Recently John Considine wrote (here) on the topic of values, identity and economics within team sports. While watching the ‘Fight of the Century’ between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao last Saturday night it was apparent that identity and its meaning making implications are just as evident in individual sporting contests.
The fight itself was the most lucrative in boxing history. The fighter’s identities were at the forefront of the pre-match hype with the fight being billed as a Good versus Evil affair. Pacquiao, the clean living family man carrying the hopes of a poverty stricken nation on his shoulders against ‘Money’ Mayweather, the arrogant, undefeated champion who boasts about an extravagant lifestyle and has been spent time in prison on domestic violence charges. At times, the contest seemed less a sporting contest and more a morality play, with each fighter playing up to their role.
Before the fight analysts predicted Pacquiao to dominate the early rounds, his identity as an aggressive all action fighter preceding him. However, the fight itself never quite got going. Mayweather, an expert in the art of defensive boxing, used his jab, quick reflexes and counter punching ability to nullify Pacquiao’s speed and aggression, thus stripping the Filipino of his identity as an all-action boxer.
However, during the latter stages of the fight the commentators noted that boxing can be a subjective sport with each person associating different meaning making implications to different events. The commentators questioned whether the judges would place greater value on Mayweather’s defensive tactics or would reward Pacquiao as the aggressor, throwing flurries of punches without causing much damage.
In the end, Mayweather won by unanimous decision to a chorus of boos from the crowd. Those in attendance who had identified the bout as ‘The Fight of the Century’ felt angry and disappointed with the lack of action. Pacquiao himself insisted “I thought I won the fight,” adding, “He (Mayweather) didn't do nothing.” Pacquiao evidently didn’t place much value on Mayweather’s style of fighting which he described as “running”.
However, none of this is likely to bother Mayweather too much. Mayweather fought a fight equivalent to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea ‘parking the bus’ to claim the Premier League title this week. Mayweather and Mourinho have been branded ‘boring’ for their style yet their identity has always been ‘winners’ rather than entertainers. The only thing that matters to two of the best in their respective fields is the end result. While Mayweather and Mourinho always seem to run out winners, it’s the fans that often tend to end up being the losers.
Stephen Brosnan is a Research Assistant at the Department of Economics, University College Cork