On Sunday night in Miami Gardens, Florida, Floyd Mayweather outboxed Logan Paul over eight rounds in an exhibition bout that, by rule, had no official winner. For all the expectations of a wild clash between the boxing legend and the YouTube star, the fight looked like most of Mayweather’s fights have: Mayweather proving his elite skills can overcome any challenge placed in front of him.
Paul, to his credit, survived some clean shots and even got in a few punches of his own while managing to go 24 minutes with one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport. To that end, it was a victory of sorts for the 26-year-old.
Much was made before the fight of what, if any, meaning the contest had in a larger context. Did it speak to boxing’s place in 2021? Are YouTubers the future of the sport? And are Mayweather exhibitions a staple of the near future of combat?
Let’s take a look at three big takeaways coming out of the exhibition between Mayweather and Paul from Hard Rock Stadium.
The most probable outcome
Spend enough time thinking, talking or writing about any fight and you may have moments where you begin to believe in the least likely results. Some may have had brief flirtations with the idea of Mayweather going all out and blitzing the Vine-turned-YouTube star to score an emphatic knockout, or even daydreaming of an internet-breaking knockout win for Paul. Stepping back from the insanity of the situation and the media onslaught of the week, the fight going eight rounds was always the thing that made the most sense.
Listening to Mayweather as the fight approached provided plenty of clues as to what to expect. Floyd never went overboard in his promises heading into the fight. Mayweather said, “This is legalized bank robbery. It’s a not a real fight for me, it’s a real fight for him.” And he made it clear that, “It’s entertainment.”
Mayweather was never an in-ring risk taker. Yes, he fought great fighters. But he beat those men through elite defense and the ability to do better, cleaner work while not putting himself — or his perfect record — at risk. Why would things be any different against a man who dwarfed him in the ring? Floyd Mayweather did what Floyd Mayweather does by minimizing risk and making statements in the safe spaces in between.
Mayweather was always clear about what he was selling, even if it wasn’t what the public believed they were buying.
Boxing is fine
Or, rather, boxing is as fine as it has been in the modern era. The influx of “celebrity fights” has been touted by many — most who exist outside the boxing “bubble” — as some sort of sign of a flailing desperation for attention across the sport. The reality is, there’s no significant crossover between the audience for the Paul brothers or the YouTube vs. TikTok card and those who eagerly anticipated the junior welterweight unification bout between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez. Those two audiences are not going to build a meaningful investment in the other, no matter how much boxing promoters may wish it would.
No sport can match the pure thrill of a great boxing match on a start to finish level. Luka Doncic hitting an insane game-winning 3-point floater is a moment, Patrick Mahomes rolling out and throwing a dime across his body for an improbable first down is one play that takes mere seconds, but Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo, Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti or Naoya Inoue vs. Nonito Donaire are relentless displays of sustained action. Those who appreciate this have not lost appreciation for the heart of what boxing is because Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren or Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather fought a somewhat lackluster exhibition.
Boxing is a sport in need of a bigger audience, yes, but it is not under siege by influencers and part-timers. They’re simply visiting because the sport’s core appeal of two people punching each other in the face is simple to grasp and a wild idea for a generation grown on the concept of influencers and media stunts.
Forget Floyd Mayweather vs. Jake Paul
Even before the infamous “gotcha hat” moment where Jake Paul stole Floyd Mayweather’s hat and took an uppercut for his trouble, there was a line of thinking that Mayweather vs. Logan was simply a set-up for Mayweather vs. Jake down the road. It’s a silly idea and one that should be left to die.
If there’s any one man from the “social media influencer” influx that may have the chops to be anything near a legitimate fighter, it’s Jake Paul. He’s gone through a YouTuber, a retired NBA player and a retired UFC fighter with bad striking in quick, brutal succession. Now, Jake is lined up to face Tyron Woodley, another former UFC fighter, albeit one with more dangerous striking later this summer. If Jake manages to beat Woodley, the pressure intensifies to face a “real boxer” and prove where he truly sits in the sport. To cash that out for an exhibition with Mayweather does not do him any good, nor does it benefit Mayweather — except for the heaps of money both men would stand to make.
Mayweather faced Logan Paul and proved he could handle a bigger, wildly less skilled fighter on Sunday night. Doing that again wouldn’t prove much and would likely look like an only slightly better version of this fight while ending any real mystique for Jake.
If Mayweather is as serious about a rematch with Conor McGregor as he and Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said they are, that’s the fight to make. The interest is still there, especially as some have clung to the idea that McGregor was ever in control of their 2017 meeting. Be “Money” and make the true money fight if the spectacle of post-retirement Mayweather must continue.
Or, as Mayweather suggested he was ready to do at the post-fight press conference, simply walk away from boxing competition, exhibition or otherwise.