Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul: Is It a Fight? ‘It’s Entertainment’

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For boxing aficionados, concerned these nontraditional events will siphon resources from title fights, or boxing doomsayers who think the bouts signal the sport’s slide into oblivion, Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports, the pay-per-view carrier for Sunday’s card, says history and context matter.

He points out that novelty events aren’t new. Muhammad Ali, while still the heavyweight champion in 1976, fought the pro wrestler Antonio Inoki, and Battle of the Network Stars drew huge viewership in the 1980s by putting nonathletes into athletic competition. None of those events derailed the mainstream pro sports industry. Similarly, Espinoza says, fights like Mayweather-Paul supplement world-class bouts, but they won’t replace them. He thinks drive-by viewers drawn to the spectacle might become bigger fans of the sport.

“We can do the two things side by side without polluting each other,” Espinoza said. “The danger is when you start mixing and matching events, and trying to present one as the other. They’re different products, and should be handled differently.”

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Espinoza said that most of Showtime’s boxing content still appealed to aficionados. Sunday night, Showtime will also air the first installment of the documentary series “The Kings,” which examines the rivalry between Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Ray Leonard. The network’s June schedule also includes title fights involving Jermall Charlo and Gervonta “Tank” Davis.

Even Triller, which started this wave of celebrity boxing exhibitions, is investing in high-level boxing. The headline fight of its June 19 pay-per-view is Teofimo Lopez’s lightweight title defense against George Kambosos Jr. And where its first event featured the rapper Snoop Dogg on commentary, its next card will employ Jim Lampley, who was a longtime play-by-play announcer on HBO’s fights before the cable network moved away from boxing.

Organizers of Sunday’s card hoped a light-heavyweight title rematch between Badou Jack and Jean Pascal would appeal to hard-core boxing plans, but Pascal failed a pre-fight doping test. Jack will now face a local contender named Dervin Colina, and promoters will lean even more heavily on the main event to generate attention and revenue.

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The capacity at Hard Rock Stadium is capped at 25,000 fans and, according to Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, the live event is trending toward a sellout.

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