Mariotti: Hype trumps common sense in Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

Here in the 21st century, we are supposed to embrace what is sensible, healthy, inspirational, timely, progressive, cost-effective, safe and honest. So why are more than 3 million households, along with every tavern and restaurant and backroom party worth their booze stock, prepared to spend $99.95 each for a fight that should have happened five years ago in a sleaze sport as dead as the brain cells of its combatants?

And how are we sure any of this is real when promoters are controlling almost all the tickets, each fighter has accused the other of using banned performance-enhancing substances, and the dateline is Las Vegas? And can anybody be certain about safety in a town where: 1) chaos reigned after a foodie named Mike Tyson turned Evander Holyfield's right ear into an acquired taste; 2) Tupac Shakur was gunned down in a drive-by after a Tyson fight; and 3) dozens were treated for minor injuries last year in a stampede following a fight featuring, yes, Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

Do we have any idea what possibly could happen this weekend, in what feels like a convergence of show-business greed, consumer foolishness and Sin City debauchery? I'll be covering Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in Vegas because I'm a columnist who reports on sports for a living. You do not have to spend $99.95 to watch, even as the combatants speak of the showdown as a sacred occasion.

“First off, I want to thank God,” Mayweather said Wednesday at the final prefight media gathering. “Without him, all of this wouldn't be possible.”

“I can't imagine the Lord gave me this blessing,” Pacquiao said minutes later. “If you have faith in the Lord, all things are possible.”

Is it possible the Lord is covering his eyes and holding his nose?

When they count the revenues after Mayweather and Pacquiao duel Saturday night, they'd better have a sturdier device than an Apple Watch. This may go down as a $500 million extravaganza, which makes it less a sporting mega-event and more an entertainment bonanza for the ages. Mayweather could earn $200 million and Pacquiao about $120 million for maybe an hour of work at the MGM Grand, where ringside tickets are going for $50,000, nosebleeds are a mere $4,000 and one of the spectators will be Tom Brady, who only days ago blew off Barack Obama at the White House but made appropriate time for a prizefight.

All I can ask is: How did we get here?

Why did a fight far past its prime become The Place To Be in 2015?

The simple answer is that none of us ever grows up, that we'll always be voyeurs back on the playground when two kids brawl during recess. It defies logic when a society that spends years debating the health risks of football — and, in the intellectual process, all but buries the fight game as your grandfather's form of barbarism — drops everything and succumbs to delirious anticipation over a 38-year-old Mayweather finally fighting a 36-year-old Pacquiao. It also defies sound reason when we watch PEDs scandalize sports for two decades yet don't care much when Victor Conte, of BALCO infamy, questions the testing procedures, wonders if the fight will be juice-free and doubts if we'd ever be told if one or both men were dirty.

Turns out the fight hype has overwhelmed all levelheadness.

Good vs. evil, goes the theme. Does that really sell anymore? No doubt Mayweather is a revolting character, with money-flaunting and arrogance mixed with multiple episodes of domestic violence, including convictions.

This is Mayweather, talking about Mayweather: “No athlete works harder than Floyd Mayweather. I'm the best at talking trash. I'm also the best at going out there and backing it up.”

This is Mayweather, talking about women: “When it comes to females — even though you can't drive 10 cars at one time, you got people that got 10 cars. So if you're able to keep up maintenance on 10 cars, I feel that, as far as when it comes to females, that one thing should apply. If you're able to take care of 20, then you should have 20.”

This is Mayweather, talking about the great Muhammad Ali on ESPN. “No one can ever brainwash me to make me think that Muhammad Ali was better than me. … How? He only fought in one weight class. Leon Spinks beat him when he had seven fights. They'll never put a fighter in there with Floyd Mayweather with seven fights. He called himself The Greatest, and I call myself TBE [The Best Ever].”

This is Mayweather, talking about his earnings this weekend: “All [four] of my kids can get $50 million apiece from just this fight.”

This is Mayweather, talking about Pacquiao a few years ago: “Once I stomp the midget, I'll make that motherf—– make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.”

This is America, reaching for the vomit bag. All you need to know is that Tyson, more despicable at one point than even Mayweather, thinks lowly of the champ. “I try to stay as far away from dirt as possible,” Tyson said. “I was always told by my mother that if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say nothing.”

Yet Mayweather's various vulgarities haven't stopped him from drawing the biggest earnings of any athlete the last two years. The TV blowhard, Keith Olbermann, called on Americans to boycott the fight because of Mayweather's criminal record. Americans are more likely to boycott Keith Olbermann. It should be evident by now that sports fans are willing to overlook character flaws if it means a potential thrill of a lifetime. What should excite us is Mayweather, the greatest fighter of his generation and a tactician as pure and smart as any in history, finally has agreed to a challenge from Pacquiao.

Problem is, Pacquiao has lost five times, including a knockout stunner against Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012. The sheen is gone, and he has devoted more time lately to his political career in the Philippines. “I know I'm going to win the fight in the ring,” Pacquiao told a crowd of supporters when he arrived in Vegas. “So relax.”

His trainer, Freddie Roach, caused a stir when he told USA Today he thinks Mayweather will withdraw from the fight. Roach says Showtime, the TV network that funds and enables the Mayweather experience, funneled him into the Pacquiao event. “I won't believe it until I see him in front of us in the ring,” Roach said. “I just think he was forced into this fight. He didn't want this fight. Every fight he has had in his lifetime was one that he picked. This is the first one he was forced into, and I feel he was uncomfortable. They made him take it, Showtime.”

Mayweather is tired of Roach. “He's making it basically a God-against-devil kind of thing, but he doesn't have to get in there and fight,” Mayweather said. “He's entitled to say what he wants to say, but the fighters aren't speaking like that, and it comes down to the two fighters.”

Actually, Pacquaio did take a shot at Floyd the other day, in a Christian way. “Money is the root of all evil. I don't want to judge or criticize him. I'm just hoping and praying he will also help the poor people using that money that God gave him,” he said.

Mayweather? He looked into a camera Wednesday and spoke to the people, asking them to donate directly to the Floyd Fund. “You guys at home, this is an event you can't miss,” he said. “The biggest fight in boxing history.”

The oddsmakers, Vegas and elsewhere, aren't buying the idea that it will be a close fight. Pacquaio pleads his case, saying, “I don't feel that I am an underdog. That motivates me more. The Lord, he will deliver [Mayweather] into my hands.”

Mayweather, truth be told, will deliver a beating to Manny's mug and win a decision.

And I will survive Vegas, somehow.

I just hope you survive your $99.95.

Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at Read his website at

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