Tag Archives: Haye

Guest spot on Sportshour: Mayweather: Boxing, Money & Domestic Violence – BBC World Service

SportshourI recently had the honor of a small spot on the Sportshour podcast with the BBC World Service, entitled Mayweather: Boxing, Money & Domestic Violence. The podcast was put together in light of the mega fight taking place tonight (May 2nd) in Las Vegas, between two of the most seasoned fighters in the boxing world – Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao.

Floyd Mayweather has a few domestic violence accounts on his rap sheet, but most recently against Josie Harris, whom he beat in front of their children. Floyd did serve some time for this, had to pay a fine, and was also sentenced to community service, but if you look into these penalties on a comparative basis, you’ll immediately start to wonder if he was treated leniently.

If you consider Mayweather’s upbringing in Grand Rapids, MI, and note the poverty and squalor that he fought to escape, you can start to put some theories to his current personality and behavior. To make it clear from the outset, there is no excuse for domestic violence, but Floyd has clearly suffered a lot during his formative years, which seems to show yet another example of the cycle of violence, and helps to explain why Floyd has become such a polarizing figure.

I have included my previous post on boxing and domestic violence below, written back in 2013, and here is a more recent rebuttal of blaming boxing for domestic abuse.

Boxers and Domestic Abuse

About a month ago, I was discussing that the American heavyweight boxer, Deontay Wilder, could be one of the potential candidates to finally dethrone the Klitschkos. The Ukrainian brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, have held most of the important belts in the heavyweight division for some time now.

As I am an avid boxing fan, and respect the fighters as athletes, I was disheartened to find out that Deontay Wilder was arrested recently for domestic battery by strangulation. He was bailed for $15,000.

Dereck-Chisora-006While I’m sure that most professional boxers have never laid a finger on their partners, domestic battery has become an issue in boxing. British heavyweight, Dereck Chisora, who was recently slated to fight Deontay Wilder, was also convicted of beating his girlfriend. However, Wilder may not be able to go to the UK to fight Chisora, because of his recent arrest.

Mayweather going to jailAnd of course, boxing favorite, Floyd Mayweather Jr., was alsosent to prison for 3 months (only served 2) for domestic abuse. To add insult to injury, Mayweather’s sentence was actually postponed so that he could fight in Vegas. The argument given to the judge was that the fight would be a huge financial stimulus to Las Vegas, and so would benefit the economy. Mayweather, of course, also made millions from the fight. There were also children present when Mayweather hit Josie Harris, which can have terribly adverse consequences (Holt, Buckley, & Whelan, 2008). Indeed, watching the assault on their mother, by their father, made these children victims of the assault, too.

It would be foolish to suggest that there is some kind of causal connection between boxing and domestic abuse, but anyone who assaults another individual should be held accountable, and I am of the opinion that fighters and martial artists should be held to a higher standard – they should know better. There have been instances where judges have ruled that the hands and feet of martial artists should be counted as ‘deadly weapons’. Clearly, boxers have been trained to hit powerfully and hard, and this should be taken into account during any kind of assault.

As boxing remains popular and Mixed Martial Arts is rapidly gaining many viewers, we need more studies on the relationship between boxing and fighting to domestic abuse. Studies on domestic violence committed by fighters are surprisingly scarce. Here are some good research questions we need to address:

Are physically violent people naturally drawn into boxing?

–          While it is a stretch to connect learning boxing with becoming violent, there is a chance that people who like to engage in violence become boxers to enable and promote their violent desires. If this is the case, can a gym really discipline these individuals to keep them out of trouble? A number of boxing gyms have been opened to specifically discipline young people and keep them out of trouble with law enforcement and to prevent them from joining gangs.

Does fame lead to leniency and an increase in the likelihood for domestic abuse?

–          Floyd Mayweather, Jr. had his prison sentence postponed so that he could fight in Vegas, and he only served two months of a three month sentence. The maximum penalty in Nevada for a first offense of domestic violence is 6 months in prison. To some, it might seem that Mayweather got off lightly. It is certainly questionable that an amateur boxer, who committed the crime, would be treated as leniently. Only a handful of boxers make it to the professional ranks and even fewer start to get notoriety and world title shots, but once a boxer does achieve this they start to have fame on their side and become considerable cash cows. I fear that these aspects start to shield these boxers from holding them accountable for their indiscretions. The legal immunity of celebrities, however, is not limited to boxers.

What role does stress play in turning a boxer violent?

–          Boxing is very athletic and physically demanding sport. The sport also calls for a strong mindset, which inevitably leads to a certain degree of “smack talk” even if it is just to promote the fight. The need to train hard and prepare for going twelve rounds in the ring is very stressful for a boxer, meaning that stress-related disorders, some of which are intimately connected with violence, could creep in.

Would a change in boxing promotional strategies deter acts of aggression?

–          David Haye and Dereck Chisora got into an infamous scrap at a post-fight press conference in Munich. Both fighters lost their British licenses for this, but ended up getting sanctioned through the Luxembourg Board of Boxing so they could have a ‘grudge’ match in the ring. In other words, they were rewarded for assaulting each other in public, and the fight had a remarkable effect of convincing everyone that because they’d just fought each other in a ring (with rules), we could all now forget about it. The accountability of each fighter during the incident in Munich is still very disputable and should have been determined in a courtroom.

Many boxers are not guilty of domestic violence, in fact some, such as Sergio Martinez, actively campaign against it. However, the popularity of boxing and fighting, as well as the destructive potential of those involved, mandates that we shed some light on this important issue.

Jack Pemment, 2013


Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature. Child abuse & neglect, 32(8), 797-810.

Do psychopaths fight professionally?

Out of the estimated 1% of the American population with Antisocial Personality Disorder (the most extreme of whom could be psychopathic individuals), how many of them have made a career (or are currently making one) in culturally accepted forms of fighting and aggression, such as boxing or MMA? Here it is important not to confuse serial killers with psychopaths (it’s estimated that in the US there are about 8 serial killers operating at one time), and 1% of the American population is 313,000, and so it’s quite a different question to ask if serial killers become boxers (they probably don’t).

In much of the literature on aggression there tends to be two types of aggressive male; those who are reactively aggressive, and those who are instrumentally aggressive. Numerous boxers, including Michael Bentt, have said recently (commenting upon the recent Haye/Chisora/Klitschko debacle) that boxers are naturally aggressive, and if this is the case then those two categories of aggressiveness are probably also present among fighters.

There are both psychological and physiological differences between reactive and instrumental aggression. Reactive aggression frequently involves losing your cool in the face of a perceived harmful stimulus, whereas instrumental aggression involves carefully planning how to use aggressive behavior to achieve a goal. Reactive aggression is associated with a rapid rise in heart rate and a diminishing capacity for logical thought, whereas those with a tendency for instrumental aggression are able to keep a low heart rate when faced with the kinds of shocking/harmful stimuli that would cause the rest of us to lose control.

Psychopaths are renowned for instrumental aggression and ALL fighters have to utilize instrumental aggression in order to win (they have to plan/scheme/adapt in their fighting style to best their opponent and receive all of the benefits and rewards that come with winning). Of course a crucial difference here is that psychopaths also have no remorse or guilt, and I can imagine the kinds of discipline and rule following that accompanies fighting would only serve to frustrate a psychopath, hindering their quest for extreme stimulation and power. So would psychopaths fight or not?

On the one hand, it is not hard to imagine why a psychopathic individual would turn to professional fighting. Firstly, they get to hurt people, and this could be accompanied by extreme exhilaration (the basic reward circuitry in psychopaths is often underdeveloped and poorly functioning. It could be argued that because of this psychopaths often turn to alcohol and other drugs, as well as violence to feel exhilaration). Secondly, provided they were good at it, they could obtain a high social status (powerful people who could be manipulated and controlled), wealth, and access to gorgeous women (who could be manipulated and controlled).

On the other hand, they could lose and end up with none of that. Psychopaths, particularly unsuccessful psychopaths (those deemed to have lower neurological integrity in the frontal lobe and tend to end up in prison more than their successful counterparts), are notoriously bad at making risky decisions; this could support the notion of unsuccessful psychopaths becoming fighters. It would be much easier for a psychopath to rely on their charm to manipulate in an innocuous environment to gain control and fulfill their egoistic goals than to subject their bodies to tremendous punishment in a ring with a lot less certainty of success. Psychopaths who do or would fight, would in all likelihood be unsuccessful psychopaths, and could be identified by a number of factors: One, have they been involved in domestic abuse? Two, have they shown any remorse concerning said domestic abuse? Three, do they also assault people they are not familiar with/have no relationship with? Four, is their ego ridiculously high, even for a fighter?

Ring any bells?

Show me the discipline!

Recently, I came to the conclusion that years of boxing could have both positive and negative effects on the brain. Excluding the damage that can occur when a boxer has been repeatedly punched hard in the head for 15-20 years, boxing is going to become interwoven into the neural fabric and reflect an aggressive history; the question being has this conditioned the boxer to be in control when faced with aggressive stimuli (keeping a cool head), or has it simply made them more reactionary?

This week seems to demonstrate the latter. Dereck Chisora, the British heavyweight who recently had a commendable loss to the WBC heavyweight champion, Vitali Klitschko, is clearly a very aggressive and somewhat remorseless individual (I am yet to see any indication that he regretted assaulting his girlfriend late in 2010, in fact his response at a press conference before he was due to fight Wladimir Klitschko, when Wladmir commented on the quality of a man who hits a woman, Chisora responded by trying to denigrate Wladimir’s girlfriend (Press Conference).

But still, you can’t use the behavior of one boxer when considering if boxing has a disciplining effect on those who practice. The only trouble is that Chisora isn’t the only boxer who has recently been accused of assault; so have Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. So what does it mean for a boxer to say that boxing is a way to discipline oneself? Assault is either carried out as a reaction to a (perceived) harmful stimulus, or it is used as a means to gain control for a particular end (money/respect/sexual domination/revenge). The difference between these two types of aggression is control. This raises a serious problem, because if boxing disciplines (which puts a boxer in control of reactive aggression), then their assaults are more likely to be planned and callous attempts to achieve a particular goal.

Another strike this week against boxers being in control came from the Welsh up-and-coming Nathan Cleverly, who defends his WBO Light Heavyweight belt against American Tom Karpency tomorrow in Wales. Cleverly has recently commented on the Chisora-Haye debacle by promising to be a model boxer, but he also made a surprising comment that almost appears to be a back-handed slap towards boxing: “Fighters are fighters, they are naturally aggressive and in the heat of the moment can flip out. So it’s important security is stepped up.” This remark, while on the one hand is not surprising, on the other hand it is. Fighting is aggression, and fighting is also violence, so to become a skilled fighter is to become skilled in the use of physical aggression and violence. But the difference between being able to use skilled aggression and being aggressive surely brings us back to the problem of control? As a boxing fan, I hope this distinction exists.