It’s all hype: YouTube is no match for competitive sport

Stepping into the ring

The Stakester view on the Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Logan Paul bout earning 1 million PPV buys.

He might be a world-class publicity merchant, but ultimately Logan Paul failed to bring in the kind of numbers this insane boxing circus seemed to promise. In the end an exhibition boxing match between a retired great and a lumbering YouTube star just wasn’t that entertaining.

To be fair to Paul, it’s impressive that a man with an ego that size can even enter the ring on two feet. And he’ll count his money and trumpet the success of the event — there’s no doubt that 1 million PPV buys is enough to keep the celeb boxing train rolling into the future.

The sport is safe (for now at least) from a European Super League-style reimagining of the sport. But, so-called “legacy fans’’ (read: people who already like boxing) must be worried about the integrity of the sport. After all, brilliant boxers face off all the time — putting a lifetime of training and sacrifice on the line and nobody bats an eyelid.

Does competition have competition?

The line between entertainment and sport has been blurred for a long time now. Particularly in the United States, insane halftime shows and long commercial breaks have been a feature of the fan experience for a long time. In Europe the entertainment factor is creeping in — one European Championship opening ceremony at a time.

But at the highest level, no matter how much the spectacle has featured, it always plays second fiddle to the serious business. Fans want to see the very best, most skilful athletes performing at the top of their game. Historically, that’s what brings in consistent money — not crazy claims and outlandish posts on social media.

That’s the ingredient that will always be missing in these one-off events. No matter how seriously Logan Paul trained for this fight, no matter how much money he spent — it was glorified white collar boxing. Mayweather is easily skilled enough that he can go out there and beat Paul up without making him look too bad. Then they both raise their hands at the end, get paid and everyone wins — except the fans who watched it.

You can’t make it up

There’s something undeniably watchable about an untrained athlete fighting on the big stage. But, the lack of edge and the lack of a real narrative will always hold the event back. Professional boxers have often succeeded against all the odds, overcoming hardships most of us have never experienced.

Their absolute commitment, coupled with the high stakes of a one off chance at greatness is a huge part of what makes fans watch. It’s hard to replicate that with a couple of kids who are doing it just because they can. No shade to Logan or his brother Jake: they train hard and they know how to sell an event, but that’s where their actual expertise starts and ends.

Sports fans can spot a contrived story from a mile away. Mark Wright’s brief effort at cracking professional football at the age of 33, with the obligatory BBC documentary, was met with near-universal scorn in the UK. No matter how much media coverage his name generated, people just weren’t having it. It’s harsh, but nobody believed he’d be there on merit, so nobody cared. That’s sport.

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