I don’t believe I had heard of either Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao up until about three weeks ago. Then the campaign to create a demand was given full throttle and like many others I found myself sucked in and hooked. Why it should matter to me who would emerge victorious from the big money fight, I still don’t know. I am not an edge of the seat fight fan.
Despite the demand being stimulated by profiteers ready to step in with an endless supply of inflated prices, I wasn’t daft enough to fork out the extortionist fee the TV companies were asking. Besides it was on too late. I would have been as sick as a parrot had I coughed up the asking price only to fall asleep during it wondering if I was watching a running competition or a boxing match. According to the reports I read this is what it turned out to be: Mayweather running, Pacquiao missing. Yet, I did wake up and from about 3.30 on began checking the Guardian website on my phone for the live feed. The bug of excitement had burrowed deep.
One side of me tells me that the fight game is wrong, given the terrible damage it can cause to be inflicted on the human body. The other insists that adults should be free – unlike animals hunted down for sport - to do what they will to each other given that there is consent and to court the risk that goes with the turf. That goes for ocean sailing, potholing, mountain climbing, rugby or those other sports which, when they go wrong, can be deleterious to a person’s wellbeing. On whether to permit or prohibit, I have a firm position ... on the fence.
There is another dimension to the atmospherics around this fight that caused unease. A while back the English soccer player Ched Evans was the recipient of much targeted flak when he sought to resurrect his soccer career after his release from prison where had served time for rape. He became an unplayable sporting pariah.
The violence and invasiveness intrinsic to the crime of rape makes it so heinous that a non-custodial sentence is virtually unthinkable. Evans duly got his jail time. Once released I did not feel he should have been further punished by denying him the ability to contribute his talent to its full potential and do something socially useful with it.
There were genuinely felt reasons for wanting him to shuffle along those off-the beaten-track-dirt paths wearing a bell and shouting “unclean, unclean” rather than have him grace a soccer pitch in full public view and receive adulation along the way. But none of them persuaded me that post-prison punishment serves any valuable purpose. Permanent retribution might bind people together against the outlawed outlier but at the expense of any concept of rehabilitation, one of the central claims of modern penology, which in turn undermines the integrative rather than the mere conformist capacity of society.
The cacophony of disapproval that arose in response to Ched Evans seemed to have wandered off into the silence of the night when it came to Floyd Mayweather who unlike the soccer player would appear to be a repeat offender, albeit it in the sphere of domestic violence and not rape. Nevertheless, it is violence against women and the absence of a sexual dimension to domestic violence is on its own unlikely to explain the discrepancy in attitudes to both errant sportsmen. Mayweather’s power as a big earner for others compared to the potential of Evans might nudge us in the direction of thinking that money not morality determines whether the fallen are feted or fouled.