Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor is the Real-Life “The Great White Hype”
BY ED MOLINA
Using race to sell combat sports, particularly boxing, is as old as the fight game itself. The Sultan points that out to Roper when he first hatches his scheme, using the 1982 Gerry Cooney-Larry Holmes bout and the 1995 Mike Tyson-Peter McNeely fight as his examples of how race-baiting generates revenue.
We see this, historically, with Jack Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight boxing champion in 1908, and did very well for himself leveraging America’s sentiments against African-Americans into big bucks, earning him $65,000 ($1,618,078.35 in 2017) in his “Fight of the Century” bout against former champion James J. Jeffries. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling faced off twice, in 1936 and 1938, pitting Germany’s Aryan hero against the American champion deemed inferior by fascist dictator Adolf Hitler.
It is inevitable, especially in these racially-charged times, that the Mayweather-McGregor fight will go down that path, whether the fighters like it or not. Add the fact that both Mayweather and McGregor are click-bait fodder, with fans and haters of each competitor so willing to click and critique every single article ever written about the two (yes, including this one), and the “Embrace Debate” era of sports television programming — where the most ignorant hot takes always get the most attention, there is no way this does not degenerate into a heated and volatile discussion about race.
And it is not just the Clay Travis’s and Stephen A. Smith’s of the world who will fall into this trap. Expect political commentators, people not paid to cover boxing or mixed martial arts (MMA), and who at best are casual fans (at worst, never watched either sport), to give their two cents on the racial dynamic of the fight.
Don’t believe me, ask pundit Shaun King, who has already gotten the ball rolling on such articles.
By the end of next week’s press conference tour that will take Mayweather and McGregor to Los Angeles, Toronto, New York City and London, “The Notorious” and the man simply known as “Money” will have provided plenty of material for the political machine.
The media circus will certainly be entertaining and colorful. Considering both McGregor’s penchant to draw the ire of his opponents as well Mayweather reminding the world he is “Table A,” not just in boxing negotiation tables but in all of combat sports, it will be a spectacle, much like the press conference shown in “The Great White Hype.”
It just goes to show that the more things change in boxing, the more they stay same; and that the only color that matters to both McGregor and Mayweather is green, as they laugh all the way to the bank.