The exceptional When We Were Kings was the first mainstream documentary to chronicle the buildup to a big boxing match. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly timely—fans had to wait until 23 years after the Rumble in the Jungle to glimpse the pre-fight antics of Ali and Foreman. Timing isn't the problem with De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7, a four-part, almost-real-time series that HBO's using to hype Saturday's showdown between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. The trouble is that the documentary series sets the bar too high. To live up to the ridiculously entertaining promotional vehicle, De La Hoya-Mayweather would have to be the greatest boxing match of all time.
De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7 offersfantastic access to the two fighters as they train, hang out at home, and taunt each other on the publicity trail. This is all tweaked up to the last possible minute—HBO couldn't provide preview episodes late last week because they were still being edited. Liev Schreiber, the narrator, comes in Sunday evenings (presumably after matinees of Talk Radio on Broadway) to voice the show hours before airtime. The tight schedule has made for some very meta moments. The second episode began with Mayweather and his posse watching the first episode.
The show works because both fighters realize that, with boxing's popularity on the wane, a big fight isn't enough to draw eyeballs. You have to, in the inimitable words of George W. Bush, "catapult the propaganda." For his part, Mayweather willingly takes on the villain role—as he puts it, "In this fight, there can't be two good guys. That's bullshit. So I chose to be the bad guy. Fuck it." (In another clip, the puckish fighter looks into the camera and says, "Mom, I'm sorry that I use bad language, I feel so bad … but I'm gonna fuck him up!")
"Pretty Boy" Floyd's livin' large lifestyle is so cartoonish that it reaches the level of performance art. He rolls around Las Vegas with a gigantic wad of cash and a flunky for every menial duty. Back at the estate, he hunts around in the Gap franchise he calls a closet. 50 Cent also turns up, riding a Segway.
24/7 would be a remarkable cultural object if it were nothing more than a very special episode of Cribs. But it's also a family soap opera that makes The Sopranos look like Little House. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was brought up to be a fighter by his father, Floyd Sr., a solid welterweight in his day. But just as the son made it big, Senior was busted for drug trafficking and sent to the slammer for more than five years. Upon his release, Senior found that Junior had outgrown his need for parental guidance, and the two had a nasty public spat.
It gets more complicated. Floyd Sr. was until recently De La Hoya's trainer and wanted little more than to have his student maul his son in the ring. But money changes everything, and when Oscar refused to pay Senior $2 million for his services, Senior cozied back up to Junior. Now, the dreadlocked paterfamilias lurks in the shadows as his brother Roger trains his son. Floyd Sr. and Roger detest each other. Senior calls himself the "World's Greatest Trainer" and lets it be known where he thinks Roger lies on that list. "It's Floyd's fight. … If he wants a great chance [to win], he has his daddy. If he wants an all right chance, maybe he'll do something else." Roger's retort? "He can be there, he can be at home in his rocking chair, I don't give a shit."