Stuck In The Middle Of The Mayweather-Pacquiao Hype

The middle seat on an airplane is the most uncomfortable seat. You can't truly rest or relax or move without imposing on your neighbor. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I find myself in that middle seat Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2 as the host of First Take. We have been at the forefront of covering the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. We have discussed almost every aspect of it in great detail. Who will win? Why? We've had Pacquiao on the show several times to ask him those questions, and my co-host, Skip Bayless, is picking him to win. We've also heard from Mayweather through access granted to my co-host, Stephen A. Smith -- access that most in the media could not get.

Most of our coverage has been about the optics in the ring. Until recently, that is. We now live in a post-Ray Rice era that no longer allows us to ignore the personal lives of talented athletes.

Enter the woman sitting in the middle. I struggle every time we discuss Mayweather on the show. The undefeated champion with a history of beating women. The man who has a license to hurt men in the ring and hurts women outside of the ring.

Mayweather has been convicted of domestic violence multiple times and was sentenced to 90 days in jail in 2012 after pleading guilty to a reduced domestic battery charge and no contest to two harassment charges against an ex-girlfriend.

As a journalist, I acknowledge that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. But as a person, I can't ignore that he has been convicted of domestic violence and has a long-documented history of violence against women.

I walk a chalkboard line of discussing just the facts: He is both an undefeated champion and an abuser of women.

When I do decide to express my dislike for him, I open myself up to criticism on social media. Tweets or Facebook comments such as, "you are a woman and emotional," "you don't want to see a black man succeed" and "you should not focus on his personal life -- people make mistakes." I'm told to separate the man in the ring from the man out of it, but that's impossible. Ask Greg Hardy and Ray Rice. The NFL has decided if you damage the brand, there will be repercussions. The boxing world has yet to institute such a personal conduct policy.

I don't know why we as a society are more accepting of punishing football players instead of boxers. Maybe it's because we don't expect much from boxers or the industry. All of these questions haunt me when we discuss this upcoming fight.

I write this as I'm in Las Vegas covering one of the greatest sporting events in recent memory. I would love to say I'm enjoying every moment of it, but I'm conflicted. I want to witness history, but I also want to see Mayweather's record at 47-1 by the end of the weekend. I have a hard time rooting for someone I can't respect. I'm a fan at heart. I like to cheer for the good guy. The underdog. The person I'd consider a friend. For those reasons, coupled with his history of domestic violence, I cannot root for Mayweather.

So how do you balance the fighter's accomplishments with his past? I don't think anyone has the perfect answer. As journalists, we're all stuck in the middle when it comes to coverage of this fight.

Personally, I'm rooting for Pacquiao. I would like to see him beat Mayweather in knockout fashion. Still, if I had to bet my last dollars on the fight, I'd bet my money on Mayweather.

As you can see, I'm stuck in the middle. It's tough to move one way or the other. But I have made my move and don't mind sitting in an uncomfortable position. Which side will you be on this Saturday?