promise of hiring him—before De La Hoya signed elsewhere and justifying it as “he wasn’t the right businessman for me…[and] I feel everyone involved in boxing is a crook.” Though De La Hoya may have been correct, the statement turns ironic considering what transpired.

Maybe De La Hoya’s contradictions come from living a sheltered life that revolved around boxingand as he became the sport’s “Golden Boy,” he grew accustomed to having it bend to accommodate him. Or perhaps De La Hoya sees he was part of the modern model in attracting casual boxing fans en route to record-breaking paydays, and now feels it unfair that he is a decade past reaping the full economic rewards. Hell, maybe it’s just that De La Hoya can’t get past his belief that he’d figured how to beat Mayweather, only to find out that, physically, he could no longer move fast enough or punch hard enough to take advantage of flaws he saw. Whatever it is, De La Hoya has let his dislike of Mayweather hurt his promotion of Álvarez vs. Golovkin—a fight that under just about any other circumstance should have garnered much more attention. It even feels as if there was greater anticipation for Álvarez vs. Chávez Jr.—a fight promoted as a war that proved a dud in all but economic terms.

With Álvarez vs. Golovkin, De La Hoya’s been content with believing “real” boxing fans will buy the fight. Instead of pointing out the genuine dislike between Álvarez and Golovkin, De La Hoya has sold the fight as a contest between gentlemen who share a mutual respect they’ll both abandon once inside the ring. According to De La Hoya, this strategy is part of a greater aim: “bringing boxing back to the glory days.” All the while, De La Hoya has complained that Mayweather (and UFC president, Dana White) picking a date so close to his fight—essentially undercutting some of his potential buyers—was disrespectful. He likened it to “having the Super Bowl and then three weeks later the World Series takes place.” And yet, even when promoting the fight, De La Hoya continues to address the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, which, no matter how much of a spectacle the fight is, casts a shadow over Álvarez vs. Golovkin.

Conversely, Mayweather has sold a bullshit fight. And whether it’s on the back of making homophobic or racial remarks, or even on a sparring session that somehow justifies McGregor fighting Mayweather, the fight will sell more than Álvarez vs. Golovkin. Just as he out-boxed De La Hoya a decade ago, Mayweather has now out-promoted the Golden Boy.

Of course, none of this absolves anyone from anything. Mayweather is both a generational talent and a deplorable person. Even though McGregor is a world-class fighter–albeit not in the boxing ring–he is still a racist. And as sure as Álvarez vs. Golovkin is the legit fight, it will likely draw only a fraction of Saturday’s pay-per-view audience that tunes in for the Mayweather/McGregor fight. De La Hoya is correct to argue against Mayweather and why his fight against McGregor is nothing but a money grab, but he’s not the most trustworthy person to take at his word. Obviously, it’s a money grab, it always was. It fits into Mayweather’s—and increasingly, McGregor’s—personas to cash some massive checks. The same money that boxing needs to survive on more than its Latino audience is what it now depends on for relevancy.

One of the many problems with boxing is that, for it be successful—financially or otherwise, but mostly financial—boxers, either through themselves or by their promoters, must be sold as something more. Perhaps a symbol of hate, or hope, inspiration, an underdog, or a nation; anything, but it must be something. Or else we risk arriving at the uncomfortable realization of, “Fuck. I just paid to watch two people try to beat the shit out of each other.” At that point the sport loses the casual fan and their money, reverting to a niche following where only a small percentage appreciate its qualities.

Mayweather and McGregor have sold themselves as more than just boxers, even if what they’re selling is reprehensible; people are tuning in to watch one of them—mostly Mayweather, but in all likelihood McGregor—get humiliated. No one is paying close to $100 for 12 rounds of the subtleties of boxing. Instead, they are hoping the latest reincarnation of the Great White Hope, or Underdog, humiliates a boxer whose version of “unforgiveable blackness” revolves around openly flaunting how much money he holds. And when that doesn’t happen and instead they see another masterful Mayweather showing where he circles around McGregor while out-jabbing and easily avoiding his punches, they will feel cheated while “Money Mayweather” again posts another picture of how much money he made and builds upon his persona.

Mayweather has sold a metaphor that is a ready-made container for the paying customer’s fears, frustrations, and countless other emotions emerging from a tumultuous social climate. And when he completely dominates McGregor, those emotions will only increase. De La Hoya, on the other hand, has sold a fight to fans that were always there; a fight that means everything inside the boxing world but little outside of it. Mayweather has again beat De La Hoya. And with Mayweather again claiming he will retire following Saturday’s bout, his bullshit fight may well be the last act in a decade’s worth of irritating De La Hoya.


Originally published on Remezcla.com