Fight Nights and Freak Shows: Why boxing needs novelty fights to survive

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Danny Howard

June 8th, 2021

Last weekend, boxing aficionados saw what could only be described as their greatest nightmare when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Logan Paul faced off in an exhibition bout. Contrary to the cries of despair from the purists and haters, boxing survived the weekend and the Mayweather/Paul event was actually entertaining for what it was.

While the fight captivated fans, the nature of the bout and the recent trend has put the sport in a precarious position for some. These fights are as lucrative as they are ludicrous, and the public can’t seem to get enough of them.

While there isn’t anything quite like a high-level boxing match, the sport is currently enjoying a boom as it dabbles in sports entertainment, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Boxing isn’t dead, but it isn’t interesting either

The most common trope in boxing is that the sport is dead or in a perpetual state of dying. Aside from one or two major fights a year, boxing couldn’t buy the kind of publicity these events are bringing. Fighters are invisible to the public at large, something that is attributed to the current structure of the sport. Aside from Saul Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao, fighters often fail to captivate public interest.

If a 54-year-old Mike Tyson can overshadow the likes of Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, then the sport has failed to generate any buzz. Exposure is critical, and while it’s hard to swallow for some that these events are happening, it’s a shot of adrenaline boxing hasn’t had in decades.

Boxing Purists Are Never Impressed

A boxing purist is a lot like a snobby film critic. Every movie that isn’t Citizen Kane is garbage, and they won’t hesitate to talk down to others for watching and enjoying Godzilla vs. Kong. For too long, the sport has languished by appealing to the loyalists; a fatal flaw that is in need of correction.

There is seldom any hype or interest generated by purists, who always somehow talk down the present state of the sport by bringing up the past. Nobody who is talking about Tyson Fury or Teofimo Lopez wants to hear about Harry Greb or Sam Langford. Marketing to the loyalists represents the smallest subsection of the population, and the ones who complain the most.

If boxing is to grow, it will be because of casual fans being introduced to the game from these types of events, and not the purists who actively tear it down.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Sports Entertainment

Here’s the thing about these events: They’re fun and have something for everybody. These events have no impact on the boxing landscape, but are a welcomed diversion that have delivered on the goods so far. Most of these fights came together quickly, as opposed to typical scenarios where it seems military intervention is needed to get them done.

Though some of the events can benefit from some professionalism, promoters and networks should be taking note. This is the prime opportunity for them to put together competitive fights and build new stars under this major spotlight. By doing this, they are giving fans who came for the freak show a taste of what a real fight looks like.

This won’t last forever

Like everything else in boxing, this all comes down to matchmaking, money, and marketability. As it is, the sport isn’t seeing an invasion of YouTube influencers threatening to take over the sport, the aged legends are mostly staying away. Even Dana White is keeping UFC fighters from entertaining crossover bouts. Triller, the network that started this movement, is moving away from special attractions in favor of focusing on the sport itself.

How much longer this will go on is anyone’s guess, but until then, boxing needs to embrace the spectacle. Maybe now, it can bring fresh fans in and change the perceptions that have kept the sport from returning to its place as one of America’s premier sports.