Domestic violence remains dark cloud hanging over Floyd Mayweather’s legacy

LAS VEGAS – Though records aren't kept on this sort of thing, it's believed that no man has ever been denied a license to fight by a state athletic commission as a result of committing domestic violence.

It certainly hasn't happened in Nevada, where a majority of boxing's biggest fights have been staged for the last four decades or more.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., who has six times been charged with domestic violence and served two months in jail in 2012 for the 2010 beating of the mother of three of his children, has never been disciplined in any way by the Nevada Athletic Commission, even though he's fought 26 of his 47 professional fights in the state.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is led away from court to begin his jail sentence in 2012. (AP)
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is led away from court to begin his jail sentence in 2012. (AP)

On Saturday, Mayweather will earn around $180 million for facing Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden, where tickets are going for as high as $140,000 for a front-row seat.

But when Mayweather participated with the commission last week to get a license, he was only asked one question about his record of domestic violence.

A little more than two years after he was released from jail for abusing Josie Harris, Mayweather was sued by his ex-fiancée, Shantel Jackson.

Among the allegations in Jackson's suit was that Mayweather pointed a gun at her.

According to the complaint, filed Sept. 4 in Los Angeles Superior Court, "… Mayweather grabbed Ms. Jackson, bent her arm, restrained her, and pointed a gun [which happened to be the plaintiff's own licensed weapon] at her foot, asking, 'Which toe do you want me to shoot?' With the gun still pointed at Ms. Jackson, Mayweather said that he would not allow her to leave. While forcibly restraining her, he removed her diamond ring from her finger [which he told her had been appraised at $2.5 million] and also took her earrings and other jewelry that she had been wearing."

Yet, Mayweather was expeditiously given a license to fight by the commission last week, allowed to participate via telephone and not grilled about the allegations in Jackson's civil lawsuit.

He was asked only three questions. Chairman Francisco Aguilar asked how his training was going. Because Mayweather also holds a promoter's license and is the lead promoter of Saturday's card, commissioner Pat Lundvall asked about his business license.

Lundvall then asked, "Mr. Mayweather, we last saw you in 2013 for your promoter's license and we had a special hearing for you in 2012. Have there been any additional incidents or any additional circumstances dealing with domestic violence since the last time of your application?"

Mayweather, who sounded as if he'd been awakened to participate in the hearing, replied, "Um, not from me. I don't know about no one else, but not for me."

Lundvall then asked if he'd fulfilled all obligations of his 2012 conviction for abusing Harris.

"I mean, anything that happened with domestic violence is a thing of my past," Mayweather said. "Once again, I never claimed to be perfect. As far as I know, everything I had to do, I did."

He added that he attended court-ordered counseling. Lundvall thanked him and his license application was unanimously approved.

Mayweather, left, awaits sentencing at Clark County District Court on Dec. 21, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP)
Mayweather, left, awaits sentencing at Clark County District Court on Dec. 21, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP)

Astoundingly, none of the five commission members referenced the suit Jackson filed. It is a civil case, and not a criminal one, and it is still slowly winding its way through the court system. Jackson's attorney, Gloria Allred, said the next hearing in the case is June 8, but it is still a long way from going to trial.

The commissioners chose to ignore the very troubling details in the case, many of which are familiar to them because they sat in judgment of Mayweather in other hearings.

Mayweather has a long record of violence against women, and Jackson's allegations hint at more of the same.

When the commission voted 5-0 on Feb. 1, 2012, to license him to fight Miguel Cotto on May 5, 2012, it made him agree not to appeal Judge Melissa Saragosa's 90-day sentence or attempt in any way to have it shortened.

Four of the five members of the commission that day – Aguilar, Lundvall, Bill Brady and Skip Avansino – remain on the panel. Yet other than Lundvall's one innocuous question, no one pushed for information about what happened in the Jackson case.

The commission is a governmental agency and needs to respect Mayweather's due process rights. The problem in boxing is there is no national or international authority that can impose discipline. It’s a matter that is often left to under-financed and overworked state athletic commissions.

Despite how laughably inept NFL commissioner Roger Goodell proved to be in handling the disciplinary matters involving Ray Rice's domestic abuse case, at least Goodell did something when he initially handed Rice a two-game suspension.

It was woefully lacking teeth, but at least there was an overriding authority who imposed a penalty. The punishment was increased when video surfaced that showed Rice knocked out then-fiancee Janay Palmer with a vicious blow to the face in an elevator.

But Mayweather faced no penalty from the commission. He wasn't even stripped of his WBC title when he was convicted and went to jail, yet sanctioning bodies routinely strip champions of their titles for choosing to pass on facing a mandatory challenger.

"My thought is that the system has failed victims in many ways, from the state athletic commission on," Allred said. "I've heard some of its members say domestic violence is important, but their deeds do not match their words in terms of the consequences. For fighters convicted of domestic violence, no serious consequences appear to be imposed.

"They appear to think that whatever the criminal justice system does is sufficient and that they don't have any real moral duty, or legal duty, to impose additional, meaningful consequences. I just think that they don't want to, because their words aren't followed by meaningful action."

And for all the hype that Mayweather's fight with Pacquiao has received, precious little of it has related to Mayweather's sordid past when it comes to his relations with women.

The 'Money' persona is as much a part of the Mayweather story as his history of domestic violence. (AP)
The 'Money' persona is as much a part of the Mayweather story as his history of domestic violence. (AP)

Richelle Carey, a news anchor for Al Jazeera America, has been an outspoken critic of Mayweather’s and particularly of the media for its lack of coverage of the issue.

"Media is reflective of the culture," Carey said via email to Yahoo Sports. "And our culture largely doesn't treat violence against women with the gravity it deserves. ... For the most part, media hype up the fight and do not put the tough questions to Mayweather, his supporters, sponsors and the criminal justice system that has largely let him get by.

"Media will breathlessly cover every detail about him: His bets, outrageous purchases, his little buddy, Justin Bieber, but no mention of violence against women. It's shameful."

It's harsh, but it's true.

There have been calls, most notably from ESPN's Keith Olbermann, to boycott the fight as a protest against Mayweather's violence toward women.

But because domestic violence is, sadly, so pervasive in our society, Olbermann's solution would mean boycotting movies and television shows and concerts and NFL games and basketball games and just about every form of entertainment.

Daniel Roberts, a writer for Deadspin, has written eloquently on the subject and frequently has taken the media to task for the lack of attention paid to Mayweather's criminal record.

He pointed out that more awareness on the topic could influence whether people choose to buy the fight.

Many boxing reporters have dutifully covered the Mayweather saga as it has unfolded. But, Roberts asked, how often should that be repeated?

"I think this is a very legitimate storyline to be reporting before this fight because, unlike a lot of fighters who are sold on their in-ring performance, Mayweather, more than anyone else, is sold on the character," Roberts said. "This whole 'Money May' persona is what is put forward to promote the event. When [ESPN reporter] Stephen A. Smith does the tour of his cars and all of the opulence, it puts his issue at character in a way that other guys' aren't.

"… I think when a fighter's outside-the-ring narrative becomes so prominent that it becomes part of the sales pitch, then I think there is an obligation to make sure the full picture of that narrative is presented."

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said his major failing in promoting Mayweather was not understanding the hip-hop market where Mayweather wanted him to promote.

After leaving Arum, Mayweather pursued that market with great success. Roberts, though, said he suspects many of those Mayweather fans aren't really boxing fans.

"Mayweather engenders this almost fanatical devotion among his fans, but they're really fans of the lifestyle much more than of the boxer," he said. "I don't know if they tune in. He is almost a male Kim Kardashian. He's almost a template for this generation, putting pictures on social media flaunting your wealth and things like that."

And that makes it easy to ignore the repeated incidents of domestic violence.

Carey expressed outrage at Saragosa's 2012 ruling that permitted Mayweather to delay his jail sentence so he could fight Cotto.

Mayweather is brilliant in the ring, but that isn't the entire story. (AP)
Mayweather is brilliant in the ring, but that isn't the entire story. (AP)

"The court allowed him to serve time when it was convenient for him," she said. "And yes, the commission failed as well. It is a systemic, cultural failing daily that allows violence against women to be downplayed or outright ignored. When there is so much money on the line, victims are often ignored."

Allred, though, is not one to be ignored and she vowed that Mayweather is going to face his toughest fight ever when he appears in court to defend himself against Jackson's lawsuit.

She said she's sickened by the lack of attention paid to Mayweather's record, but vowed to keep up the battle.

"There is often a lack of confidence in the system by the public because they view courts as giving special privileges to perpetrators of crimes who are celebrities," she said. "They often feel, often with good reason, that there is a double standard, one for celebrities and one for everyone else.

"There should not be a double standard in the justice system. Celebrity batterers should not enjoy more rights or special privileges. Given his history, the sentence [to Mayweather], only 90 days in jail, is sad. I've often said, if you beat a dog, generally you'll get a prison sentence of a number of years. If you beat a woman, it's often much lighter, if there even is a sentence."

Mayweather's domestic violence history is as much of a part of his story as his in-ring genius, his perfect record and his fleet of cars, opulent homes and expensive jewelry.

Sadly, the jewels and the cars command far more attention.

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