Last week, Floyd Mayweather announced that he will fight a rematch with Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13. Their first fight, two months ago, was Mayweather’s closest challenge in years, with many in the boxing media believing that Maidana had earned the decision. And while that bout may have failed to meet expectations at the box office, the competitiveness and controversy are sure to make the sequel the biggest fight of the year. More important from Mayweather’s point of view is that it will net him the single largest paycheck of any athlete on the planet this year. (It’s distinctly possible that Mayweather will earn more for those 36 minutes than LeBron James will earn in salary over the next two years.) And while you can expect to hear a lot of noise about this fight over the coming months, there’s one storyline that you probably won’t hear much about.
Floyd Mayweather is a misogynist. And not just a misogynist, but a batterer, and a serial batterer at that. This is a statement of fact that you will rarely see or hear from the professional boxing media, many of whom remain hopelessly dependent on the reigning box office king’s goodwill for access. It’s certainly not one you will hear from any of the assembled talking heads on Showtime, the CBS-owned cable network to which Mayweather is contractually wed. And while it may be easy enough to guess why the boxing media has been so willing to cover for Mayweather’s sins, it’s less obvious why so many others are so willing to look the other way.
Floyd Mayweather’s history of misogyny, expressed—as he is wont to do—through violence, is well-documented and reprehensible. It extends over a dozen years and includes at least seven separate physical assaults on five different women that resulted in arrest or citation, as well as several other instances where the police had to be summoned in response to an actual or perceived threat from Mayweather.
Ironically, the story begins with Mayweather claiming to be a champion for battered women. In 2001, Mayweather fought what was then the biggest fight of his career, against the favored Diego “Chico” Corrales. Corrales, a deeply troubled but usually benevolent soul, was facing an impending jail sentence for assaulting his wife. Mayweather, always eager to get under his opponents’ skin, pounced on it. He dedicated his performance to “all the battered women in the world” and even entered the ring to music bashing violence against women. It worked. In retrospect, it’s obvious that Corrales would have lost to Mayweather under any circumstances, but he was atypically distracted and off his game that night, resulting in what many still consider to be the most impressive win of Mayweather’s career.
But Mayweather quickly extinguished any hope that his stance was anything other than gamesmanship. Just one month after the Corrales fight, Mayweather got into an argument with Melissa Brim, the mother of Mayweather’s daughter, Ayanna, over child support. According to Brim, Mayweather struck her in the face with a car door, pushed her into the car, and then proceeded to repeatedly punch her. That was only the beginning.
Five months later, Mayweather, Brim, and Ayanna were shopping together at a Las Vegas mall when Mayweather and Brim got into an argument. After asking one of his friends to take Ayanna away from Brim, Mayweather punched Brim in the neck and then fled the scene before police could arrive.
Mayweather ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of battery against Brim’s father and two counts of battery (domestic violence) against Brim, in October 2001 and March 2002, respectively, for which he received a suspended sentence. In exchange for his guilty plea, charges of stalking, violating a protective order, and attempted obstruction of a police officer were dropped.
In August 2003, Mayweather and several of his associates were at the Ra nightclub at the Luxor in Las Vegas when he encountered Herneatha McGill and Karra Blackburn, who were friends of Josie Harris, the mother of three of Mayweather’s children. McGill was aware that Mayweather disliked her and attempted to leave when she saw him coming. Here’s how the Las Vegas Sun related her testimony:
McGill said as Mayweather got closer she read his lips and he was saying he, Summers and the unidentified third man should go hurt her and Blackburn. Before the women could get away, McGill testified, Mayweather punched her in the jaw and Blackburn in the head.
McGill said she was trying to get away when Mayweather hit her.
“I fell to the ground,” McGill said, “and Karra tried to help, and as she was, Mr. Mayweather hit her as well. After she was hit I helped her up and we ran out of the club.”
According to McGill, the source of the animus between them and the presumptive motive for the unprovoked attack was simply Mayweather’s anger that Harris had friends that he had not approved of.
The two women left the club but Mayweather and his entourage pursued them outside. (Mayweather would later testify that he’d seen the women steal his friend’s wallet.) When casino security intervened, according to the prosecutor, Mayweather picked up and shook a female security guard, for which he was handcuffed and issued a citation. After the dust settled, club security instructed McGill and Blackburn not to file a formal complaint against Mayweather or they would “pay for it in the streets,” according to the women’s testimony. Sixteen days later, McGill and Blackburn chose to pursue charges against Mayweather anyway, and, in June 2004, Mayweather was found guilty of two counts of battery. He (again) received a suspended sentence and ordered to complete “impulse control” counseling. The guilty verdict was later vacated in 2005 and the charges were “dismissed per negotiations” in July 2008.
Only four months after the Ra melee, Mayweather’s “impulses” were again drawn into question. The setting was once again outside a Las Vegas nightclub, this time the parking lot in front of SRO, where Mayweather and Harris were seated in his Bentley. All parties seem to agree that the fight started after Harris confronted Mayweather about his behavior with another woman. According to statements Harris made to the police that evening, Mayweather responded by repeatedly punching and kicking Harris in the car and then dragging her out of the car by her hair, causing a facial laceration. She also told officers Mayweather had beaten her before. Mayweather was arrested and charged with felony battery.
By the time of the trial in July 2005, however, Harris had changed her story. She claimed that she instigated the fight because she was jealous of the other woman, and that, while Floyd had indeed dragged her from his car, causing her facial wound, it was only because she was out of control. Harris testified that she’d lied to police about any punching and kicking, going so far as to claim that Mayweather would never hit her, because he’s “like a teddy bear inside.” Mayweather was acquitted. Shortly thereafter, he purchased Harris a $500,000 25-carat diamond ring.
The most famous violent incident involving Mayweather occurred in September 2010, when he confronted Harris about dating NBA guard C.J. Watson. According to Harris, her children, and the cops—none of whom have ever been contradicted on any specific point—what unfolded that evening was utterly terrifying. Although Mayweather and Harris were no longer an item, and Mayweather had his own live-in girlfriend, Shantel “Miss” Jackson, Harris was still living in a home that Mayweather owned. When she returned home from a night of bowling at 2:30 a.m., she discovered Mayweather was waiting for her and talking to their children. They quickly found themselves embroiled in a heated argument, and Harris wisely called the police. She told the officers that no battery had taken place but that she wanted Mayweather to leave the premises. Mayweather, instead, insisted that he wanted to evict Harris from the house. Ultimately, Mayweather agreed to leave.
But Mayweather returned around 5 a.m., accompanied by another man, both of who were let in by one of Mayweather and Harris’s children. Harris was asleep on her living room couch when she was jarred awake by the sound of Mayweather screaming at her about texts he had found from Watson on her cell phone. When Harris admitted that she was seeing Watson, Mayweather exploded. He punched her repeatedly in the rear of her head, pulled her off the couch by her hair, and twisted her arm. He screamed that he would “kill” Harris and Watson, that he would make both “disappear.” Harris screamed for her children Koraun and Zion, aged 10 and 9, to call the police. Mayweather turned to the kids, according to the police report, and yelled that he would “beat their asses if they left the house or called the police.” Koraun tried to run up the stairs, but Mayweather’s associate blocked his path. Eventually, he was able to make it outside, and the police were summoned. Koraun told police he had witnessed his father punching and kicking his mother while she lay on the ground. By the time the cops had entered the home, Mayweather had fled, taking Harris’s cell phone with him. In a 2013 interview with Yahoo Sports, Harris stated that she believes Mayweather might have killed her that night if Koraun hadn’t been able to alert the authorities when he did.
The results of the beating were savage enough as it was. A doctor’s report found bruises, contusions, and a concussion from the blows that Harris sustained to the back of her head. In her interview with Yahoo, Harris speculated that Mayweather punched her in the back of her head specifically to avoid producing a visible bruise. That is one possible explanation. Another explanation, well known to boxers, is that “rabbit punches” to the back of the head are especially dangerous, which is why they are banned in all major combat sports.
Mayweather was charged with a host of felony offenses ranging from beating Harris to threatening his children. Facing charges that could have resulted in a combined 34 years in prison, Mayweather copped a plea to misdemeanor domestic assault and harassment charges, and received a 90-day jail sentence in December 2011. Other than generally denying Harris’s story, Floyd has never given his version of events.
Floyd began serving his jail sentence in June 2012. He was released on Aug. 3, after just two months, for good behavior.
On Sept. 9, 2012—one month after his release from jail—Melissa Brim called police at 2 a.m. to report that she was in a verbal altercation with Mayweather. By the time police arrived, Mayweather had fled with some of Brim’s property. The property was later returned and Brim declined to press charges. Like Harris, Brim lives in a home that is owned by Mayweather.
It’s clear enough that Mayweather is a serial batterer of women, but even that is an oversimplification. To truly place these repeated acts of brutality in context requires a broader exploration of Mayweather’s attitudes and actions toward women.
It’s no secret that Mayweather, who goes by the nickname “Money,” loves his possessions; according to Harris, Mayweather prizes his trophies of wealth above his in-ring accomplishments. “That is the reward. He prides himself off that more than the belts,” Harris told Yahoo. “He loves that he can hop on a private jet or buy any watch or buy any ring.” It doesn’t take a huge inferential leap to see that Mayweather both views the women in his life as little more than property and expects them to unhesitatingly share that view.
Property has three basic characteristics: It can be purchased; it can be controlled by its owner; and it can be disposed of when it is no longer needed. And, judging by own his statements and behavior, Mayweather has similar expectations for the women in his life. In an hour-long, Mayweather-produced, Showtime-televised infomercial about his lifestyle, 30 Days in May, Mayweather compared women to a collection of cars.
When it comes to females … even though you can’t drive 10 cars at one time, but … you got people that got 10 cars. So, you’re able to keep maintenance up on 10 cars. So, I feel that, as far as when it comes to females, that same thing should apply. If you’re able to take care of 20, then you should have 20.
Remember: That’s a statement Mayweather made in a promotional movie that he produced. One can only imagine what wound up on the cutting room floor.
Examples of this attitude are easy to find. Consider the case of Josie Harris, discussed above. Mayweather showered her with gifts and allowed her to live in a home he owned. But Mayweather expected to be able to control her. When she had friends he didn’t approve of, he attacked those friends. When she questioned his behavior with other women, they ended up in an altercation that resulted in felony charges. And even after Mayweather had shacked up with another woman (his then-fiancée, the aforementioned Jackson), he expected Harris to continue to abide by his rules about dating. When he found out she was dating another man, his first impulse was to try and evict her from the home. His second was to brutally assault her.
Or consider the case of Jackson herself. After a multi-year relationship, the couple split in late 2013, allegedly when Jackson got fed up with Mayweather’s rampant infidelity. After the split, Mayweather made a display of humiliating his former fiancée. He posted unflattering home pictures online. He claimed to have paid for Jackson’s plastic surgery and mockingly claimed he wanted his money back because “I’m an Indian Giver.” He made a public spectacle of taking back the gifts he’d given her, from a Hermès handbag to extravagant jewelry, and sneered at her supposed financial difficulties. He even took down Jackson’s Instagram page, which he had helped to set up. Jackson replied by creating a new page and explaining that the old one “got erased by a jealous person who spent money to get it done. All because I said NO.”
The crescendo, however, came after Jackson was reported to be dating rapper Nelly. Mayweather blew his top. Unable to lash out physically at Jackson, he (or someone working at his instruction) lashed out as violently as he could online; taking to Facebook and posting a sonogram image of what he claimed were two fetuses that Jackson had aborted. “The real reason me and Shantel Christine Jackson @missjackson broke up was because she got a abortion,” Floyd raged, “and I’m totally against killing babies. She killed our twin babies.” He quickly deleted the post, but then seemed to stand by his statements in subsequent radio interviews. In a lifetime of increasingly repulsive behavior, Floyd Mayweather seemed to have finally reached his ceiling.
Mayweather’s most recent forays into social media have been innocuous compared to the heated war of words with Jackson, but little different in terms of attitude. Last month, Mayweather took to Instagram and posted a missive to all women. “How a women dresses is her advertisement,” it began. “If a female shows half of her body, she’s asking to be disrespected.”
If Floyd Mayweather’s attitude towards women has matured, he is doing a fine job of hiding it.
Throughout this 12-year period of serial abuse and wretched behavior, the sports world and the media have been remarkably silent. Boxing has always been a sport that involved dangerous men, many of whom did bad things outside the ring. What is unique about Mayweather is the degree to which the sport and media have insulated him from criticism.
Boxers from Sonny Liston to Mike Tyson to Bernard Hopkins have had criminal records, which have received varying degrees of scrutiny. But those men were positioned very differently by the boxing establishment than Mayweather is. Hopkins is the OG, the guy who did his time when he was younger and now stays—just barely*—on the right side of the law, while maintaining some allure of danger. Tyson’s volatility was at the very core of his marketability. People paid to watch the uncontrolled rage and fury, and to feel the sense that anything could happen. Liston embodied in the press all that was sullen and evil, whether or not it was true (James Baldwin once wrote that Liston “reminded me of big, black men I have known who acquired the reputation of being tough in order to conceal the fact that they weren’t hard. Anyone who cared to could turn them into taffy.”) For these men, their records were, among other things, marketing tools.
By contrast, Floyd Mayweather is “Money,” marketed as, essentially, the Ted DiBiase of boxing, no hardened street thug but rather a scientific fighter who wears $10,000 suits and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, who collects Bentleys and Rolls-Royces and flies private jets, and who’s touted as a genuinely savvy businessman with unusual control over his own promotion.
The boxing establishment, including its media, has a huge incentive to perpetuate this myth. So, while Mayweather’s jail sentence certainly received a reasonable amount of press coverage, it was not the sort of coverage one might expect—or at least hope for—for a confessed serial batterer. Instead, the media have gone out of their way to minimize the seriousness of the crime, sometimes to the point of questioning its very legitimacy, while continuously portraying Mayweather as a reformed soul in spite of his consistently misogynistic and violent behavior. In so doing, they’ve helped to keep the Money character intact.
The special treatment began before Mayweather entered prison, when he successfully requested that his jail term be delayed so that he could fight on his weekend of choice, Cinco De Mayo. Following the court-ordered delay—purportedly granted because of Mayweather’s economic value to the Las Vegas community—Mayweather somehow contrived to get a license for the fight despite his pending jail sentence. The Nevada State Athletic Commission possesses the power to revoke a fighter’s license for violating any Nevada law, other than minor traffic violations, or if he/she is arrested or charged with a crime of moral turpitude. Mayweather was never suspended, even though he has been arrested and charged with battery, theft, and/or obstructing police on multiple occasions. To highlight how disproportionate this inaction is, at approximately the same time, the commission suspended boxer Julio César Chávez Jr. for nine months and revoked the license of Joel Casamayor, both for the sin of testing positive for marijuana.
The boxing media, too, saw much to commend in Mayweather as he approached his jail sentence. The Los Angeles Times ran a column by Bill Dwyer entitled “It’s been a different Floyd Mayweather Jr. this week,” in which he praised Mayweather for acting “restrained, mellow, almost humble” in the run-up to his final fight before jail. The most important name in boxing journalism, ESPN’s Dan Rafael (pictured here alongside Mayweather), agreed, characterizing Mayweather’s demeanor as “impressive” despite the pending jail sentence for what Rafael referred to as an “incident” in which Floyd “allegedly assaulted” Harris, in spite of Mayweather’s having pleaded guilty to doing exactly that. Rafael concluded the story with several paragraphs of unedited quotes from Floyd and his supporters praising his mental strength, determination, and positive outlook.
When Mayweather was released, the coverage was even more complimentary. Kevin Iole of Yahoo oohed and ahhed at Mayweather’s post-prison physique, comparing him to Mr. Olympia. ESPN’s first coverage of Mayweather’s release came in the form of an AP story that described his offense as being a “scuffle with his girlfriend” (which not only vastly understates matters but mischaracterizes Mayweather’s relationship with Harris). Even the Guardian chose to describe Mayweather’s stint in jail as a mere “distraction.”
Unlike other high-profile athletes who struggled to find work after serving jail time—Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress, for example—a bidding war immediately erupted for Mayweather’s services. The winner was Showtime, which awarded Mayweather with the richest contract in sports history and quickly proceeded to air Mayweather’s self-serving infomercial (which, naturally, contained Mayweather’s one-sided, albeit detail-free, denial of any wrongdoing). Since then, Showtime has continued to unhesitatingly promote Mayweather without mentioning his criminal history—a notable difference from how HBO handled Mayweather when he fought on its network, or even how Showtime handled its coverage of a post-prison Mike Tyson.
Mayweather’s first fight after prison came against a poorly regarded opponent named Robert Guerrero. During a pre-fight press conference, Guerrero’s father (who is also his trainer) angrily referred to Mayweather as a “woman beater.” Using an opponent’s dirty laundry to get under his skin is hardly a novel tactic in boxing; as mentioned, Mayweather had employed exactly the same approach against Diego Corrales, and no one (including then-USA Today columnist Dan Rafael) viewed it as anything other than ordinary gamesmanship. But here the boxing media practically fell over themselves in swarming to Mayweather’s defense. Rafael called it “an unprovoked attack against Mayweather” before launching into an extraordinarily positive puff-piece entitled, “Did time away mellow Mayweather?” in which he quoted a supposedly Zen-like Mayweather saying, “I’ll just say a prayer for [Guerrero’s father],” and repeated Mayweather’s attorney’s absurd and ultimately disproven claim that the boxer had suffered extraordinarily harsh conditions during his two-month stint in jail. Rafael devoted the remainder of the article to documenting Mayweather’s supposed redemption, extensively quoting business partners and allowing Mayweather to deliver an uninterrupted saccharine-sweet soliloquy that encompassed the final two paragraphs of the article. The fact that police were needed to quell an altercation between the supposedly reformed Mayweather and Melissa Brim was notably absent.
It has been more than two years since Floyd Mayweather has been released from prison, and his behavior—and his attitude towards women—seems little changed from before. And yet the media continue to treat him gently and deferentially. The failure of the sports media to ask any of the questions raised by his conduct, let alone hold Mayweather responsible for it, only enables a pattern of behavior to continue.
No one is saying, or should be saying, that Mayweather should be banned from his profession or forced to accept less money than he deserves. But what Mayweather deserves is a function of what he can earn, and what he can earn is tied directly to his public image.
Mayweather today is a hero. He is a star. He has celebrities like his BFF Justin Bieber and even sports reporters hanging out in his gym and helping to model his clothing line. His fights are among the biggest events in sports and the hottest tickets in Las Vegas. The man who once called himself “Pretty Boy” is now the self-proclaimed “face of boxing.” Maybe if people knew the whole story about Floyd Mayweather, that would be different. Maybe people would have some questions about those celebrities and sports reporters who feel so comfortable cozying up to a repeat offender. Maybe people would think twice about wearing a TMT hat or shelling out for an overpriced pay-per-view. And maybe people would stop thinking of Mayweather as Money, the character who’s made so much for so many.
But of course this would be an uncomfortable reckoning for the sport. Why would anybody whose living depends on boxing’s good health want to give its face a black eye?
Daniel Roberts (IronMikeGallego) is a longtime boxing fan and occasional contributor to Deadspin and SportsOnEarth. He can be found on Twitter @DRobertsIMG or at DRobertsIMG@gmail.com.
Photos via Getty and Associated Press.