On Saturday night in Las Vegas a serial abuser of women Mayweather will put on a pair of boxing gloves, step through the ropes and earn an incredible sum of money for acts of violence very similar to those that,buying in the not-so distant past, terrorized the women and children in his life.
We know this, in part, because it’s been so exhaustively documentedover the years that we can’t possibly not know it. And yet, millions of us will still take out our credit cards and give Floyd Mayweather our money when the time comes.
How are we supposed to justify that to ourselves, especially in a sport where, due to the nature of most pay-per-view contracts, the money consumers spend is so directly tied to the money a fighter takes home? If you buy a Mayweather fight, how do you tell yourself that you’re not directly supporting an unrepentant, repeated woman-beater?
That’s the question longtime fight fan Petey Passguarte asked himself in the weeks leading up to “The Money Fight.” On one hand, he couldn’t possibly miss this bout. He’s been a Conor McGregor fan since the Irishman first showed up in the UFC, so the chance to see him in a blockbuster boxing match felt like it was easily worth the nearly $100 pay-per-view cost.
But then there was the problem of Mayweather himself.
“I know nobody’s perfect, myself included, so if a fighter is flawed as a person I usually see that as a separate thing,” Passguarte told MMAjunkie. “Performers don’t have to be role models in order to be on my TV. But there are exceptions, and Floyd is an exception. He’s an exceptional exception. His history of violence against women, it isn’t just one instance. It’s chronic, and the details of it are harrowing.”
In one lawsuit, Mayweather was accused of punching the mother of his daughter and hitting her in the head with a car door. A few months later, according to police reports, he punched the same woman in the neck after an argument at a shopping mall.
And with Mayweather, it’s not just a series of unfounded accusations. He has multiple convictions for violence against women, spanning many years and resulting in little to no outward remorse on Mayweather’s part, with relatively few actual consequences.
Even when Mayweather was sentenced to 90 days in jail for a 2010 attack on ex-girlfriend Josie Harris – an assault witnessed by their nine-year-old son, who described it in chilling detail in a subsequent police report – a judge later delayed the start of his prison sentence so he could fight Miguel Cotto, which his lawyer claimed would be a needed boost for the Las Vegas economy.
“When you see stuff like that, that just highlights the grossness of what we’re doing and supporting when we’re purchasing a Floyd Mayweather fight,” Passguarte said.
He considered skipping the pay-per-view altogether. He’s never bought a Mayweather fight before and would be fine if he never did, Passguarte said, but he didn’t want to miss what might prove to be his only chance to see McGregor in a boxing ring. Plus, he reasoned, it’s not like Mayweather’s bank account would feel the hit from this one-man boycott.
So rather than make a statement to nobody by skipping the fight, Passguarte decided instead to “balance the scales” by donating $100 – roughly the same price as the pay-per-view – to Safe Haven Ministries, a charity supporting victims of domestic violence in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“I thought, ‘OK, I’m definitely buying this fight, but what could I do that is tangible – other than complaining about it on Twitter, basically – that is tangible and will help offset this icky feeling inside of me?’” Passguarte said. “That’s when I thought, let’s distill it down to the simplest thing. If my money that’s going to the scumbag is just a drop in the bucket for him, then let me at least put the same drop in another, better bucket.”
It’s a strategy familiar to TV writer and fight fan Kevin Seccia. He also struggled with the ethics of giving money to Mayweather, but he couldn’t resist the appeal of Mayweather’s 2015 bout with Manny Pacquiao, so Seccia offset his own purchase with a donation to a local women’s shelter.
“On the one hand, I know it’s a rationalization, because I just really want to see the fight, and I’m finding a way to justify it even though I know he’s a horrible person,” Seccia said. “But I also think that skipping the fight would not have hurt him or impacted him in any way, and this money, which I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about donating, probably did some small good.”
That’s a fair point, according to Suzanne Davis, who was herself a victim of domestic violence, but who is also an avid fight fan well acquainted with the moral difficulties of following such a sport at times.
In addition to her hobby providing statistical analysis and hilarious quips on MMA via her Twitter account (@SoozieCuzie), Davis also works with local shelters in her home state of Tennessee. While giving some money to a charity might make for a less guilty viewing experience, she said, it doesn’t offer complete absolution.
“Donating to one doesn’t clear you from purchasing the other,” Davis said. “Mayweather is getting your money. That’s all he cares about. He doesn’t care if you’re racist. He doesn’t care if you hate domestic violence. He doesn’t care who you feed. As long as he can tack on a zero or two, whatever. What it does negate, however, is the zero dollars you would have donated before. So, yes, it’s worthwhile.”
According to activist and grassroots organizer Nadia Dawisha, who recommended that people also consider volunteering at a shelter, it might also help raise people’s awareness about the problem in general, which could have a lasting impact beyond one weekend’s worth of boxing.
“So many of the local rape and domestic violence centers are barely surviving,” Dawisha said. “I honestly think when people start addressing this issue in their own backyards, that’s when we will see a real cultural shift.”
As for Passguarte, he said he doesn’t expect his donation to change the world, or even to act as a shield against accusations that he supported exactly what he claimed to oppose. Especially in combat sports, where there’s no extra layer of remove between sport and violence, some things are impossible to ignore.
“You’re literally rewarding a woman-beater for being violent,” Passguarte said. “It’s right there in your face.”