TORONTO – Every time his name is mentioned you hear it.
"Pay your taxes!"
These, along with many likely more expletive-fuelled tirades from fans and his opponents, can be considered the official rallying cries of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
He is a despicable human being who makes no bones about worshipping money, has seen jail time for domestic abuse and does, in fact, owe the IRS a boatload of money. He also has near-divine boxing gifts, hailed as the greatest fighter of his generation and the best defensive fighter of all-time.
On Aug. 26 he’s going for an unprecedented 50-0 record against MMA superstar Conor McGregor. McGregor can match Mayweather’s ego and bluster but certainly not his boxing skill nor the special talent that’s made him a the most successful Pay-Per-View draw in history: His ability to play the heel.
No one in sports history has exploited playing a villain the way Mayweather has. Without question he’s a terrible person, but he’s also very self-aware and has used that bad-boy image to catapult him to paydays other boxers and professional athletes can only dream of.
Since breaking off from Bob Arum’s Top Rank promotion to work for himself, Mayweather has meticulously controlled everything about his career, choosing fights that work for him at times that give him the greatest advantage all the while ensuring he gets the biggest cut for himself.
The way he’s controlled everything around him has only fuelled his detractors over the years and, in turn, fed into the heel role he’s carefully created since he first defeated Oscar De La Hoya back in 2007 to launch himself into superstardom.
Now at age 40, he’s looking to play his con one last time against the perfect opponent in McGregor.
This has all the fixings of a classic Mayweather match. The deck is stacked in his favour in terms of ability and, more importantly, he’s facing a young man so charismatic and so popular that when the inevitable happens and Mayweather wins, he’ll be able to say goodbye to life as a professional boxer having done the ultimate heel move, snuffing out the light of combat sports’ brightest star with a nine-figure paycheque in tow.
"I choose fortune over fame," Mayweather said at the Toronto promotional world tour stop Wednesday. "McGregor can have more fans, but I’ve got more money."
McGregor is a brilliant mixed martial artist, but anyone of sane mind can see even at his advanced age, there’s no chance Mayweather loses. Now, it’s likely that the 28-year-old Irishman knows he can’t win and is just along for the ride for his own big payday, but his natural charisma is really doing nothing more than just feeding the Mayweather machine.
"Conor didn’t surprise me. Conor was everything that he was cracked up to be," said Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza. "He’s charismatic, he’s funny, he’s outrageous, he’s confrontational. He showed everything that’s made him a superstar.
"Floyd surprised me a little bit because Floyd is mellow. His last few fights, last few years, he’s not the biggest trash talker, he’s not the trash talker that he once was. But, I think, in that atmosphere the competitive juices got flowing and he felt the need to respond after seeing the way that Conor held the stage and held the crowd, the competitor in him came out and the old Floyd came out a little bit as well."
Yes, the "old Floyd" is back out for this promotional tour, but that’s probably because, like when he fought De La Hoya, he’s dealing with man with so much natural likeability that going absurd and hamming it up as a villain will give him the exact reaction he wants.
"If it was some other fighter I’d say it might get under his skin but Floyd revels in being the villain, he always has," Espinoza said. "So the more boos the better."
This is why he flaunts his money in front of everyone he sees. This is why he mocks his opponents’ heritage, such as disrespectfully walking around the stage with an Irish flag draped around him.
It’s because he loves to be hated and knows how to make use of that better than anyone else. He knows people are dying to see him lose. Only problem is, it’s never happened before and it’s not going to happen against McGregor.
But we’re all going to watch anyway. It looks like Mayweather wins again.