x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bigger picture is blurred

That is the story of almost all professional sport today. Sportsmen going to prison should not elicit such a blasé collective shrug.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr, centre, leaves court after pleading guilty at the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas this week.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr, centre, leaves court after pleading guilty at the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas this week.

So inevitable does it appear to be, that the main concern from the news that Floyd Mayweather Jr will be incarcerated for three months as the new year begins hovers around the potential delay of his next bout, possibly with Manny Pacquiao, in May 2012.

Mayweather pleaded guilty last week in Las Vegas to a domestic violence charge and to two harassment charges stemming from an incident in which he allegedly struck his ex-girlfriend and threatened two of their children.

If he doesn't appeal, the sentence begins from January 6 and with credit for good behaviour and time already served - three days - he could be out 65 days thereafter.

Most of boxing has done the maths. Sixty-five days, at the earliest, means he could be out by March 11. Mayweather generally trains for eight weeks before any fight, which means the May 5 date his team had booked at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for his next fight is almost certainly out of the question.

It is another thing altogether that the fight boxing wants most - Mayweather-Pacquiao - has not even been finalised yet.

Most of boxing should have, at least for the sake of appearances, introspected a little first, or put up the pretence that they hadn't decided long ago that the fate of boxers, active or retired, outside the ring would cease to be a point of concern.

Boxing has never been a haven for the clean and pure of this earth; no business can be, especially one run by Don King and Don King wannabes.

But within the greater concern for his next fight over his crime is encased as vivid an illustration of just how warped and callous it has become.

Mayweather only avoided a harsher felony sentence, of multiple years in prison, because of his plea deal.

That alone points to the gravity of what he has pleaded guilty to and yet talk is slanted to repercussions of his next bout.

We could fool ourselves into believing this to be also because the matter is one between Mayweather and his ex-girlfriend but that would be twice a mistake. First, it is to belittle an issue as grave as domestic violence, no matter who its perpetrator.

And second, let's not lie to ourselves. We're going on 2012 now, when the obsession with celebrity and their lives and the access to it new media brings, has destroyed whatever sacred wall there may once have been between the public and personal space.

In any case, it is beyond just Mayweather. Boxers are no strangers to prison, Mike Tyson and Sonny Liston being only the most infamous of a long, long line. Mayweather himself faces another assault case this week and has been arrested previously for assault.

Yet has boxing stopped asking itself the question of why this is so? It attracts practitioners mostly from unprivileged backgrounds and then gives them a shot at earning millions.

But that is the story of almost all professional sport today. Sportsmen going to prison should not elicit such a blasé collective shrug.

Three Pakistani cricketers were incarcerated last month for acts of corruption - within the game, not outside of it - and that brought about a fierce, near-hysterical inward tearing up of the game, debating crime, sportsmanship, the concepts of justice and much else.

Cricket is not as unused to crime and misdemeanour as it makes itself out to be, but it maintains a compass - one of overbearing and righteous morality, assuredly - but a valuable one for any sport to have.

Boxing is such a pursuit that it has to be about more than just sport. It is an examination of the very core of what it means to be human, not just about what humans do, but what humans are and how they act in the most hostile environments.

Because of that, it should retain an unadulterated scent of nobility.

Instead, boxing increasingly is about what becomes of unguided men, with far too much money at their disposal and far too many people convincing them of their invincibility inside and outside the ring.

Prosecutors at the hearing argued as much, pointing out that Mayweather's history meant jail time was necessary.

"He just continually gets himself into trouble and he is able to get himself out of it as well," prosecutor Lisa Luzaich told Judge Melissa Saragosa. "Essentially it is because he is who he is and is able to get away with everything. The only thing that's going to get this man's attention is incarceration."

It may well get his attention and it may not. The real question has to be whether it will get the attention of boxing at large.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae