Trashy Talk

August 26th, 2017 will, for boxing fans, be a memorable day. That will be the day on which Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather fights Conor ‘Notorious’ McGregor, not for any title, nor for fame (they are each already quite famous,) but perhaps for ego, and for a paycheck which could increase the standard of living for all the citizens in a small developing nation.

The press conferences (read: promotional events) leading up to the upcoming fight have, so far, been ‘over the top’. Boasting, disrespectful comments, name-calling, swearing, insults, death threats… it really has played out, as so many other similar events do, like a childish playground pissing contest, as it were. In everyday life, an insult leading to a physical confrontation is grounds for litigation, so why do it? It is as if they needed a reason to fight, besides the huge payday.

The public is being led to believe, in the interest of showmanship, that these two combatants are really angry with each other and hate each other deeply. The fans are not stupid; they have probably witnessed many other such contests after which the two boxers congratulate each other, speak graciously, and give each other the credit to which they are both rightly due. Whether or not there is genuine animosity between the two ‘men’ (which I doubt,)  There must be another reason given for them to engage in the brutality which is sure to ensue. That reason, you guessed it, is ‘the cheddar’.

Boxing has become an enormous moneymaker, not just for the fighters, but for the promoters, the venue owners, the Pay-Per-View affiliates, the merchandisers, and on and on… but wouldn’t the revenue generated be the same whether or not the fighters insulted each other? Wouldn’t everyone involved stand to gain the same amount if events such as these did not degenerate into dramatic soap operas and shouting matches? This point is debatable, but doubtful. Conflict breeds interest.

It can be argued that this sort of behaviour serves to prime, not only the fans, but the participants themselves. Is there an advantage in tricking yourself into believing that you really do hate your opponent, and that your anger towards him will give you an edge? Ironically, most martial artists would disagree. What is required in combat is a steely nerve and focus, both of which become blurred when under the influence of emotion and/or personal gain. There is a job to be done, and emotions introduce other influences which tend to distract from it. If you are thinking about your hurt feelings, then you are not concentrated on the task at hand. It is said that, in feudal Japan, for example, the best way to avoid a fight with a samurai was to anger him, for rage represents a loss of control just when control is what is most crucially needed.

This sort of behaviour certainly does not set a good example for the youth watching, and does nothing to promote good sportsmanship, despite the fact that they will invariably ‘hug it out’ afterwards. It is actually quite hypocritical, so why do it in the first place?

What it does is set the tone for all the attention an event of this magnitude needs in order to generate the profits desired by all involved. It’s all about the hype. Hype equals attention, and attention generates revenue. It’s as simple as that.

Vasy Lomachenko reacts to Conor McGregor… (Lomachenko won the WBO featherweight title in his third professional fight.)

(02:31)

But what does this say about our society, that we must be whipped into a frenzy before we can enjoy a technical contest between two superbly well-trained athletes? Is it not enough that they are competing for a nine-figure payout? Why does anger have to enter into it at all? The Olympics do not need it, and reflect an opposite position, and those games are unquestionably the largest and most popular sporting event on the planet. If Olympic athletes behaved in this way, they would surely be sanctioned, and might even be banned.

What is it about us and our need to suspend our own disbelief in these cases? Is it an outlet, a proxy for our own frustrations? Is it a way for us to expel our pent-up rage through others? Is this, and events like it, what keeps us from exhibiting our anger towards those who do us wrong in our everyday lives? Is there an innate need for violence in the human psyche? If so, it may be a necessary evil, and a good thing.

Any way one looks at it, it’s bound to be a helluva fight.