Sep 18, 2011

Protect Yourself At All Times

In the environment that I grew up in the act of aggressive verbal wordplay otherwise known as "shit talkin," or alternately "talkin' shit," if you prefer, was about as commonplace as air and water.  Young, old, male, female, articulate or inarticulate, it didn't matter, everyone it seemed had something slick to say.  The ability to talk shit and talk shit well could be both a gift and a curse however.  Such an ability could get you into or out of trouble, depending on the context.  Ultimately I came to realize that the clever combination of sarcasm, mixed with braggadocio, and a healthy dash of hyperbole, was a time honored component of the oral tradition and when done well, an art form.

Yes indeed, shit talkin' is an art form when done properly.  I should know.  Both of my parents talked immense amounts of shit, even in their sleep it seemed.  The apple don't fall far from the tree!  In other words, shit talkin' is in my DNA.  Then one day I added the intellectual pursuit of shit talkin' to my resume, once again creating a lethal combination of the formal and the vernacular that would come to define my life.  These days however, I find myself constantly having to remind people that this verbal art form, like anything else, has rules.  As B.I.G. once said, "Ive been in this game for years/it's made me an animal/it's rules to this shit/I wrote me a manual."  The problem is some fools just don't want to follow the rules nowadays.  Others seem not to even know the rules. Count Floyd Mayweather amongst both camps.

I was quite disappointed with the ending of the Mayweather/Victor Ortiz bout last night.  Floyd "Money" Mayweather "sucka" punched Ortiz after a bizarre exchange that included a head butt, a kiss, and three apologies.  Though "Money May" was clearly winning the fight, he had not really done much visible damage to Ortiz through the 4th round.  Ortiz looked like he was beginning to come alive for the second time in the 4th round, after a strong Mayweather start, and then all of a sudden, with Floyd on the ropes, Ortiz jumps up and headbutts him for no apparent reason.  Ortiz looked to be overly amped up and perhaps forgot for a second that he was fighting a real fight, as opposed to a sparring session.  He quickly realized his error and walked over to embrace Floyd and apologize.  As the fighters separated, Ortiz extended his glove again in a gesture of apology, with Floyd responding in kind.  Ortiz would offer a third apology, and then with the referee Joe Cortez distracted while communicating with someone at ringside, and Ortiz not yet ready to resume, Floyd quickly sucka punched Ortiz, who turned to look in the direction of a slow to respond Cortez, only to be sucka punched a second time.  By now, Ortiz was on his ass, looking dazed and confused.  Just like that, the fight was over.

The first rule of boxing, as the commentators said repeatedly last night, is to protect yourself at all times. Ortiz did not do so and he lost because of this error.  What Floyd did was legal, but for a fighter who talks as much shit as Floyd does, the real question is, were Floyd's actions necessary?  Some will say that Ortiz started it by headbutting Floyd and that boxing is an eye-for-an-eye sport.  Following this logic, Ortiz got what he deserved.  Yet if one follows the rules of shit talkin', then Floyd comes up looking a bit suspect.

If you are going to use cash stacks as a make believe telephone and buy another Rolls Royce on HBO's 24/7, as Floyd did, among other grandiose acts of self indulgence not unlike those found in numerous '90s rap videos, then you shouldn't have to resort to "stealin on" someone to win a fight.  No matter how legal it may have been, Floyd's actions were particularly questionable at that moment.  Just because you can do something, doesn't always mean that you should do it.  All things lawful are not necessarily expedient. Floyd took advantage of a situation, but if he were really the best ever, as he consistently claims to be, he would have more respect for the sport than that which he demonstrated on Saturday night.

While I understand that all is fair in love and war, there is still a big difference between a boxing match and a street fight. For those of us who grew up watching the sport of boxing in much more competitive times such distinctions are especially sacred. The Marquis of Queensbury rules attest to this fact.  Boxing is a sport of skill, the sweet science of pugilism.  What Floyd did was not in keeping with the best of the boxing tradition.  Instead it was the sort of thing that someone might do just before robbing another individual.  What Floyd did was certainly not in keeping with the codes of shit talkin' either where the intensity of the challenge to be about what you talk about rises exponentially with each word spit.  Floyd's sucka punches were a telling sign of desperation from a fighter who claims to be on top of the world.  To say that these punches were classless would be to assume that suggestions of having class even belong in a conversation about Floyd Mayweather in the the first place.

Floyd would eventually fake an argument with commentator Larry Merchant during the post fight interview. This all seemed calculated to avoid having to answer any questions about a heavily anticipated potential fight with Manny Pacquiao in the future. Merchant, an 80 year old man, laughingly responded to Floyd by saying that if he were 50 years younger that he would kick Floyd's ass.  Yet Floyd's avoidance of all things Pacquiao makes these sucka punches and his post fight actions look that much more questionable.

Say what you will, until Floyd steps into the ring with Pacquiao, he will continue to look like a shook one in the eyes of many.  Other than Pac Man, Floyd has no competition and honestly boxing has no appeal.  Money May has been able to get away with talkin' trash without having much real competition, other than his own ego, yet his words and now his gestures ring hollow.   Dude looks like a straight clown.  He will need to step into the ring with Pacquiao and win impressively in order to remove this clown suit.  If Floyd does this, then he can talk all the shit he wants without apology, because as Muhammad Ali was fond of saying, "if you can back it up, it ain't braggin." But until this happens,  Floyd remains the embodiment of James Brown's famous axiom, "talkin' loud and sayin' nothing!"