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Is it OK for Christians to Watch the Fight?

Is it OK for Christians to Watch the Fight?

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor will finally meet in the ring on Saturday night and see if their jaws can support the claims their mouths have been spitting out the last few months.

Mayweather has never lost (49-0) and is in line for another record breaking pay day. McGregor, the former U.F.C. fighter, has never fought a traditional boxing match. The fight is predicted to attract a record amount of betting for the sport and will undoubtedly be watched by millions of people around the world. A couple of questions I want to consider: Is there a moral reason to avoid watching two men beat their brains out for my entertainment? Even though we hate to think about it, are there some forms of sporting entertainment worth avoiding? Is this one of them?

I don’t know.

It pains me even to write those words because I so badly want to give a strong biblical argument for both sides, but I'm not sure one exists. The Apostle Paul used boxing-like metaphors. Does that make it ok? Seems like a stretch. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek (which would make a pretty interesting fight!). Does that mean it’s off limits to box? Hopefully one could see that is a pretty weak argument. It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.

Before I give my personal conviction, I want to give a few arguments for both sides. I think there is a lot of room in between these two tensions, but at the very least, they give us a starting point to measure our hearts and motives.

Watch it

Christians should watch the fight if they truly understand the sport of boxing and appreciate the skill, strategy, strength, and stamina it takes to master the craft. There is more to boxing then two men wildly swinging in a ring to prove who is the tougher man. Sugar Ray Robinson once said that “Rhythm is everything in boxing.” I think those fans who understand this and appreciate the various elements of the fight can watch with a clear conscious.

Another reason is excellence. Philippians 4 exhorts us that “if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” And there is excellence in seeing two men in peak physical shape competing in a sport that, while brutal, has enough rules in place to keep it from being barbaric. This does not take place in the Coliseum where the imperative is to kill or be killed. It is a sport, and with any sport, there are rules, strategy, and a winner and loser.

Jimmy Smits said “Boxing is a chess game. You have to be skilled enough and have trained hard enough to know how many different ways you can counterattack in any situation, at any moment.”

Perhaps another reason to justify watching is pure curiosity. To watch a historical event that has a cultural significance or simply to see whether a UFC performer can hang with a traditional boxer. These are thin reasons but certainly seem valid.

Don’t watch it

Christians should not watch this fight if they are looking forward to watching _ annihilate ___. Can we be honest and admit this?

Both these guys are pretty unlikeable. We may laugh and be entertained at the months of pre-fight smack talk, but at the end of the day, this sets up as a villain vs. villain fight.

In one corner you have Floyd Mayweather Jr., “a cash-flaunting braggart who was also, disturbingly, a man with a history of violence against women.” In the other corner, you have Conor McGregor, a U.F.C. champion whose style of vulgar trash talking deserves its own rating system. And when you have two villains fighting, your rooting interest is governed more by who loses than who wins. This sets up as a fight that’s not about who you want to win, but who you want to see lose.

For a Christian planning on watching the fight, having a heart posture that wants to see someone “get what’s coming to them” is an affront to the very gospel they claim to stake their eternity on. I don’t think this completely disqualifies someone from watching the fight, but I have to question if that is a God honoring entry point for watching it—or any sporting event for that matter.

Another reason to avoid watching the fight is the glorification and celebration of violence. Yes, this is a boxing match with rules and standards to abide by, yet the pre-fight drama promotes and celebrates the impending brutality.

Perhaps the strongest argument against watching is being “guilty by association.” This fight represents a whole different level of spectacle beyond even normal boxing or UFC standards. That means the usual combination involved in an event like this—sex, gambling, violence—are pushed even further. Common sense should tell us that combination is contrary to a healthy soul.

Those are the two ends of the pendulum I see giving us freedom or caution going into the fight. As for me?

My thoughts

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. The same place Floyd Mayweather Jr. was born. I have been reading about Mayweather in my hometown sports section for as long as I can remember. Early on there was an immense amount of pride that someone from our city seemed to be trajecting towards legendary status. I cheered for him early in his career. We all did.

But over time I began to see a man who rarely bled in the ring, yet bled pride every time he opened his mouth. My desire to see him continue to win took a sinister turn to wanting to see his face smashed. His defensive style of boxing made my lust for seeing him bleed even worse because he never gets hit!

It’s why I wanted so badly to see McGregor deliver on his promise to knock him out in three rounds. And then I listened to McGregor talk. And talk. And talk. A familiar feeling started to arise. I badly wanted to see McGregor get smacked in the face.

This fight and the circus surrounding it has ultimately revealed that I have a somewhat twisted desire to see another person get what I think they deserve. That’s sinful. It’s anti-gospel. And I have had to confess that and thank God that he doesn’t hold me to the same standard that I hold these two men.

So I won’t be watching the fight. I don’t understand boxing enough to fully appreciate all of the intricacies that go into a fight like this and I do not have a rooting interest that resembles anything close to holiness.

Then again, if one of my buddies forks over $100 and invites me over…