There will come a time, one day, when the sports ministry, Sascoc or someone will get around to telling us who paid for Floyd Mayweather to visit South Africa. Perhaps it will happen when the first young boxer from the Dube club in Soweto goes into a ring, wins and tells the world that almost getting trained by Mayweather during his 30-minute visit to the club had inspired him.
Until then, we will have deafening silence from pretty much everyone on the visit of a man who has $120-million (about R1,3-billion) in one bank account, does not wear the same pair of boxer shorts or takkies twice, has been undefeated in 45 fights, was born with an incredible talent and has developed a quite single-minded dedication to his job, and that nagging conviction for beating up his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children because she dared to date another man.
On Twitter, when I mentioned the conviction, someone replied that I would not say that to Mayweather’s face, which suggested that he would grab my hair and punch me on the back of my head as he did Josie Harris, his ex-girlfriend. That, I told my challenger, was exactly the point. I was also told, “F*ck you, Kevin” and “you are dump and stupid”. Dump and dumper, that’s me.
The ANC Women’s League may, perhaps, have been too busy repeating to themselves they were not ready to be in charge of the country to stage a protest against Mayweather’s presence. The DA have also been strangely quiet on the matter, as, unless I have missed their communication on it, have been all of the others.
The Sunday Times, part of the Times Media Group, who were the media partners for the visit, reported yesterday Mayweather said he had “absolutely no regrets” over his conviction for domestic assault. “When I got out, I got in my Bentley, drove to my house,” Mayweather said at the dinner. “My chef had my food ready. My nail technician did my nails. I had grown an Afro while inside, so my barber lined me up. The next day, I flew to LA, went into a dealership and got me a Lamborghini.”
This is the man lined up by Fikile Mbalu to inspire the rejuvenation of South African boxing. The man who went to Robben Island and did not go to Madiba’s cell, saying he had already done his time. Beside him, dressed in a white T-shirt, medallion, sunglasses and scarf, stood Mbalula, a man ever ready for a photo opportunity. I am guessing that those were his own clothes, and not a cent of taxpayers’ money was spent on organising the trip to where this land’s greatest hero dreamed up the plan for freedom and reconciliation. Perhaps it was a small blessing Mayweather didn’t go to the cell.
David Isaacson in the Sunday Times put the subject of a fee for the trip to Mayweather yesterday. “I don’t really want to talk about if I was given a fee or not,” said Mayweather. “That’s not important. The thing is, I’m here, I’m happy, it’s about letting the people shake my hand and touch me, and I can speak to the people and give them positive thoughts to people who thought they would never got to see me.”
Maybe that young boxer from Dube will one day say that he wants the rest of the world to be grateful that they could shake his hand and touch him, and that he could speak to the people and give positive thoughts to people who thought they would never get to see him. We need a man to be a deity to the next generation of South African boxing, another ego to go on bended knee to. Mayweather is no man of the people. He is no Muhammad Ali. If he is to inspire South African boxing, what lessons about life and their sport are they to take from him? That boxing, indeed, any sport, is all about the money? That the dazzle of the cars, the personal chef, nail technician, barber and bank account are the measure of a boxer’s success, the legacy a man or woman will leave behind? And how, in all conscience, can we see those things in isolation from a man who woke his ex-girlfriend at 5am and punched her in the back of the head and threatened his son if he went for help? Do those who brought Mayweather to South Africa truly believe a young boxer with the Money Man in his mind and his gloves will be able to separate the way the man beat a woman from the fighter?
One day, perhaps, the sports ministry et al will explain just what effect Mayweather’s visit had on the rejuvenation of boxing, the re-awakening of the giant they allowed to go to sleep on their watch. Perhaps they will tell us their opinion on violence against women, and what they think about a man who would use his fists on the back of his ex-girlfriend’s head. I could probably give you the spin they’d roll out now. I had a taste of it last week when I tweeted about tax money being used on a visit by a man punching a woman. Mbalula’s media man, Paena Galane tweeted back, accusing me of lying. I asked him if I was lying about the sports ministry paying for the visit or a woman being beaten? “That’s a good question,” replied Galane. “What I am raising here is a principle matter sir. Don’t conclude before you start. Simple.” I asked again where the ministry stood on the domestic violence issue: “I said if you wanted answers you should ask rather than lie. Ask. Ask. Don’t lie and ask for answers afterwards. Simple,” he replied.
But it’s not simple. And I have asked the questions. No one wants to answer them.