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It was a promotion chock-full of offensive moments.
And from the instant publicity-tour microphones went live in Los Angeles to the end of the final fight-week presser in Las Vegas, neither Floyd Mayweather Jr. nor Conor McGregor showed much regard for the rules of decency and professional conduct as they sold their product.
Mayweather’s steady stream of F-bombs sent both censors and frazzled parents scrambling for mute-button cover, while the Irishman’s “dance for me, boy” taunt and subsequent “I’m half black from the belly button down” double-down won’t earn him awards from the NAACP any time soon.
But that doesn’t mean every syllable out of their mouths was worthy of angst.
Case in point: McGregor’s post-fight chat with Showtime’s Jim Gray, which prompted confusion and anger on social media thanks to the MMA star’s suggestions that he “turned [Mayweather] into a Mexican” and that the 40-year-old winner “fought like a Mexican” to beat him.
Gray’s initial reaction was a wide smile and hearty laugh, but within moments on Twitter and elsewhere came indignant claims that McGregor was yet again guilty of racism and insensitivity.
But, in this case at least, it could hardly be further from the truth.
As Gray or any other plugged-in boxing watcher will tell you, branding a fighter as “Mexican” is universally considered high praise and means that fighter eschews the hit-and-don’t-get-hit philosophy in favor of a rugged, come-forward approach in which seeking and destroying are the main objectives.
For much of the sport’s history, Mexican boxers have employed these entertaining, fan-friendly tactics, giving fighters from the country an admirable brand, similar to how Brazilian soccer players are known for their unparalleled skill and flair on the pitch.
Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. is widely considered the form’s modern standard-bearer thanks to a proclivity for vicious body punching, and others often mentioned among its recent best are fellow Hall of Famers like Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate and Marco Antonio Barrera and slam-dunk future inductee Erik Morales. Of their 381 career victories, 308 came by KO or TKO.
Meanwhile, Mayweather has forever been known as a defensive master and counterattacker, and, prior to Saturday, he hadn’t scored an undisputed stoppage in a fight since he waxed another tough-talking European import, Ricky Hatton, in December 2007.
But he was an all-out offensive force against McGregor, working the body early, becoming more aggressive as his foe grew fatigued and eventually landing 152 of 261 power punches, according to CompuBox—a super-efficient 58.2 percent—before the end came at 1:05 of Round 10.
It was a label well-earned.
And it’s not as if Mayweather’s the only one to whom it’s been non-ethnically affixed.
Popular multi-belt champ Gennady Golovkin—born and raised more than 6,000 miles away in Kazakhstan—has wholeheartedly embraced the “Mexican style” on the way to an imminent middleweight showdown with Guadalajara, Mexico, native and former 160-pound title claimant Canelo Alvarez.
He’s an aggressive stalker with power in both hands and walks opponents down with a violent intent that yielded 23 straight KOs from November 2008 to September 2016. In fact, over 37 pro fights since he won a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, he’s fought just 172 rounds—an average of 4.6 per fight.
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The approach has made him one of HBO’s most marketable fighters. The cable giant will carry the Golovkin-Alvarez fight on its pay-per-view arm, and it’s expected to do big numbers.
“I train all of my fighters to fight in the Mexican style, to be assassins,” Golovkin’s Mexico-born trainer, Abel Sanchez, said via The Sweet Science. “It’s the only way you can protect yourself from bad decisions from the judges.”
And it’s not as if Golovkin is going it alone.
Another export from the ex-Soviet bloc, featherweight Evgeny Gradovich, won 19 straight fights, earned a 126-pound championship belt and was nicknamed the Mexican Russian after “stalking and battering [then-champ Billy Dib] with the ferocity of a feral animal” (via Maxim) in their first fight in March 2013.
Gradovich racked up four successful title defenses—including a TKO of Dib in a rematch—before losing his belt on a cut-induced technical decision. He’s won four of five fights since he was dethroned and remains a top-10 contender at 122 pounds, according to the IBF (No. 8), WBA (No. 6) and WBO (No. 5).
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He was also included on the initial “Gatti List”—Jim Lampley’s rundown of the sport’s most entertaining fighters—on the inaugural episode of HBO’s The Fight Game.
The moral of the story: If it’s good for one tough guy, it’s good for another.
So even though McGregor’s track record is one of juvenile vulgarity, this time he deserves a pass because he was right.
For one farewell night in Las Vegas, Mayweather was “Mexican Money.”