In the aftermath of the Logan Paul vs. Floyd Mayweather fight there are a lot of people talking about the state of boxing. Was the fight a sign of a pulse in a sport that has been continuously labeled as “dying”? Was the fight a sign of desperation, a last ditch effort to convince fans that boxing can still be relevant? If you’ve followed the fight and the buzz around it at all, you’ve most likely heard the spirit of what these questions are getting at: Was this fight good for boxing?
But what exactly is “good” for boxing? What is good for any sport? In this age viewership is king. If the event within your sport is fostering viewership, if its clickbait, if its exciting enough to bring in a fresh audience, albeit temporary, then the event is arguably good for your sport. Although the official number of pay-per-views bought was not released, the Mayweather Paul fight crashed Showtime’s servers—suffice it to say, viewership was as high as the hype would have hoped for.
What is bad for a sport? An obvious tarnish in quality, a downgrade in entertainment viability, these are the things that can hurt a sport, regardless of viewership. So there’s an argument to be made here that, because the fight was lackluster, to say the least, it was actually detrimental to boxing. Memes being made of Paul and Mayweather hugging, cries from the audience for refunds, the fight was seen but not well perceived.
Yes, the fight “went the distance”, Paul exceeding the expectations of many, but what we saw in the eight rounds was not a good showcase of how exciting boxing can be. There was no knockout, there were no knock downs, there were barely any solid punches landed, and the competitive exchanges were few and far between. Paul came out with a brawlers mentality, swinging in high tempo until he was gassed. Mayweather, in typical fashion, sat in the pocket of his shoulder roll defense, providing a performance that looked as effortless as it probably was for the veteran. But outside of the fight itself, therein lies a bigger problem: the precedent set.
Similar to celebrities becoming presidents, the new wave of Youtubers casually taking up professional boxing is concerning not only from an entertainment aspect, but from an integrity one. Go to any boxing gym and you will find a multitude of fighters that have ability and hunger. The sad reality for these fighters is that the majority of them will never get the platform that the Paul brothers have gotten by virtue of clicks on their social media profiles.
The Paul brothers are making more money in these exhibition matches than most boxers will make in the entirety of their professional careers, but the bigger problem with the precedent of influencers in the ring is one of acclaim. People coming to boxing for these fights alone may not understand how difficult the normal route to fighting a champion generally is.
All in all, the question of whether these Youtuber bouts are good or bad for boxing distracts from the more pressing question of how boxing will start to change because of these fights. From the money and views that these fights generate, to the hype and controversy they produce, the social media influencers forcing their way into the sport are undoubtedly starting to change boxing’s relationship with the internet and the younger generation of fans who use it. What this era of social media boxers will bring about, for a sport that has been so averse to change in recent years, is yet to be seen.
Photo Courtesy: Gianandrea Villa