“What’s up, Sports Illustrated!” Floyd Mayweather’s voice boomed and in an instant, one of boxing’s greatest showmen was in character. It’s Thursday afternoon and Mayweather, four years removed from his last professional fight, was in salesman mode, pumping up his latest money maker: an eight-round exhibition match against YouTube star Logan Paul in Miami on Sunday.
“He thinks sometimes that size wins fights,” says Mayweather of Paul, 26, who will be more than 30 pounds heavier than Mayweather on Sunday. “Or weight wins fights. I don't care what anybody says. A fight wins a fight,”
Mayweather isn’t trying to convince you this fight will be competitive. Officially, it’s not. The Florida State Boxing Commission wouldn’t sanction it. There will be a referee, with the power—perhaps duty—to stop the fight. But there are no official judges. If it goes the distance, there will be no official winner.
Mayweather, in fact, is all but telling you it won’t be. He has called the pay per view money he'll rake in “legalized bank robbery.” He has admitted he only trained every other day. Asked if he could beat Paul with his B-game, Mayweather said his Z-game would be enough to win.
“Nobody has to watch,” Mayweather said. “Nobody has to pay. Do whatever makes you feel good. And I’m going to do whatever makes me feel good.”
Mayweather, though, is betting fans will watch. Because they always have. Mayweather’s place among boxing’s all-time greats is debatable. His status as boxing’s savviest businessman is not. His pay per views have brought in more than $1 billion over a two-decade professional career. He played the villain flawlessly, drawing in as many (paying) customers who wanted to watch him lose as much as watch him win. His last fight, against UFC star Conor McGregor, a combat sports veteran with no boxing experience, generated 4.3 million pay per view buys and more than $500 million in total revenue.
McGregor, UFC’s biggest star, represented an opportunity. Paul does, too. His YouTube channel has 23.1 million subscribers. He has 19.6 million followers on Instagram and nine million on Twitter. He has one professional fight, in 2019, when he lost to fellow YouTuber KSI. He is hopelessly overmatched. But Mayweather is counting on Paul’s legion of fans plunking down $49.99 for the right to see him try.
It’s an idea, Mayweather says, that first germinated in 2019, in Los Angeles, when Mayweather was first introduced to Logan and his brother, fellow YouTuber Jake Paul. “Both of them were big fans,” says Mayweather. Months later, Logan, through an intermediary, approached Mayweather about a three-round sparring session at Mayweather’s gym. Mayweather said he would—for $1.5 million.
“So then, I said, ‘Well, if you can get me $1.5 million like this, and then this guy got 18 or 19 million followers and he's huge on YouTube,’ I said, ‘Well, let's do it like this, let's take it to the next level,’” says Mayweather. “Let's build this thing and put it in a football stadium. So we were going to fight in the Raider's stadium. Nevada commissioner said they didn't want it. So then I said, ‘Okay, let's take it to Miami.’ Miami said, ‘Let's do it’. So now we're here.”
Mayweather insists he doesn’t miss boxing. “Absolutely not,” says Mayweather. “I did it my whole life. Anytime you've done something 40 some years and you broke every record and you've dominated in every field … it is what it is, it's time to move on to other things in life.”
To Mayweather, this is moving on. This isn’t boxing. This is an autograph signing. This is capitalizing on his brand against an opponent with no chance of hurting him. He did it in 2018, when he traveled to Japan and flattened Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in the first round. He made millions beating up Nasukawa. Against Paul, he will make millions more. Mayweather says he has already made $30 million in the build-up to the event. He estimates he will make between $50 and $100 million for the fight.
“My nickname is ‘Money’ for a reason,” says Mayweather. “I worked extremely hard for years and years to get to a certain level. A level where we can start calling everything an event.”
Critics deride Mayweather-Paul as bad for boxing. But it’s not boxing. At 42, Mayweather isn’t plotting a comeback. If anything, he intends to continue on the YouTube circuit. If—when—Mayweather finishes with Logan, a matchup with Jake Paul awaits. Jake is considered the better boxer of the Paul brothers. He’s 3–0, with knockouts over a YouTuber (Ali Eson Gib), an ex-basketball player (Nate Robinson) and a retired MMA fighter (Ben Askren). Jake Paul recently signed a multi-fight deal with Showtime—the network Mayweather has called home since 2013.
At the press conference to announce Floyd Mayweather–Logan Paul, Jake confronted Mayweather, swiping Mayweather’s hat, setting off a brief scuffle. Video of the altercation, of course, quickly went viral.
If Mayweather–Logan Paul does business, Mayweather against Jake Paul could do more. And that’s what Mayweather wants. Low-risk, easy paydays. Big paydays. He’s transparent about it. There will be no rematch with Manny Pacquiao. No showdown with Terence Crawford or Errol Spence. Mayweather is back for exhibitions only.
And he believes a sizable audience will be willing to pay to see it.
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