Sunday, June 20

Logan Paul v Floyd Mayweather is a payday boxing should treat with caution | Boxing

TThe phrase “(Person X) has a hittable face“It’s a horrible thing. There is a lot wrong with it. The idea that people have something to say about what their face looks like. The suggestion of hitting is an acceptable human response. It is degrading. It is cowardly. It stinks of all the worst parts of the internet, humanity’s angriest medium.

And yet, with all due caveats, and having seriously considered all the available evidence, it must be said that Logan Paul really does have a shocking face.

This is not an insult (see above: I have one too). In fact, it is a compliment and a key part of your brilliant success.

Paul is an American YouTuber. Aged 26, he’s worth $ 19 million. He does sketches, vlogs, bits. Fly around the world. He goes out with models. And starting this week, he is scheduled to fight Floyd Mayweather in Miami in June, an exhibition fight against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of the day. It may not qualify as a real sport. But Paul v Mayweather remains, in an alarming turn for professional boxing, arguably the most important fixed date on the awards fight schedule. It’s primarily a huge triumph for Paul, whose entire personality is based on the interplay of expertly monetized technology and his own rare quality of beauty. Paul doesn’t have any obvious talents. He looks like a corrupt Roman emperor disguised as a truck driver. But whatever That is these days, he has That.

And it’s worth remembering that YouTubers aren’t really something new, they’re essentially light artists, a throwback to those old generalists, people who do a little bit of everything and are basically fun to watch just goofing off. They must be instantly consumable. To look good, or rather different, pierceable, clickable, on a four-inch screen square. Combine this quality with a platform that continues to demand more and it’s no surprise that Paul ended up right at the bottom line, a sort of human screen button, a one-touch income generator.

Logan Paul (right) and KSI in Los Angeles in November 2019. KSI won by decision.
Logan Paul (right) and KSI in Los Angeles in November 2019. KSI won by decision. Photograph: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images

And good luck to him on his disturbing and undoubtedly enormously enjoyable personal journey. But it’s still a troubling prospect for boxing, which really needs to do something about it. Youtubers and boxing are already an established sideshow. Watford’s own KSI was Paul’s first opponent in the ring. Logan’s younger brother, Jake Paul, is on the same path as a Tuber-boxer-rapper-actor. Other YouTubers are urgently staging matches (RiceGum v Behzinga anyone?). TikTokers and YouTubers are ready for a massive showdown. It’s hugely tempting for established professional boxing structures to just shake all this up, with the pre-made platform and the huge sums to be had from something that doesn’t even have to sell itself.

Real boxing involves risking your life to get paid. What can you lose from a little pantomime of great value? Mike Tyson, for example, welcomes this new frontier. And Tyson is right in many ways. This is energy, interest, and relevance to a sport that can sometimes seem like an unlikely hangover. Just take the rich, shiny, shiny thing. When the world gives you YouTubers, create YouTube.

But there is a deeper problem with YouTubers pretending to be boxers. The only great strength of boxing is that it is real. It can be dirty and muddy. It can be grotesque and absurd, run by dubious people and dubious regimes. But when all that noise is gone, what remains remains strangely pure, a thrilling act of bravery and gymnastic art.

Boxing is also incredibly difficult. The level of skill and heart required to do it correctly is one of the wonders of professional sports. This is part of what has kept him going, even though it goes against all modern notions of wellness and sanctioned behavior. People want to feel things, to see the human limb, the human ultimate. And boxing will make you feel things.

Except, now we have this. Fakers, stolen legitimacy, and a genuinely dehumanizing spectacle. Context is everything here. A boxer fights because he has the ability to make this act of consensual violence into a controlled and dignified spectacle. This is work, a way to earn a living and, yes, to find some kind of glory. Why is a YouTuber fighting? They have not climbed this ladder. They are fighting because people let them and because there is still more money to be made from an industry that will do anything to make that finger click: another four-inch blow to the face, another ping of the dollar sign. Watch me hurt myself now. And don’t forget to like it.

It’s frustrating because there’s a really great real boxing prospect. Joshua v Fury is even supposed to happen at some point, although since they have fought each other twice in the last 18 months, there is an unfortunate star gap here that Paul-Mayweather threatens to insert himself into. Can you really imagine the hideous spectacle of Mayweather somehow being taken down by this great greed of boastful ambition, to whom he is giving 50 pounds and 18 years? This is one answer. Boxing must apply its strictest standards to these hungry outsiders. If you want to fight inside the store, enjoy the decorations, the glow of authenticity, then step into the ring with someone who is ready and prepared to make it happen.

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The other option is to reject and denounce these theatrical performances, this easy and destructive new source of income. Just because something can happen doesn’t mean it has to happen. How ironic that it’s not the violence of boxing or his cowboy rule that threatens to lead him to a strange place. It’s light entertainment, digital mush, the lure of just clicking the poignant face on your eye line.

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