Not every pro boxer hates the idea of this fight – The Athletic


We’re going to start a series for true boxing fans about the latest exhibition fight that causes many of those same people to cringe: Floyd Mayweather versus Logan Paul, which is scheduled for June 6.

I get it. I grew up watching the best era of middleweights that the sport has ever seen. I was a huge fan of the late Pernell Whitaker. I enjoyed watching Andre Ward immensely, and not just because he hails from my area.

But these exhibitions are a part of boxing now. How long this will last is anyone’s guess, but ignoring what people watch — and most importantly to the promoters and boxers, what people will pay to watch — is silly. Especially because the people who populate this industry are talking about it. And boxers are great talkers.

That’s why I really enjoyed speaking with a group of boxers to get their input on a fight that pairs perhaps the greatest fighter of his era against a YouTube star with very little boxing experience. Actually, that’s a generous description of Paul’s credentials. We’ve only seen him fight twice, both against another YouTube star named KSI, and the first fight (an exhibition) was a majority draw with one judge narrowly giving it to KSI, and the second bout (this time considered “professional”) resulted in a split decision victory for KSI.

And the boxers’ reactions ran the gamut. Some think that boxing’s move to cater to the YouTube crowd is desperate and pathetic, and we’ll get to that later in this series. But Chordale Booker, a super welterweight with a 16-0 professional record who was the national champion middleweight in 2015 as an amateur, doesn’t seem all that upset with the idea.

“Honestly, I’m probably like the small percentage that actually likes it,” Booker said. “I enjoy it. I understand, because I came into boxing late, at 19. I understand that boxing is just entertainment. I know it takes a lot to be a boxer, going through the technique of it, but people really don’t care about that as much as they do about being entertained and wanting to see people actually fight or argue, the build-up to the fight. So I like it.  It’s bringing eyes to the sport. So I think it’s good for the sport too, in a way.” 

Don’t get it twisted, though. While Booker accepts this new trend in boxing, he’s aware that the main event is an all-time mismatch.

“Logan is so bad. Logan is so garbage,” Booker said. “I wish I could get that fight. I would fight him for anything. Just the viewership, I’d fight Logan. You have Floyd vs. Logan, Logan has no chance. It’s like if Kobe went to any basketball game. Not basketball team. Intramurals. I’m talking about people who didn’t make the high school basketball team, and play Kobe one-on-one. It’s not happening. You’re not winning.

“KSI would get smoked by Floyd. KSI’s trash. So it’s like, you couldn’t beat somebody who’s trash, and now you’re fighting the best fighter of our era? It’s amazing what social media can do, but he’s in for a long — or a very short — night.”

Other than for the pure spectacle, the main intrigue created by this matchup is the size discrepancy between the two fighters. Mayweather has a long reach (72 inches) for someone 5′ 8″, but Paul is six inches taller, has a 76-inch reach, and outweighs Mayweather by some 40 or 50 pounds. Booker doesn’t necessarily see that as an advantage for Paul, though.

“Floyd’s going to stop him,” said Booker. “It won’t be early, but Floyd’s going to stop him. Floyd’s not a big puncher because [of] his hands. He has hand issues. So what he’s gonna do — I’m not saying that he told me this, this is something that I just observed as a fighter — he’s gonna take him to deep water. He’s a bigger guy than Floyd, so Floyd has to watch out for getting hit by him because he’s just a heavier person.

“But the thing is, when you’re heavier, that’s not usually a good thing. Because now you’re slower. You’re used to a speed that’s a little bit slower than what Floyd brings. Floyd’s fast for 147. He’s already fast for people who are trained to see punches. He’s too fast for those guys. (Paul) is a guy who’s not used to being hit in the face by somebody in that class.

“So, when he’s gonna get hit, and he can’t get him back, he’s gonna get more tired. When he misses, he’s gonna get more tired. When Floyd antagonizes him, and he tries to go harder at Floyd, he’s going to get more tired. Then the pressure of the crowd, he’s gonna get more tired. And then he’s gonna get frustrated, which is going to make him more tired. So he’s gonna be mentally tired, physically tired, all the way drained. Floyd’s gonna keep just touching him, poking him up. And then, once he gets super tired, Floyd’s gonna lay power shots on him, and the ref’s just gonna say, ‘Hey, he’s had enough. I’m gonna save him from himself.’”

Booker has insight on how Mayweather might prepare for the fight, because he once flew to his gym for the opportunity to watch him train. Mayweather happened to show up while Booker was there, and everything at the gym was shut down — no cell phones or recording devices of any kind — while Mayweather went through seven-minute sparring sessions with one-minute breaks. Granted, that was in preparation to fight another elite boxer in Mayweather’s weight class. How will he prepare for an oafish brawler with questionable technique, but some power — at least in theory?

“Floyd’s training against straight punching bags, man. Punching bags,” said Booker, who was referring to sparring partners who’ve achieved very little in the ring but can absorb repeated shots to the head and body. “When he fought Marcos Maidana the first time, I went to the gym and I got to see him spar. And he had punching bags for dudes for that fight. And (Maidana) was a guy who actually was a banger, a slugger, who actually beat Adrien Broner and worked his way to the top. And (Mayweather) had punching bags for that fight. So (Mayweather is) training with guys, straight-out-the-bar bums. Dudes who are just going to come in there and swing recklessly. Because this guy, he’s not gonna throw normal punches at Floyd.”

OK, so we have a fight that Paul has no chance of winning, and a lot of attention being given to someone who didn’t have to really work all that hard to get it — at least not in a boxing sense. So what’s the benefit to all of this?

“It’s opened people’s eyes to the sport,” Booker said. “And that’s also good for boxing because then people understand that this is the most grueling and hard sport to do. I actually just trained some kids today from Stamford (CT) High, that’s the high school that I went to. And they were like, ‘Wow, you have to do this workout with somebody who’s punching at you? For like, 12 rounds?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s not a game.’ It’s the hardest sport. It’s like playing chess, but also having someone punch you in the face while playing chess.”

There’s also a trickle-down effect, which could help legitimate boxers by exposing them to a different audience.

“You never know,” said Booker. “Those people who are waiting to see Logan and Floyd fight will now see Jarrett Hurd and Luis Arias fight. And who’s to say they don’t become a fan of those guys now, because their fight will be super entertaining. So you got to take that and try to understand, grow with the times.”

Maybe the most surprising thing Booker said was when he mentioned that he liked Logan’s brother, Jake Paul, who recently fueled the pre-fight hype machine by stealing Mayweather’s hat during a staredown and running away. The prank was as juvenile as they come, but Booker has seen skills from Jake that his brother doesn’t possess.

“I like Jake as a fighter,” Booker said. “I think Jake is underrated, and a lot of people are overlooking that he actually is taking the sport seriously. I’m not gonna say he’s naturally gifted, but he’s gotten better every time he’s stepped in the ring. Whereas Logan’s still the same fighter; Jake is a better fighter. I’ve seen his amateur fight against the YouTuber, then another amateur fight against a YouTuber, then he had that pro fight against a YouTuber, and then he had a pro fight against Nate (Robinson), and then he had a pro fight against (Ben) Askren. Even though he’s been ending in one round, he’s (throwing) the punches the right way.”

Out of the boxers I spoke with, Booker was the only one who had anything remotely complimentary to say about either Paul, and a couple of them believe that Mayweather fighting the lesser of the Paul brothers is bad for the sport. Stay tuned for their thoughts in the coming days.

(Top photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images; in-line photo of Chordale Booker: Al Bello/Getty Images)





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