COMMENTARY | "Mayweather Hate" has become somewhat of an art form over the last several years-- a mass-produced, public-generated internet art form. In the cyber age, there has never been a fighter so universally and persistently hated as Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Just mention the five-division world champion and you're sure to get a massive wave of angry comments, many with an almost stalker-like obsession. The anger ranges from general disgust to flat-out rage and, almost always, is tied to Manny Pacquiao in some way.
Since the first rumors of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight began to circulate in late 2009, both fighters have been cast into cartoonish, good vs. evil caricatures. Manny is the virtuous, humble hero fighting for honor; Floyd is the cowardly, prima donna villain fighting only for money and his own personal glory.
Reality, though, may show that both fighters actually have more in common than the fans would care to acknowledge. The assumption that one or the other is the only one guilty of hand-picking the "right" opposition, is wrong. Both Manny and Floyd have a long (and growing) list of fighters they should've fought, but never did. In terms of how they live, both enjoy the same type of fantastically opulent lifestyle reserved for the biggest stars. And, yeah, although he claims to be living the mega-religious, Bible-thumping lifestyle now, Manny, like Floyd, has had plenty of colorful personal scandals in his past.
The big difference between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is that Manny has a top notch promoter in Bob Arum running interference for him. He has a team of handlers and spokesmen crafting every statement he utters, every move he makes, and doing quick damage control if anything causes the least amount of controversy. Mayweather, on the other hand, runs his own show and speaks his own mind without having his words sculpted through a public relations filter. And, needless to say, he is not very good at speaking for himself in terms of stroking the fragile sensibilities of the mass boxing public.
Some will point to the whole fiasco surrounding their fight negotiations back in late-'09, early-'10 as the flashpoint for the "Mayweather/Bad, Pacquiao/Good" hysteria. Mayweather's demand for random blood testing eventually ended fight talks, but only because Pacquiao actually refused to consent to random testing. It hadn't been the first time one fighter asked another for additional testing apart from the traditional commission tests. However, it was the first time a major fight had been killed because one side refused to go along with the idea. Although Team Pacquiao has since said that they would be fine with the testing, there have still been mixed messaged from their side of the issue and pure indifference from Mayweather's side.
A careful look at the actual situation, though, will reveal the truth behind the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight-making controversy-- On both occasions where the two fighters (or their teams) had actual contact with one another, it was Pacquiao who walked away from talks. This is not an opinion, this is fact coming from both sides of the issue.
A deeper inspection behind the art of hating Mayweather will take you back to 2006, when Floyd opted to sever ties with Bob Arum and Top Rank. From that point on, Mayweather had made a bitter, vindictive enemy in Arum and has been paying the public relations price ever since. Look prior to that and you will see nothing but love and sunshine for the fighter.
Since he became his own fighter under his own terms, Mayweather has worn a target. Self-determination is a no-no in boxing. Big money is made off the hard work of fighters who have been talked into signing questionable deals with promoters. A renegade who bucks the system and opts to not sign over his life to the suits behind the fights-- especially a high-profile, high-earning fighter like Mayweather-- will always find himself wearing a target.
For sure, Mayweather has not made things easy on himself with his public scandals, professional indifference, and downright dumb public statements, but he's not hated because he's a "coward," "idiot," or "scumbag." There have been plenty of very popular fighters who were not model citizens.
At the root of the issue is that Mayweather ticked off a very powerful man by no longer agreeing to give him a major piece of his action. From there, the media has been twisted and shaped to support the "Mayweather as dastardly villain" concept. Fans, many who were new to the sport and/or brought over from Pacquiao's great wave of influence, then bought into the public relations twist.
Of course, Mayweather has benefited greatly from his role as villain and is the highest paid athlete in the world because of it. So, don't feel bad for him. But the truth is the truth and there's definitely a need to put some of this nastiness in context.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.