Disguised as a boxing ring, the circus came to town Sunday night.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., arguably the best boxer of the past 40 years, and You Tube personality Logan Paul culminated four weeks of hype and theatrics with their exhibition at Hard Rock Stadium.
The 44-year-old Mayweather, retired since 2017, and Paul completed the eight-round distance. No winner was declared.
“I went out there to put on a show,” Mayweather said. “And I really believe, just going the distance that was a win for him. He was happy with going the distance. His whole goal was to survive.”
Throughout the buildup to Sunday, Mayweather stressed his ring appearances now will be for entertainment purposes only.
“Of course at my age I’m not going to perform like when I was 19, I’m not supposed to,” Mayweather said. “When I come out and do an exhibition, I do it because I want to do it not because I have to do it.”
Even if he is not facing the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez anymore, the Mayweather brand still attracts audiences. Retired athletes Michael Irvin, Paul Pierce and Evander Holyfield were among the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium.
Boxing purists scoffed at the event. To many who appreciated his decorated 21-year career, Mayweather stepping into a ring with someone like Paul seemed more apt for professional wrestling than an exhibition which headlined an eight-bout card.
But the social media generation, which has helped Paul amass a reported 29 million followers, lived it up. The younger audiences, which tune to Paul’s activities, marveled at the sight of the online attraction boxing someone of Mayweather’s stature.
“That was crazy for me,” Paul said. “I knew if it went the distance, I won, technically. But that wasn’t the game plan. Surviving against Floyd Mayweather is great.”
Mayweather weighed 155 pounds — 34 less than the taller Paul. Despite the weight disparity, Mayweather frustrated Paul repeatedly with short lead and counter shots.
Paul, meanwhile, tried to use his weight to wear Mayweather down. But lack of boxing skills limited Paul from mounting sufficient punch buildup or slipping Mayweather’s lead and counter shots. Paul appeared to tire as the exhibition progressed into the middle round and often clinched to offset Mayweather’s attack.
“I’m happy, it was good fun,” Paul said.
Part of the promotional hype involved the infamous hat theft by Paul’s brother, Jake, when the event officially was announced May 6 at Hard Rock Stadium. While Mayweather spoke with media, Jake Paul, another internet personality, swooped in and took Mayweather’s hat.
The incident set off a melee between Mayweather’s and Paul’s camps. Whether legitimate or staged, the hat stealing scene served as a juicy item in sound bites leading into the pay-per-view event.
Mayweather and Paul were not the only celebrities participating in an exhibition Sunday night. Retired NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson made his ring debut, finishing four rounds with Brian Maxwell.
Johnson, 43, surprised Maxwell with a short right hook to the head in the first round and later connected with combinations to the head. But the two-minute rounds and lack of boxing experience eventually took its physical toll on Johnson.
Early in the fourth, Maxwell knocked down a tired Johnson with a right to the head. Johnson reached his feet and survived the remainder of the round. The exhibition didn’t have scoring.
“My life has always been about taking chances,” Johnson said. “This is one for my bucket list. It is a message for a lot of people out there that are content, are scared to lose and not take chances. Get out there and live.”
In other bouts: light-heavyweight Badou Jack scored a fourth-round TKO over Dervin Colina; super-welterweight Luis Arias won by split decision over Jarrett Hurd; junior-welterweight Jean Carlos Torres scored a second-round TKO over Zach Kuhn; lightweight Adrian Benton won by unanimous decision over Pedro Cruz; welterweight Jalil Hackett knocked out Angelo Diaz in the first round; featherweight Dorian Khan scored a second-round TKO over Jonathan Gray.