Say what you will about Sunday’s card at Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, but it drew plenty of mainstream attention and had people talking much more than the handful of “legit” boxing cards that took place the day before.
The event, headlined by an exhibition pitting Hall of Famer Floyd “Money” Mayweather against YouTuber Deji in a 6-round, 2-minute-per-round bout, also featured a few other celebrity fluff fights and the presence of perpetual sh*t-stirrer Jake Paul.
Honestly, in terms of putting on a show that actually grabs some attention beyond the often stodgy and increasingly aged boxing base, this card in Dubai figuratively wiped the floor with anything “real” boxing has produced in a good, long while.
In the main event, Mayweather, predictably, dominated the overmatched YouTuber, forcing a referee stoppage in the sixth and final round. The former 5-division world champ, however, added some flair to this particular performance, dancing and prancing and toying with the UK c-list celebrity before closing the show. Unlike his other exhibition showings, Mayweather seemed conscious of actually trying to make this show, well, a show that might entertain those pay-per-view buyers who were clearly there for a spectacle and not a high-end boxing match.
It’s up to the viewer to determine whether this was entertaining or not, but Mayweather’s showing clearly achieved the goal of attention generation as all sorts of mainstream outfits fell all over themselves to cover the event.
On the undercard, Jake Paul made waves before the main event made waves as he taunted and heckled 23-year-old UK boxer/reality show personality Tommy Fury from ringside as Fury turned in a horribly lackluster showing against late replacement Rolly Lambert.
Fury, who is the younger brother of heavyweight champ Tyson Fury, was twice tied to bouts with Paul, but was forced to withdraw on both occasions, once due to injury and the second time because of visa issues.
The 8-0 pro was incensed by Paul’s taunting and called the YouTuber/6-0 pro into the ring for a confrontation. Paul responded by calling Fury outside the ring for a confrontation. The verbal skirmish ended when security held back Fury, preventing anything from happening either inside or outside the ring. Paul, who always has a knack for having the last word, taunted Fury again with a “You won’t, you won’t, you’ won’t, you didn’t, you didn’t, you didn’t” chant on the broadcast mic.
Fury’s father, John, got into the post-fight fray, ripping off his shirt and wanting to get at Paul, who also goaded him from ringside.
Even Mayweather and Jake Paul had a bit of a not-in-person tussle before the main event went down. Mayweather, probably seeing how much of a disturbing and taunting presence the YouTuber was during the Tommy Fury fight, insisted that he be removed from the building before coming to the ring for his bout with Deji.
A representative of Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions company later issued the following statement via social media, confirming the situation:
“Mayweather employee Jona Rechnitz approached Jake Paul ringside & said Floyd would not fight unless Jake left the arena. Jake left the arena so the fans didn’t have to wait any longer. In retrospect maybe Jake should have stayed & saved the fans from that sham of a boxing match.”
Mayweather fought Jake Paul’s brother Logan in a June, 2021 exhibition and had a dust-up with Jake during fight week when the younger Paul brother snatched the baseball cap off Mayweather head in a face-to-face confrontation.
Anyway…Sunday’s card made mainstream headlines, unlike most boxing cards. There’s definitely a thing or two “real” boxing could learn from this fluff stuff. This is not to say that boxing should go full-on circus sideshow, but it wouldn’t hurt to remember that it’s okay to be entertaining and inclusive.