In the sixth round last night, the fight started in the crowd.
A skinny guy in a red t-shirt waded halfway into a row of seats and started firing straight punches, right left right left right left, into the skull of someone I could not see. Everyone in a ten row radius rose to their feet to get a better look. It was a one-sided fight, over in about 15 seconds.
A little fight at a little fight, an appetizer to a monster fight. This was at The Palms, a mile off the Vegas Strip, where ESPN was hosting a “special Thursday night edition of Friday Night Fights,” which should give you some idea of how crowded the calendar becomes in the week before the The Biggest Richest Fight We Ever May See So Help Us God. The headliner was Ishe Smith, a hometown boy, who now fights under the Mayweather Promotions banner, one of the recipients of Floyd’s grace. Ishe Smith has very light brown skin, a bald head, a beard that looks drawn on with a black marker, and soft eyes that make him appear to be the sensitive type. He is not a hard puncher, so now matter how viciously he attacks, he appears to be fighting like the sensitive type as well. Last night, he faced a Baltimore fighter named Cecil McCalla, who fought in the same style as Floyd Mayweather himself, without the requisite level of skills. A poor man’s Mayweather, or just a poor Mayweather. McCalla lost by a wide margin. He should have considered the fact that Ishe Smith, who trains at Floyd Mayweather’s gym, might have some experience against that style.
I had covered a fight in this arena before, a few years ago. Then, I was sitting ringside, with a press pass. Yesterday, I had to buy myself a motherfucking ticket. (At $40, you could watch Ishe Smith fight 100 times for the price of watching Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight once, not that you would want to.) My inability to get a press pass for such a low-level fight—or even to get my wheedling emails to various publicists returned—has caused me to further embrace the conspiratorial theory that all my troubles are due to the fact that Floyd Mayweather’s people hate Deadspin for telling the ugly truth about him, though of course it would be journalistically irresponsible for me to posit that my own logistical problems here in Las Vegas stem from the profound moral shortcomings of the various cronies who have conspired to deny me a press credential.
I am being too harsh. In fact, after I complained earlier in the week about being denied a credential, the press team agreed to “reconsider” my application. And early this morning, they sent me a reply: “We are sorry to say that after reviewing the media applications for this event, we are unable to accommodate your request and will not be able to provide you a credential ... You previously received this letter and requested reconsideration. We reviewed this with the PR Team and still regret to say that they are unable to help you.”
Never say that customer service is dead.
This whole Thursday night Fight Week pre-pre-fight event was just an effort to spread the attendant riches of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight as widely as possible throughout the Mayweather kingdom, and Vegas at large. Floyd Mayweather sits at the head of “The Money Team,” a stupid name that he just made up, but a name that nevertheless represents a sprawling set of business interests. Mayweather promotes other (lesser) fighters—who fought last night, and tonight, and will fight on the undercard of the Big Fight.
What The Money Team really is, though, is a brand of clothing that is, in Las Vegas, as unavoidable as “NO FEAR” t-shirts were in my high school. Normally it is a safe bet that anyone wearing “Team [Fighter]” t-shirts are a friend or family member or at least go to the same gym as that fighter. If that were true for Floyd Mayweather, it would mean that the Mayweather Boxing Club would have hundreds of thousands of members, half of them holding a beer as they work out. It seems unlikely. It is impossible to overstate how ubiquitous TMT-brand clothing is at this very moment in the heart of Las Vegas. The only thing more ubiquitous are the homeless people crouched on the open-air walkways between casinos. It seems that every other male tourist under the age of 30 has become an official member of The Money Team. TMT baseball hats, which are extra-deep and swallow the head of a wearer like a hungry squid, are everywhere. Las Vegas Boulevard is a sea of floating TMT logos, bobbing gently in the desert heat.
“Make some noise if you getting money in 2015!” exhorted the DJ at the fights last night. “That’s right, real money!” He played exclusively money-themed tracks in between rounds, in order to keep with The Money Team theme of the evening.
“Money in the air, like I don’t really care... 50 for the earring that’s 100 for the pair...”
“I want the money and the cars, cars and the clothes... I just wanna be successfulllll.....”
“It’s raining hundreds, throw some mo, throw some mo....”
Easy to say, if you’re Floyd Mayweather. The rest of you people wearing TMT hats are fools. You work day jobs. Get off The Money Team and get on The Money Management Team. You’ll never get rich throwing hundreds in the air. It’s profligate.
The mass of humanity in Las Vegas offers little middle ground between “utter slob” and “semiprofessional MMA fighter.” Nearly everyone—and everything—here will either disgust or intimidate you. There is a distinct lack of unremarkable normalcy. What, really, are the inhibitions that Les Vegas allows us to discard? Not sex and drugs. People everywhere do those things. What is discarded in Vegas are the inhibitions against unironically carrying a selfie stick everywhere you go, or consuming an all-you-can-eat buffet for three meals a day, or publicly day drinking from a pink plastic yard glass of peach bellini as a grown man.
It is torpor, not frenzy, that animates this town. Its decadence is rooted in lethargy. Leading into the Excalibur is a moving sidewalk flanked on each side by a regular sidewalk. If you walk down the sidewalk at a normal speed, you will pass by everyone on the moving sidewalk, all of whom are standing still. Yet the regular sidewalks are empty, and the moving sidewalk is full. Full of self-proclaimed members of The Money Team, being graciously conveyed into the place their money will never escape.
The fight is one day away.
[Image via AP]