As expected, boxing’s biggest showman, undefeated Floyd Mayweather, stepped out of retirement last night, had his way in his showbiz fight against YouTuber Logan Paul, and made good on his planned heist. He did call this a “legalized bank robbery,” after all. And he wasn’t kidding.
Both participants wore 10-ounce gloves, though knockouts were legal there were no judges and no official winner read, to the disappointment of many. As expected (at least by us), it played out like a paid sparring session. Boring. Slow-moving. Anticlimactic.
Though fading at age 44, the prodigious pugilist carried the nascent novice the full eight rounds, respecting that it was an exhibition and that there was nothing to be gained by humiliating (or hurting) an unaccomplished content creator at the midway point of his 15 minutes of fame.
The once-defiant and surly Mayweather is only being a good sport, of course. Nothing has surprised Mayweather in a boxing ring since he was five or six—especially not the hopeless haymakers of a brash social media star.
As for Floyd himself being a nice guy, reminding us how he’s mellowed over the years? We expected that, too. So, it probably makes sense to start talking about the things we didn’t expect.
It was boxing’s first kid-friendly super fight — and that’s not a bad thing.
Do you remember Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor? It was the ‘Money Fight’ that broke the bank, but at great cost. Their tawdry promotional tour sunk to new depths of homophobia, misogyny, and racism. It was a spectacle of unfettered vulgarity and greed.
Knowing the background of Mayweather and both Paul brothers (there’s also Yuck — sorry, “Jake”), this was a well they could have very easily gone back to. Boxing is no stranger to swinging low, especially when circus fights like these come to town. Mayweather v McGregor generated 4.3 million buys in North America, making it the second-biggest selling bout in history.
But, they didn’t. For that, it’s not their decency that should be applauded, but their business sense. We are all aware of who largely constitutes the Paul brother audience. As it was put by The Verge a couple years back, their audience skews young, anywhere from ages eight to 18. In other words? They market to children.
Smashing plates. Pranking people by setting things on fire. Demolishing stuff. Outrageous videos and stunts that many wouldn’t hesitate to deem irresponsible and dangerous. All that juvenile nonsense.
Real boxing fans were largely out on this sideshow. By the looks of Miami’s half-empty Hard Rock Stadium last night, it looks like ticket-buyers were, too. This means that Mayweather and the Pauls—and Showtime and whoever else stood to profit from this pay-per-view—knew who they needed to sell this thing to. Or better yet, who they couldn’t risk turning off with another tasteless, R-rated affair.
When the most controversial thing to happen in the build-up to your boxing match is one guy getting in another’s face, snagging the hat off his head and attempting to run away, then you’ve probably succeeded.
It legitimized “sports entertainment.” Almost.
You know what “sports entertainment” is, don’t you? The term was coined by WWF (now WWE) chairman Vince McMahon during the 1980s, as a marketing term to describe the industry of professional wrestling.
It’s a type of spectacle that presents an ostensibly competitive event using a high level of theatrical flourish and extravagant presentation, with the purpose of entertaining an audience. Unlike typical sports and games, the primary product of sports entertainment is a performance for an audience’s benefit.
Commonly, but not in all cases, the outcomes in sports entertainment are predetermined. As this is an open secret, it is not considered to be match-fixing.
Besides everyone already possessing a pretty good idea of how this Mayweather v Paul thing might end up, the outcome here technically wasn’t predetermined. They were trading real punches. Paul legitimately outweighed Mayweather by about 50 pounds.
What’s more, the promotion drew on so much of what Mayweather learned throughout his own memorable WWE stint, back in 2008. Y’know, the staged pre-fight pageantry. The establishment of a clear “babyface” (good guy) and “heel” (bad guy). The pitting of Floyd himself against not only one Paul brother, but two, likely setting up the next showdown with the second little prick.
They had that little bit of steak they needed to sell this, then turned the sizzle right up. It all comes from McMahon’s playbook. As with professional wrestling at its pinnacle, those who were willing to suspend their disbelief were more than thrilled to buy into it.
So much so that, surprisingly, you even started to get the sense that this could maybe be the next evolution in the sports entertainment category itself: cutting-edge, comedic combat that you could be sure wasn’t scripted. You felt this really could become a cottage industry. The masses were truly buzzing about it.
Then the bell rang.
Unfortunately, the event likely won’t retain the new eyeballs it got on the sport.
Floyd Mayweather has 26-plus million followers on Instagram alone. Logan and Jake Paul have 36 million between them.
Eventually, the PPV buy rates, digital impressions and social media metrics will let us know how many of those followers were tuning in. What’s more, how many of them were watching their very first bit of boxing. (Or maybe not. As reported in Variety, the strong demand for the matchup overwhelmed Showtime servers, causing PPV and app outages.)
Whatever the number, it’s doubtful many will be back any time soon. Maybe whenever Logan or Jake continue to go out and to try ‘play’ boxing, as only the Paul brothers can. But not for the other 363 days a year.
Anyway, if ever there was an occasion for boxing, the theatre of the absurd, to tap into its over-the-top impulses and inspired lunacy, last night was it. Seriously. They could have gotten away with whatever the heck they wanted last night. They could have freaking shot Mayweather or either Paul brother to the ring in a cannon.
At least there would have been one viral clip to come out of this farce, and probably a few repeat customers. Instead, the pay-per-view played out identical to the way a regular boxing broadcast would, from the abysmal pacing to the dated presentation. That’s not a good thing.
Then again, blowing a chance to grow its fanbase is very on-brand for boxing.
Better luck next time.
A Final Word..
Does a carnival like Floyd Mayweather v Logan Paul ruin the integrity of boxing? Are all of these silly celebrity mashup fights doing the damage to the sport that all the naysayers are claiming?
Not. Even. Close.
The reason this stuff only seems to happen in boxing? It’s simple. Because nobody is going to pay to watch Lamar Odom and Aaron Carter settle their score over a game of HORSE. The end.
Boxing will be just fine. Like iconic HBO analyst Larry Merchant once said best, and as we actually concluded our last Floyd Mayweather entry:
“Nothing will kill boxing, and nothing can save it.”