When Floyd Mayweather “battles” Logan Paul Sunday, it’s not a boxing legend opposing someone who can’t fight. It’s not a generation gap between the 44-year Mayweather and 26-year-old Paul, nor is it a personal beef.
Real Boxers No Longer Make The Big Bucks
It’s not even legacy, pride, or bragging rights, and you can’t bet on this matchup because it’s an exhibition, with no outcome.
Except for one. Money and social-media branding.
This event _ a sparring session on pay-per-view _ is perhaps the starkest revelation of new media’s massive reach.
The real sanctioning bodies for Mayweather-Paul are YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and the Internet. What are they enabling?
A harmless blockbuster. Mayweather has never lost a fight. Paul has never won. And this becomes pay-per-view, with a legitimate pre-fight buzz.
It will succeed because there are no stakes. Paul has struck the financial artery of social media, in which followers must simply be entertained.
Dude, want to watch me try to climb Mt. Everest? And then I’ll take on Mayweather, man, good stuff.
Social-media stars like Paul have replaced the traditional roles of event promoters. The ascent of this medium came during Paul’s adolescence, making him a natural. Tweets, posts, videos, music. They all become statements and can summon event support the way grass-roots promotional campaigns once did.
YouTuber vs Former Champion
Paul’s outgoing personality has overshadowed two career fights, a loss and draw to YouTube star KSI. And that unlikely origin lets him share the stage against a Hall-of-Famer who went 50-0 and amassed several titles. The greatest punchers in the sport couldn’t hit Mayweather. Canelo couldn’t. Manny Pacquiao couldn’t. So, Paul will?
Mayweather, meanwhile, pinches himself for living long enough to embrace the next wave of human cash registers. He came from an era that seems primitive now, but appeared cutting edge then.
During his ascent, fighters had public-relations experts who lobbied writers and television reporters for media access to drive their fighters. Obtaining a media spotlight was painstakingly slow. Relationships had to be nurtured. If the “press” didn’t cover a fighter, an event couldn’t be built.
That may sound ancient now, but such is the rule of evolution. Each era is considered the most enlightened of all time.
Reporters once glowed over their advancement from portable to electric typewriters, then to large bulky computers and finally smaller ones. Notebooks? They were your real pad, to record interviews. Tablets? They were vitamins.
Promoters hailed the forthcoming pay-per-view revolution replacing closed-circuit special events. They envisioned the greatest fights of all time that could be watched by fans at home. They wondered what Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier would have been like on pay-per-view.
Boxing of old is gone, unfortunately
And the world got faster. Television devoured newspapers. The Internet devoured television. Live-streaming companies like DAZN knocked HBO out of the boxing business. Now all individuals can have an immediate forum, Twitter produces a public profile and events that finished 30 minutes ago are nearly old news.
And it got even faster.
Who can watch a multi-hour event without making multiple bets? Sports-betting pioneers fought for decades to legalize sports wagering.
And what happened just months after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned PASPA? The grand vision of the pioneers, a brick-and-mortar paradise with large screens and giant sportsbooks, became nearly passe.
They do exist, but mobile apps have put the book in one’s hand. It sparked the age of nirvana. And there are side bets about when New Jersey will shatter the $1 billion sports-betting handle for a single month. This is post-PASPA, on steroids.
Legacy in jeopardy?
On a parallel plane, I experienced Mayweather’s journey through different eras, without the megabucks. I broadcast some of his amateur fights on ESPN and early professional bouts on the up-and-coming Direct TV.
As he became “Money”, I called many of his pay-per-view fights (Canelo, Arturo Gatti, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez) distributed through another new entity, HBO International. The events were not shown in the United States, but spread to more than 100 countries via “the bird”.
Fight calls were transmitted to a satellite dish and taken down from it by operators who had paid for the rights to access the codes. They then aired the fight in that country, selling advertising time against their purchase price.
That was considered cutting edge.
Mayweather launched the modern-day crossover of generations with his blockbuster against Conor McGregor in 2017. I called that one too, internationally, as the rabid MMA fans who wanted to see McGregor box produced an epic event. Mayweather was perfect for the event, allowing McGregor to fight valiantly before stopping him in nine rounds. Everybody won.
It was Mayweather’s 16th pay-per-view fight. And it drew a record 4.3 million buys, light years ahead of any previous endeavor, and why? Because technology had caught up to him.
So here we go again.
Boxing is no longer about the best vs the best
The YouTube era may have actually hit stride with Jake Paul, Logan’s brother, about a year ago. His pro debut against Ali Eson Gib fashioned a bizarre press conference. The barbs concerned social media.
“You don’t have it anymore,” Paul said, “You are losing a lot of followers!”
What? Being over the hill no longer means being out of shape, losing miles off one’s fastball or being unable to match one’s golf driving distance.
Nope. It’s about losing viewers.
Jake Paul reportedly pocketed $900,000 just to lose to KSI. He also reportedly earned money from pay-per-view sales.
That’s astounding. Many fighters who won world titles did not make that much for their career, because they pre-dated this lucrative new world.
Why have the You Tubers succeeded?
Because they are irreverent. They have found a medium and mastered the message.
The top performers know success means drawing people to watch them do SOMETHING. Doesn’t matter what. Even video games kings have followers.
It appears unusual until considering the basic financial principle these personalities obey: draw attention. Instead of asses in the seats, it’s eyeballs on the site.
Jake Paul surged to a high stage on the YouTube platform. Consider these lyrics from his “Everyday Bro” video, which obtained a near-record 70 million DISLIKES.
They bring attention too.
“It’s Everyday Bro,
“With the Disney Channel Flow
“5 Mil on You Tube in 6 months
“Never Done Before”
The song later mentions Twitter, texting, and a white rapper’s perceived perch atop social media.
And stars from the past respect it. Iron Mike Tyson said he would never fight either of the Paul brothers because he likes them. Tyson himself launched a senior fighting circuit on Triller. He battled Roy Jones Jr. and will probably fight Evander Holyfield again.
To be fair, as some cringe over the acceptance of Mayweather-Paul, many athletes have tried to cash in on a perceived new medium. Mickey Rourke tried fighting on pay-per-view. Tonya Harding tried to fight. So did Kim Kardashian.
This is just the latest version, but with a mass of technology behind it.
Mayweather is smart enough not to let Paul disgrace himself and ruin a lucrative new era, so Paul will have enough to banter about afterward.
Dude, did you see Mayweather’s face when I almost hit him? (he might even land some.)
This is the age in which style has eclipsed substance.
It doesn’t matter what one does.
It does matter how one looks doing it.
This is the new age and the new norm. And it’s not just once in a while.
It’s everyday bro.