The hypermasculine spectacle of the Mayweather-McGregor fight -

The hypermasculine spectacle of the Mayweather-McGregor fight

Opinion: The boxing match is reinforcing damaging ideas about race relations and men’s role in society

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor face off during their official weigh-in at T-Mobile Arena on August 25, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two will meet in a super welterweight boxing match at T-Mobile Arena on August 26. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor face off during their official weigh-in at T-Mobile Arena on August 25, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two will meet in a super welterweight boxing match at T-Mobile Arena on August 26. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Regardless of what happens in the ring between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, the spectacle will be a success when measured by the stakes of boxing promotion. Whether it’s one of history’s most remarkable upsets or an absolute dud, it will be watched by millions around the world and it will be profitable, by a count of hundreds of millions of dollars. By that standard, the Mayweather-McGregor fight might be the most successful boxing event in history.

It is also a travesty.

Lacking any real sporting stakes, the hastily assembled circus needed as much hype as possible to matter — and it has relied on the most retrograde tropes to build its allure. A four-city press-conference tour leaned on undertones of racial conflict and outright misogyny. McGregor told his black opponent to “Dance for me, boy.” Mayweather hurled a homophobic slur at his opponent (though he later apologized for the remark). At each stop, the shtick was littered with overt sexism. The hypermasculine, racialized rhetoric helped build the hype around the must-see pay-per-view event.

Even in a time when professional leagues are working to combat the racism, homophobia and misogyny that have traditionally permeated the culture of sport, the regressive promotional approach to Mayweather-McGregor came as no surprise to Dr. Jeffery Sammons, an expert in African American history, culture and sports at New York University.

“I’m not shocked,” Sammons says. “These are masculine preserves, and they’ve been heavily inflected with race.”

For many, Sammons explains, the allure of boxing — and combat sports in general — is that it throws us back to a more aggressive, male-centric era where dominance was determined by strength in combat. The racialized and misogynistic tenor of the Mayweather-McGregor fight plays to a kind of hypermasculinity that has been challenged by modernity. “Boxing is freighted with so much meaning and symbolism that extends far beyond the ring,” says Sammons, who has written extensively about the role of boxing in American society.

MORE: Boxing saved him. Then he killed a man in the ring.

Racial tensions have played out in the ring throughout the history of boxing, going back to the days of Jack Johnson, the first African American to the hold the world heavyweight championship, and the call for a “great white hope” to take the title from him. Those tensions carried on through the decades in the theatre of what Sammons calls “war individualized.”

Wittingly or not, McGregor reinforced those ideas with his racially charged rhetoric. “McGregor is playing into all these racial stereotypes and fears and hatred. And he might not be a racist — he might be doing what his backers want him to do,” says Sammons. “But the fact of the matter is that this has unintended consequences … It’s dangerous. It doesn’t matter what your motive is, or what might be in your heart. You’re doing stuff that can cause a lot of damage.”

Boxing has always been a sport of the rough and tumble. It plays to the idea of people stuck on the lower economic rungs of society fighting their way to the top, while unapologetically maintaining their working-class edge. McGregor’s own rags-to-riches story is impressive. He has wide appeal in the same way that Jack Dempsey, the impoverished rail-rider turned world heavyweight champion, did a century ago. Mayweather also rose out of a difficult past, en route to becoming one the greatest boxers ever.

But impressive as both fighter’s careers have been on their own, this gimmicky collision has done nothing but reinforce dangerous and damaging ideas about race relations and men’s role in society.

“It’s something that shouldn’t exist in our day and age,” says Sammons. “I think it just shows how primitive and barbaric we can be.”


The hypermasculine spectacle of the Mayweather-McGregor fight

  1. Thousands of years from the caves, and Ug and Urg here are the best we can do.

  2. If you don’t fallow these sorts of sports, have never spent time training any combat sport you need to shut up.

    • I saw Sonny Liston and Ali MYOB

      • Then your comment is even more off base.
        You watch boxing but dont like boxing?
        MYOB is right! That was my point thanks for agreeing with me

        • No, YOU are off base…..Sonny Liston was a long time ago..

          I grew up. Apparently you didn’t.

          • so you get to watch enjoy boxing but once you “grow up” and your version doesn’t included boxing we all have to stop ?
            And again you stated it best MYOB

          • Go to bed. Your wires are crossed

          • Had a great time watching it talked mad shiiit as the Irish would say loved every minute of it. Barbecue and boxing great combo of manly fun.

          • No doubt. And after that you probably belched, scratched your crotch, and went to bed secure in the knowledge you weren’t like Beethoven, Shakespeare, Plato or Einstein.

            I mean…..heaven forbid

        • what do normal body function have to do with any thing? Did you read this article and have a period? Or more likely hot flashes….?
          For the record, ode to joy is my favourite piece of music ever. In fact if i was a boxer i would have that as my walk out music.
          Richard the third has my favourite Shakespeare speech [ “now is the winter of our discontent..” ] and I’ve been in his birth house and theatre in London. I’ve seen every movie of his works i can, Ran by Kurosawa is my favourite and I’ve seen about seven plays live.
          I’ve read the republic [not for school just because its important] and im willing to bet money you haven’t, you had to google him right?
          As for Einstein, you obviously have never read any of his love letters etc hes a man in those in the way you hate….
          Also all of your response are both attempt to paint me as some sort of troglodyte and to dodge the original point which is don’t like don’t watch but MYOB.
          I don’t break up your Oprah Menzies book clubs so do likewise.

          • Oooh hit a nerve did I?

          • ha you couldn’t hit a nerve with a target the size of Canada
            and you’ve lost your argument point by point.

      • speaking of Ug and Urg …. Ali’s comments about Frazier were the precedent for this spectacle and overshot the racism of McGregor by a hundredfold. But that’s ok in your mind Em?

        • “Nother nerve.

          • I’ll take that as an admission that I was correct in my supposition.

            It’s ok Em. It’s hard to change when you’re old and set in your ways. One of my grandpa’s was the same way … bit of an ornery old cus but couldn’t support his positions. He often said some of those same clichés … back in my day we had Liston and Ali …. you young’uns don’t know what real fightin’ is …

        • She’s all about racism & homophobia, just keep the plebs in line…
          Victorian class structure for an Edwardian mind (or lack there of…)

          • LOL no I haven’t got periods ……or menopause…..and I’m not yer grandaddy.

            Trying to belittle some one doesn’t win arguments. You guys at so confused you don’t know what era you’re in, or what battle you’re fighting.

            Actually it reveals more about you than me.

          • Such a poseur.
            CU Next Tuesday.

          • I didn’t say you ARE my grandpa … I said you have similar characteristics. Describing your characteristics is not belittling, it is simply describing what you do.
            and you didn’t address my initial point. just a lot of griping and complaining. Again, a lot like my grandpa. It’s a bit cliché, but it really does happen to people when they get older. You are a shining example dear Em.
            Feel free to address my actual point Em. That would reveal something about you, although I suspect the answer is not flattering which is the reason you declined addressing the issue and tried to paint yourself as a victim instead
            hey, that reminds me of a certain president I’ve seen in the news lately. There’s someone else you have some traits in common with.

          • The ‘you didn’t answer my question’ is an old Con gimmick used on here for years.

            Along with sexist remarks of course.

            Yer just newbies.

            We’ll all be glad when you’re back to school

  3. This kind of drivel is a result of toxic feminism at work.
    Truly a cancer on humanity. Thank God their day is done.

    • LOL You still cowering in a corner?

    • LOL well if you think half of humanity is going to disappear, you need to check your meds.

  4. I thought this was an Anne Kingston column until I checked the by-line. Male dominated and racially charged? There is a single example in the story of supposed racism in the story, the same one trotted out by every columnist to search for more meaning in this than there is. And male dominated? Have you heard the women boxers and mma fighters talk about each other? It doesn’t change much.
    It takes a lot of courage to step into a ring alone and face an opponent, no matter your gender. Some of the hype is there for the fighters as well as the fans. If you want to criticize take a walk in their shoes. Step into a ring and see how you do.

    • Yeah, that worked well on the gladiators.

      • Em, I knew you were old, but are you now telling us you saw the gladiators fight? That really IS impressive. Who was your fave? Did you have his pics on your bedroom wall?

  5. The Americans and The Irish. The toughest people on the planet!
    You can’t get any better! This feminist-soft male response from
    another Sensitive Susie is sadly typically Canadian these days.

    • Yeah, men gotta be tough

      You ever been through childbirth?

      • Is that all you have done? Seems to be…

        • LOL this from someone who’s done nothing at all.