The Mayweather-Paul bout was bad for boxing but good for capitalism 

Exhibition matches aren’t a true test of a pro boxer. They are more about showboating

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Michael TaubeFormer boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought YouTube personality Logan Paul in an eight-round exhibition match on Sunday. The public spectacle attracted extensive media attention and, according to early figures, a significant number of buy rates on pay-per-view.

To list all the great boxing matches of every weight class in history is impossible. Mayweather-Paul will never join that list.

It was an unofficial bout with no official winner or loser. Both camps made the decision not to have judges at ringside. Modern boxing rules were used and a knockout could have ended things early, but that’s as far as it went.

Exhibition matches aren’t a true test of what a pro boxer can do in the ring. Legendary fighters like Jack Johnson, George Foreman, Jack Dempsey, Mike Tyson and Julio César Chávez have participated in them. The equally legendary Muhammad Ali took on comedian José Miguel Agrelot and pro wrestler Antonio Inoki in separate matches. By and large, these contests tend to occur in more relaxed environments with unique match rules, occasional showboating, and less emphasis on wins and losses.

While Mayweather has a 50-0 career record and held 15 titles in five weight classes, Paul isn’t a pro boxer. He fought to a majority draw in an amateur boxing match against British rapper and fellow YouTube personality KSI in February 2018. He then lost a split decision against the same opponent in September 2019 in his only pro fight. It’s a wafer-thin resume that would hardly qualify Paul being described as experienced or skilled in a boxing ring.

Finally, we have the fight itself.

While no one officially won this unofficial bout, the 44-year-old Mayweather would have easily triumphed. He landed 43 punches of 107 thrown (40.2 per cent), according to CompuBox punch statistics, while the 26-year-old Paul ended with 28 landed of 217 (12.9 per cent). Paul had a few good moments in a couple of rounds but was mostly in clinches throughout the fight and was completely outclassed.

Mayweather complimented his opponent after the exhibition ended. “He’s a great young fighter, strong and tough. He’s better than I thought he was,” he told the media.

Although his opponent was 34.5 pounds heavier, the former world champion said, “I fought against a heavyweight, and I had fun. Even though he hasn’t got much experience, he wanted to use his weight and tie me up tonight. I had fun; I’m pretty sure he had fun. Hopefully, the fans enjoyed it.”

Paul was clearly over the moon. “I don’t want anyone to tell me anything is impossible ever again. The fact that I’m in here with one of the greatest boxers of all time proves that the odds can be beaten. This is one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Critics started lashing out, mostly at Mayweather. Why didn’t he take this exhibition more seriously? Why didn’t he knock out Paul? Did he ensure the contract conditions of no winner or scorecard were put in place to protect his undefeated record in case he got hit with a one-in-a-million punch? Did he realize he just opened the door to other personalities who may feel they can actually compete with a world-class boxer?

Having seen the bout on YouTube – I wasn’t going to pay US$49.99 to watch it on pay-per-view – I think it’s pretty obvious what happened.

Mayweather knew he was going to win easily against an inexperienced opponent. Since it was an exhibition bout that wouldn’t affect his win-loss record, he could enjoy the match and not take it seriously. He still landed more meaningful punches and performed better in most rounds.

What about that Paul lasted longer than anyone expected, didn’t get knocked out and can claim a moral victory for going the distance?

Mayweather’s purse for the fight was a guaranteed $10 million in base salary and 50 per cent of pay-per-view shares. It could end up being close to $100 million, which is more than he would have earned in a real fight. (Paul was paid $250,000 and 10 per cent of the pay-per-view box office, which could reach $20 million.)

So I doubt Mayweather cared. And why should he?

While Mayweather-Paul was bad for boxing, it was good for capitalism. That’s what this sport always relies on, even if it came from an exhibition bout that counted for nothing. If there’s ever a rematch, the media circus and fistfuls of dollars will surely follow.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.


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