Mayweather Was Right And Wrong About Race

September 16, 2009

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is set to fight Juan Manuel Marquez this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Yesterday, as part of a prefight press conference, Mayweather commented on some of the reasons why he hasn't gotten as much credit as he believes he deserves.

Most interestingly, Mayweather reportedly raised the point that he is given less credit because he is black. "If Floyd Mayweather Jr. was white, I'd be the biggest athlete in America. The biggest. The biggest. I know that for a fact."

Expressing further frustration with the media's portrayal of him, Mayweather noted that Oscar De La Hoya is blindly loved by the media. "You never hear anything negative about Oscar De La Hoya. Anything he do negative, it gets swept under the rug."

Mayweather then went out of his way to criticize trainer and HBO commentator Emanuel Steward, whom he dismissed as an "Uncle Tom."

The comments by Mayweather deserve a closer look and raise three related, but distinct questions: (1) Would "Pretty Boy" Floyd be viewed more favorably if he was white? (2) Is Mayweather underrated because he is black? (3) Is he unfairly disliked by the public because he is black?


To some extent, yes.

Without a doubt the American media and the public have a history of disproportionately lauding and supporting white athletes who have had success. In boxing, this trend was even more apparent as the very concept of a "Great White Hope" was created when newspapers and the public clamored for a white fighter to dethrone boxing's first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson.

Even in more modern times, fighters like Jerry Quarry, Gerry Cooney, Ray Mancini, and even Arturo Gatti were more popular and beloved by fans and media than their demonstrated skills alone could justify. Nobody should say these were bad fighters who just got hyped solely because they were white, but to deny the racial politics involved would be both naive and ignorant.

The fact is that few white fighters from either the United States or western Europe have been extremely successful in the last 40 years. Even putting aside boxing's history, it really isn't that complicated. Most media and fans are white, and they get a little extra excited when "one of their own" appears to be doing well. Many may not even consciously realize this.

Current fighters like Kelly Pavlik and Ricky Hatton have probably also benefited from being white. A more complicated case is that of former champion Joe Calzaghe, who was clearly an elite fighter, but arguably was overrated as well.

(Of course it should be noted that at least one of the odd twists in this pattern is that one of the great all-time heavyweights regardless of race, Rocky Marciano, is underrated by some people of today perhaps because he was white.)

Thus, it is a fair guess to say that a "white" Mayweather would be considerably more popular and loved by fans and media. If he were white, he would be one of the biggest attractions in all sports.


Hell no.

While Mayweather may be right about some of the benefits of being white, he is way off when he suggests he deserves more props than he already gets. He is plenty over-hyped as a black fighter and therefore is not underrated at all.

Mayweather loves to compare himself to other all-time great fighters, and often suggests he is close to the top of the list. Factually speaking, the majority of all-time great fighters were black, and most were far more accomplished than "Pretty Boy" is. Let's not insult these great fighters with premature comparisons.

You disagree? Let's work this out. I would suggest that the mark of any truly great fighter is how many high quality victories you have on your resume. Even having several losses is not as detrimental as not having victories over top-notch opponents. Victories over top fighters are the ones that really define a great career.

Despite what Mayweather believes, an unbeaten record is not itself the most important thing as you can fight dozens of tomato cans and rack up a lot of easy victories. Remember, most people consider Sugar Ray Robinson the greatest fighter of all-time and he lost 19 times!

So what standard can we use to determine a "high quality" victory? There is little dispute that a victory over a fighter who is in the Boxing Hall of Fame or is likely to get in would qualify as "high quality." Let's run down some of the top fighters of all-time and compare resumes highlighting such victories:

Sugar Ray Robinson -(175-19-6, 109 KOs) Defeated 8 different Hall of Fame fighters: Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan (twice), Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta (5 times), Rocky Graziano (twice), Gene Fullmer, Carl "Bobo" Olson (four), and Fritzie Zivic (twice).

Muhammad Ali - (56-5, 37KOs) Defeated 7 different Hall of Fame fighters: Sonny Liston (twice), Floyd Patterson (twice), Archie Moore, Joe Frazier (twice), Ken Norton (twice), George Foreman, and Bob Foster.

Sugar Ray Leonard - (36-3-1, 25 KOs) Defeated 4 current or future Hall of Fame fighters: Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran (twice), Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler.

Thomas Hearns (61-5-1, 48KOs) - Defeated 3 Hall of Fame Fighters: Pipino Cuevas, Wilfred Benitez, and Roberto Duran. Draw with Sugar Ray Leonard (but really beat him in their 2nd fight).

Compare them now to Mayweather, who has beaten future Hall of Fame fighter Oscar De La Hoya and ... no one else. Although one could even criticize that victory by suggesting De La Hoya was too old at the time, I won't nit pick. But that one victory is it.

Further, there should be no excuses for not having fought more great fighters as at least one Welterweight fighter (future Hall of Famer Shane Mosley) has always been there and other good fighters like Miguel Cotto and Paul Williams were also possible opponents. Let's also compare Mayweather's resume with the other "pound for pound" fighter of the day, Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao - (48-3-2, 36KOs) Defeated 4 Future Hall of Famers: Marco Antonio Barrera (twice), Eric Morales (twice), Juan Manuel Marquez, and Oscar De La Hoya.

I think it's pretty clear that Mayweather should actually beat some top opponents before engaging in wild talk of all-time great status.


Again, the answer is no. Here are the top 5 reasons why "Money May" and his act are justifiably viewed as annoying for reasons that have little to do with his race.

1. Mayweather emphasizes his "talent" and his unbeaten record to deflect any focus on the already-mentioned fact that he avoids tougher fights.

Mayweather will not have to convince fight fans of his greatness if he finally takes up the mantle and fights Shane Mosley, Paul Williams, Manny Pacquiao, and any other top fighter of his own weight class.

2. Floyd's attempts to act like a "thug" or "gangster" fail to disguise the fact that he is a much bigger "Uncle Tom" than Emanuel Steward.

What exactly is so revolutionary about Mayweather that he feels he can call Emanuel Steward an "Uncle Tom" and be taken seriously? Because Floyd Mayweather has never displayed any political awareness whatsoever either because he has none or he chooses to hide it. Instead, he just wants you to know that he has a lot of money that you don't have.

"Money May" is actually the biggest fool of all. He is in fact exactly what the corporate power structure loves: a person who helps them sell the notion that the accumulation of wealth is the highest virtue. Mayweather is an unoriginal and uninspired conformist who is proud of his own ignorance, yet believes because he dresses the part of a thug he is somehow against the institutions he strengthens.

The last big fighter who similarly gained a following based upon a glamorization of "thuggish" behavior was Mike Tyson, who was similarly overrated until he stepped up his competition.

3. Floyd is not very articulate. Illiterate and uneducated behavior is not exactly cool.

On this point comparing Mayweather to Tyson would be Tyson. Tyson may have unnecessarily used big words and said some funny things, but he sounds like Shakespeare next to Mayweather. Floyd is rarely insightful and sometimes downright unintelligible.

Floyd resents the success of Oscar De La Hoya and calls Emanuel Steward an "Uncle Tom" not because they are "sell-outs" but because he is jealous that they can do something he seems to struggles with: regularly speak in grammatically correct and complete sentences.

4. Floyd likes to brag and boast like Muhammad Ali, but he simply doesn't have enough charm to pull it off.

While Ali could taunt opponents and recite poems, he actually almost made you feel like he was joking. Mayweather seems much more mean-spirited and seems to take himself too seriously.

Ali's fighting style also matched his words, as he was wildly original in the ring and would dramatically circle his opponents. His barbs were just like his jabs: quick, accurate, and stinging.

Mayweather's defensive style of fighting is also an art, but it is a subtle one. He would be much more appreciated if he just shut up, but instead he boasts like someone who regularly knocks out opponents with blind offensive aggression. For example, the disconnect is irritating when you watch him carefully manufacture a decision against Oscar De La Hoya after telling everyone he was going to destroy him.

Additionally, he has neither Ali's intellect nor his gift with words.

5. Mayweather is often a dull fighter.

At the end of the day, much is forgiven if you produce in the ring. Yet winning alone is not going to get you adoration from the fans. You need to challenge yourself in the ring to get respect. That means either attempting to aggressively initiate offense against a lesser opponent or fighting the very best. Mayweather typically has done neither.

Ultimately, this reluctance to take risks while fighting or choosing opponents is what makes people lose respect for him.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. this story was on point. money may needs to do more at this weight class before he can be considered great.

  2. After the cancellation of pacquaio vs mayweather there is a replacement to the fight which the pacquaio vs clottey.. I'm looking forward to watch the biggest fight of the year,,,,, the pacquaio vs clottey fight..The question is ..who will win in this match, will it be pacquaio or will it be clottey..? Watch out this coming march 13,2010.


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