The ceiling of celebrity boxing will be pushed to the limit this Sunday as all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr will compete with social media megastar Logan Paul.
We know what the script is supposed to be. Floyd Mayweather Jr, 50-0 and arguably the best boxer of a generation, is not coming back to lose an exhibition. Logan Paul, 0-1-1 with a roughly a 50 pound size advantage is coming in to do his part to sell the bout and not make it appear as if they have robbed the paying audience on a rare Sunday fight night.
But here we are.
Money Mayweather’s defensive skills were mind blowing 🤯
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) February 25, 2021
Think of celebrity boxing as a garden. The flowers were planted long before Logan or Jake Paul ever made a video on YouTube. There have been celebrity bouts throughout history and there was even a network television show called Celebrity Boxing (on FOX, of course) in the early 2000s. Over the years, more flowers blossomed.
In 2017, a special group of seeds were planted by two internet celebrities that have emerged as the social influencers of today. Olajide Olayinka Williams Olatunji, better known to Generation Z as the YouTuber KSI, called out the controversial Logan Paul to a boxing match. The event became a runaway success, selling out London’s Wembley Arena with a fight card that saw Jake Paul fight KSI’s little brother (another YouTuber) in the co-main event. A year later, the event was successful enough that Logan Paul and KSI gave an encore for a sold out Staples Center in California, with respected “real boxers” Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney being relegated to the undercard. Notably, the first fight was a draw and Paul lost the rematch.
The pair of events proved an undeniable fact: there was a paying audience for the entertainment they were putting on. One that was paying well. Fast-forward to two years later, Jake Paul has proven that the celebrity boxing model in 2021 can be highly lucrative when done correctly. The proof can be made with the impressions made by his bout with former MMA fighter Ben Askren. Quite simply, the once overlooked garden of celebrity boxing is now flourishing brightly in the digital age.
Logan Paul is putting in serious work 🥊
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) October 21, 2019
This has made Sunday’s event one quite unlike any other. On the surface, it is a cash grab by two proven self-marketers. Look deeper, it is a test to see just how far the bubble can be pushed before it bursts. With the backing of Floyd Mayweather and Showtime, a pairing that literally has put on the most successful combat sports events of all time, celebrity boxing will see just how lucrative the business can be. Alone, Mayweather has commanded large numbers with far lesser known opponents across from him. Anyone with sense is not fooled by the size and age discrepancy between the two, certainly not enough to pay the $49.99 price tag. The real test is if Paul’s large fanbase is loyal enough to part with their hard earned money. His job is to convince them he actually has a shot at upsetting the all-time great.
At worst, the event will flop and the two will walk off with into the sunset with millions already secured in their bank account. At best, the two will put on a lucrative event that adds even more interest to so-called “sideshow” events at a time when Triller and other promotions are already investing considerable money into the space. Monday morning could see the result at either end of the spectrum or anywhere in between.
But what could come next? After getting the highest paid athlete in the world to participate, what could be bigger for celebrity boxing? After a fight between Mayweather and Paul, can we still be as excited for Jake Paul vs Tyron Woodley? Sunday is challenging celebrity boxing to push their ceiling to the limit just months after it has blossomed into the newest craze in combat sports.
If there is a higher level than what we will see tomorrow, then make peace with the fact that it is here to stay.