High Profile Exhibition Matches Aren’t Boxing’s Biggest Problem
By: Sean Crose
“This will be hilarious,” actor John Cusak tweeted Sunday evening. “Watching Floyd find a way to carry a fighter in his third fight- will be a Oscar worthy performance –.”
You don’t have to be a fan of Hollywood celebrities to find merit in Cusak’s statement. The chances of Floyd Mayweather losing his announced exhibition fight to social media star Logan Paul on February 20th are pretty slim. Yet the exhibition, which will air via pay per view, may end up being very successful indeed. Mike Tyson and Roy Jones just had an exhibition fight on pay per view, and the buy rate was through the roof, the best boxing has had in years. Throwing an icon of contemporary youth culture against the likes of Mayweather only stands to reason from a financial standpoint. Expect more of this in the very near future. Before the boxing purist in you starts hand wringing, however, be sure to keep one thing in mind…
This is a fad.
What’s more, fads pass.
Still, there’s something strange and unsettling about the sport of boxing, which gave society impactful legends like Muhammad Ali and Jack Johnson, along with valuable underdog tales, like Vinnie Pazienza’s, descending into the realm of a reality show. People can, and have, been killed in the ring. The sport is dangerous and not to be toyed with. While there’s little doubt Mayweather will go out of his way not to harm Paul, a catastrophe is still certainly possible, intentional or not, when one or two of the combatants in the ring shouldn’t be there. On top of all that, there’s little doubt the Mayweather-Paul fight is making far more of a mockery of the sport than Mayweather’s 2017 match with UFC star Conor McGregor did.
On the other hand, a little good natured mockery never harmed anyone. How many times have “dastardly” professional wrestlers allowed themselves to be “knocked out” by popular boxers? The whole thing is fun and silly in the best way. In this sense, then, there’s nothing wrong with these exhibition matches, so long as – just like in professional wrestling – every precaution is taken that no one will get seriously harmed. What bugs us hardcore boxing fans, I think, is the worry that per view fights between the sport’s current big names can’t do near the business these exhibitions do. To this, however, we fight nuts should ask ourselves one simple question: Why not? Overpriced events and pay per view mismatches are at least part of the answer.
It’s hard to blame the market for the shortcomings of a dysfunctional product.