I don’t know what will happen when Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Conor McGregor in August, but I have always thought of Mayweather as one savvy dude.
A master of defense in the ring, Mayweather has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from boxing. Now 40, past his prime and two years removed from his last bout, the undefeated boxer is set to gross millions more in a fight against McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion. With a 22-3 career record, McGregor sometimes spars with boxers, but he hasn’t boxed regularly since he was a kid growing up in Ireland. The fight at 154 pounds will be governed by boxing rules. McGregor, a mixed martial artist, will be penalized if he kicks his opponent.
McGregor is 29 and a devastating puncher in the UFC. His profuse trash-talking outside the ring includes calling Mayweather a boy, which could anger Mayweather before the fight, portending the possibility of an animosity-laced bloodbath during the fight — or so promoters would have us believe.
Still, it’s Mayweather, a winner of championships in five weight classes, who could end up hemorrhaging money. He owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $22 million from 2015, and he’s asked the IRS to defer collection until after next month’s fight in Las Vegas.
Perhaps Mayweather is not so savvy after all. As everyone from gangster Al Capone to boxing legend Joe Louis has learned, when it comes to the IRS, you can run but you can’t hide.
Being a black American celebrity who owes the government money is like boxing with your hands held at your waist and your chin jutting out — a stiff hook that will knock your finances flat is on the way.
I keep a running tally of black celebrities and celebrities of other races I’d let sleep on the couch until my wife puts them out if they fell on hard times: from Smokey Robinson to writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer.
Floyd Mayweather is not on the list. I don’t know the real Mayweather, but his public persona, boastful and peevish, presents him as someone who would quickly wear out his welcome at a block party, even if he brought the beer, potato salad and screaming chicken wings.
Still, I don’t want to see him or other highly paid black celebrities hit with a flurry of money problems, especially federal tax money problems. Tax problems battered Marvin Gaye, bruised Lionel Richie and sent Lauryn Hill and Wesley Snipes to prison.
I root for black celebrities to take full advantages of their hard work and talents. Our highly-paid stars should be able to go beyond having a good time until the money runs out. They should strive to become savvy enough about money to secure their familes’ futures for generations to come.
Furthermore, I don’t join those who look to black celebrities to fund every worthy cause. After all, white celebrities don’t face similar responsibilities or expectations.
Furthermore, no matter how generous celebrities of all races are, their largesse cannot take the place of good government that works to better 21st-century America. And it is their money, to save or squander.
Still, Mayweather and other rich black celebrities could use their money and influence to help America become a better place, much as Oprah has done for decades.
Even if Mayweather and his financial handlers have the best of intentions, if they manage his money badly, especially his taxes, he’ll be less able to help others.
Born into a Michigan family of boxers and turmoil, Mayweather has taken his future in his hands and boxed his way to a 49-0 ring career. Along the way, he’s earned fame and fortune despite getting hit repeatedly with allegations of domestic violence.
Like rapper and mogul Jay-Z, Mayweather has gone from entertainer to businessman, businessman to (a) business, man. His deferring payment of taxes might be a way he’s learned to slip the jab of the IRS, just as he slips opponents’ jabs in the ring.
Perhaps he’ll use next month’s bout and future fights against nontraditional opponents to pay his taxes for years to come. By all reports, Mayweather should have a lot of money, a lot of liquid assets.
But he should keep in mind that when celebrities start getting cutesy about paying their taxes, their liquid assets can run through their fingers and they can end up drowning in a sea of red ink.