Boxing veterans think Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul an ‘insult to fighters’
AAmong YouTube influencers and for his legion of fans, Logan Paul is something of an institution, his fame doesn’t fade no matter how many tasteless viral stunts he performs. But at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, cartoonish blonde bohunk might as well not exist. For them, it is a can of tomato.
The venerable institution serves as a touchstone for the glory days of sport and the oldest temple of sweet science still standing in New York. Paul has entered their arena due to his presence in what promises to be one of the most rewarding pay-per-view fights of the year, no matter how much it feels like a real game. On Sunday, he takes on undefeated and now retired boxing legend Floyd Mayweather at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla.
The rejected Flat Earth conspiratorialist has boxed before – a decisive 2018 loss at the hands of YouTuber Olajide Olayinka Williams Olatunji, better known as KSI. Carnival stupidity or not, the fight followed millions dollars and an eight-figure audience. So why not repeat the formula? Paul’s opponent has never been known to turn down an attention-grabbing payday, especially when Mayweather was short of funds.
If this spectacle represents a shameless new low for the sport, it should be remembered that it was the same in April. This meme-ready fight pitted Paul’s infamous e-celebrity brother, Jake, against a retired UFC fighter. (Donald Trump Jr. was a strong reminder.) Despite several women accusing Jake of sexual misconduct, according to an investigation by The New York Times, that didn’t stop Showtime from listing it on a multi-fight deal in May. Naturally, the cable network also broadcasts the Mayweather-Paul tilt.
Paul won’t win on Sunday, of course, but in reality he can’t lose. Because it’s not a competition; it’s a performance for which he and Mayweather will both be very well rewarded for, even if the pros and die-hard fans don’t seem inclined to see their sport turn into a side show.
Bruce Silverglade is the owner of Gleason’s Gym. For 80 years boxing legends, fighters, and enthusiasts worked the same heavy bags and maybe took one on their chin. It has been located in Dumbo since 1987, thanks to a generous rent reduction offered by the real estate developer David Walentas. At the time, the more or less abandoned part of North Brooklyn was hardly called a neighborhood. Silverglade was not the only recipient of Walentas’ largesse. The billionaire developer had purchased parisons of then relatively worthless properties in Dumbo from the late 1970s. Until obtaining all rezoning permits, Walentas provided industrial space to artists and other cultural institutions at little or no cost. This was in many ways the first attempt at planned gentrification, and a success at it. The great Walentas project took a few decades to bear fruit, but Dumbo is now home to some of the most expensive and desirable zip codes and Gleason’s is a hop, skip, and hop from one of the most Instagram ready spots in the countryside.
COVID-19 regulations had put a damper on Silverglade’s business over the past year – not only social distancing rules but reduced tourism, which has also helped keep our heads above water. Masked attendance on this day is rare.
“He’s been very nice to me and has been over the years,” Silverglade said of Walentas. Paying bills on time means turning to banks for loans. Today, “the rent is not what it used to be.
One Wednesday afternoon, Silverglade, 75, was hidden in his back office surrounded by stacks of medical tape, files, half-open boxing gear and boxing memorabilia, including a championship belt perched on the top shelf. Even though he knew Mayweather would fight an amateur, that represented most of his knowledge of Paul. He first called him a “disk jockey” before settling on the right job description: influencer.
I mentioned a few of Paul’s past indiscretions – the much-criticized trip to Japan watching a suicide victim, the botched apology tour, and the fame continues. Silverglade shrugged. As someone who has seen the absolute best and the absolute worst the sport has to offer, Mayweather scoring a massive purse in exchange for keeping an amateur standing for a few laps didn’t upset him much. He had planned to watch, maybe. “For a boxing fan and a sportsman, it’s worthless,” he said.
The kind of harm Mayweather might inflict was a concern, however. “Is he an athlete? Silverglade asked. No, I replied, but he seemed, by all appearances, to be in good physical shape. Silverglade was not impressed. Paul has a serious size advantage over Mayweather and is definitely younger, but at least Conor McGregor was a professional athlete.
“You know, you die in the ring,” he said. Pick a sport, any sport. No matter how little intentional physical contact, injury is a necessary byproduct. They are often permanent. Combat sports like boxing are a whole different matter. To be sure, the Florida Boxing Commission is aware of the risks. The rules implement for the show – no judging, eight rounds total, no declared winner – seem to suggest as much. However, sometimes events can get out of hand. “I have guys on the wall here,” he said, pointing to the 8×10 glossy papers and faded promotional posters that stretch to the ceiling of his office, “who died in the ring.”
Carlos Acevedo, boxing journalist and editor at Hannibal Boxing, said by email that Mayweather could drag the process out to make sure the hoi polloi doesn’t get too upset after paying $ 49.99 in fees pay-per-view. (During his time fighting UFC star Conor McGregor in 2017, Mayweather boasted he had done the same.)
“All Mayweather needs is muscle memory to embarrass Paul,” Acevedo said. “But the script might ask for something a little more subtle. After all, Mayweather learned a lot about kayfabe through his short stint in WWE. “
Lack of skill or not, Paul has mastered an incidental part of the concert: drawing attention to himself. A clip of Jake doing a great show of grab a hat off Mayweather’s Dome and the ensuing pseudo-brawl at a press conference in May got people talking. Naturally, Mayweather threatened Jake and Logan answered in turn. Paul has since promised in various ways that he would shock the world, or that he “decapitate”Mayweather in the first round. The two brothers continued to guide Mayweather, insisting that profits equal legitimacy, and he needed it more than they won anything by facing the ex-champion.
Exhibits like these fit in nicely with the entirety of History Less Than Boxing History, Hamilton Nolan, a longtime boxing writer for Deadspin and HBO Boxing and writer for In these times magazine, told me over the phone. For example, while still in his prime, the great Muhammad Ali danced with legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. The same year, heavyweight Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner lost to André the Giant, a battle that was almost recreated on screen by Sylvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan in Rocky III.
While he didn’t catch as many eyeballs as McGregor’s fight (various interested parties still talking about the idea of a rematch), Mayweather traveled the world in 2019 to face Tenshin Nasukawa, a popular Japanese kickboxer 20 years his junior. The match in Tokyo lasted about 90 seconds and put another $ 9 million in his pocket, according to Mayweather at least.
Jake Paul also knows the score. Between mumbles to the Daily Beast that COVID-19 is a “hoax,” he timed former undersized NBA player Nate Robinson. It was a little sad but if you’ve got $ 10 million lying around, the moment Robinson lands face first on the canvas can be bought as TVN. So no, boxing hasn’t hit rock bottom. “The nadir of boxing was probably when the crowd mended all fights,” Nolan said.
Back at Gleason, aspiring trainers and boxers are less willing to give Mayweather the benefit of the doubt. Mayweather’s unreconstructed misogyny, history of domestic violence, and overt homophobia were not discussed. They were, however, upset by the disrespect Mayweather showed the sport, although they reluctantly understood his motives.
“It is an insult to the fighters. Real fighters who come here and shed blood, sweat and tears …“
Raul Frank is perched just outside the ring. The Brooklynite, born in Georgetown, Guyana, has been a regular at Gleason’s since 1989. He reached No. 1 overall in the USBA in 1997 before moving on to training at the end of his career. “This is my house,” he said. Solidly built and sporting a full, bushy black beard, he said of Mayweather-Paul: “This is an insult to fighters. Real fighters who come here and shed blood and sweat and tears, ”without getting anything close to the kind of recognition – let alone the money – that Paul got.
Another Gleason player, Delen Parsley (“aka Blimp,” he pointed out) coached 18 world champions and was sitting on a small stool with his arms crossed. “I love this crazy game,” he said, but he won’t be listening on Sunday. “Why should I pay for such nonsense like that?” They kill the game. Kill the game! “
The brutal calculation is undeniable. “$ 100 million just to fight a guy on the computer. Would you do it?” asked Persil. (Mayweather goes would win $ 10 million plus half of the a la carte purchases.) I said yes, if someone gave me such a big check, I would probably be okay with being beaten to death. Nolan agreed. “99.9% of people who try to do this are going to take a lot more damage than they get financial reward,” he said. So if Mayweather wants to participate in a “circus stunt”, more power for him.
Where Parsley differed from everyone else I’ve spoken with, however, is that he was impressed with Paul’s ability to punch and the power behind it. He’s friendly to the pros Paul has trained with and says the YouTuber is doing the job necessary to go the distance. The most objective observers and punters don’t give Paul a punching chance, despite the many advantages of size and age. And if this is a scam – as most seemed to agree – well, even suckers deserve some empathy.
“The only people I feel are Logan Paul’s superfans,” Nolan said. “They are the ones who get ripped off.”