It sounds bad, but when Bernard Hopkins says that Floyd Mayweather would kick Manny Pacquiao's ass because he's black, I kind of love it. From AOL Fanhouse:
"Floyd Mayweather would beat Manny Pacquiao because the styles that African American fighters -- and I mean, black fighters from the streets or the inner cities -- would be successful. I think Floyd Mayweather would pot-shot Pacquiao and bust him up in between the four-to-five punches that Pacquiao throws and then set him up later on down the line."
"Maybe I'm biased because I'm black, but I think that this is what is said at people's homes and around the dinner table among black boxing fans and fighters. Most of them won't say it [in public] because they're not being real and they don't have the balls to say it."
I love it. Because in an abstract sense, boxing appeals to the most elemental impulses of its fans. It's not about running the right play or making the big shot or scoring the crucial goal. There's an art to it, sure, but on the whole, people love it because boxing is about beating the crap out someone. For fans and fighters alike, boxing sanctions the basic, raw instincts inside all of us. Which brings us to racism...
It's never good to look down on another race, but it's okay to love your own, isn't it?
(White guys: don't answer that.)
On Saturday night during the Pacquiao-Margarito fight, I was at bar surrounded by Filipinos, Mexicans, whites, and blacks. And the entire night, Filipinos were jeering the Mexicans, Mexicans were jeering the Filipinos, and everyone was rolling their eyes at the black guys crowing about Floyd Mayweather. For a white guy standing awkwardly in between all of this, it was pretty great.
Because as disgusting as it can be sometimes, there's still something distinctly human about racism. No different than the impulse to punch someone in the face, there are seeds of racial predjudice inside all of us. Look at this scene in Do The Right Thing or this one, from 25th Hour.
Humans naturally gravitate toward people we can identify with, and process the "others" with stereotypes. We bury these thoughts deep down inside us for the same reason we don't punch co-workers in the face when they deserve it. Not everything is meant to be shared with the world, and society would descend into chaos if we all acted on these instincts. That doesn't mean they're wrong, though, and we don't have to pretend a Filipino is the "same" as a black dude from Grand Rapids.
Institutional racism--borne out in America for roughly 200 years--is a completely different animal.
But in terms of interpersonal relations, if you put 500 people in a room and two fighters up on a big projector, the Mexicans are going to root for the Mexican, the Filipinos are going to root for the Filipino, and the black guys there are going to talk about Floyd Mayweather. It's the one place where people can give in to these instincts without becoming a taboo. Taken in stride, the whole experience can be kind of refreshing. Raw and honest and, usually, all in good fun.
People often say you can't hide in a boxing ring, and that's part of its charm. And watching something so elemental, spectators can't hide their biases. So just like it was cool to see the hundreds of Mexicans show up to support a doomed Margarito Saturday night, it's cool that Bernard Hopkins likes Floyd here largely because of his race. Millions of Filipinos support Pacquiao for the exact same reasons. It's honest, refreshing, and incredibly human.
"Maybe I'm biased because I'm black," he said. And he definitely he is. But aren't we all, a little?
I just wish Peter McNeeley's career had panned out...