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The main thing is not to win, but to participate!

Photo by Severinus Dewantara on Unsplash

There are three types of boxing bouts: amateur, professional and exhibition. With the first two it is clear: as a rule, from amateur boxing, where you fight for cups, medals and a name, boxers then move on to pro boxing. There they have an opportunity to become bright stars and earn big money.

In the first and second cases, active athletes box and victory is their main goal. Fighters fight a strictly regulated number of rounds. For an amateur fight it is three rounds, but the number of rounds in a professional fight depends on the status of the fight itself. Usual rating fights last 4-6-8-10 rounds. Champion fights for titles and belts are scheduled for 12 rounds.

When a boxer in star status ends his career, the interest of the public and fans is far from immediately switched to a new adorer. Boxers on the level of Mohammad Ali, Mike Tyson or Floyd Mayweather – The Undertaker live in the hearts of devoted fans for many years.

Very often former superstars of the ring hold so-called exhibition bouts. As a rule, such events are held for charity purposes, as a show, as well as to earn money. Exhibition fights are from three to eight rounds. And not only boxers, but also representatives of any other popular sphere can be in the ring. For example, a famous boxer can face a famous blogger. In 2021 undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought popular blogger Logan Paul, and in 2022 he fought blogger Deji.

Bookmakers don’t like these fights because they don’t declare winners, although some fights do end in knockouts. The first exhibition match shown on television took place in 1931. In a 15-minute broadcast, former world lightweight champion Benny Leonard knocked out Golden Gloves champion Jimmy Martin in the third round. Although they should have just “moved on.”

By the way, Mayweather had three knockouts out of his five fights. That said, initially fighters put on big gloves to keep injuries to a minimum.

There may be more than one opponent in an exhibition fight: in 1975 George Foreman, while in Toronto, fought five fights in one night. Among his opponents were three boxers and a couple of soccer players. The poor bastards were in trouble for the entertainment of the crowd…

The most famous Muhammad Ali’s exhibition fight with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki is considered as the forerunner of mixed martial arts.

And the fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones caused such a furor, that modern fights for the championship belts do not produce. The fighters went the full scheduled distance of eight rounds, and, although both were far from their best form, the impression of the return of legends was amazing.

This is to say nothing of the money that is made from such events.

For example, the Ali vs. Inoki fight garnered over 2 million pay-per-view broadcasts, even though the show cost $10. At the Nippon Budokan arena itself there was not a single seat available, ticket prices started at $17 and ended with ringside seats for $3,000 per seat

People are always willing to pay to watch their idol of the past, even if it’s not a full-on fight.

For the most part, all boxers put on such shows because they are starting to feel the financial jolt. Such fights, of course, rarely cover their debts, because the promoters, managers, coaching staff, doctors and a lot of other people are always behind the organization, trying to take a piece of the pie.

Sometimes it happens that fights that were originally supposed to be exhibition fights become professional fights. For example, YouTube-blogger Jake Paul has already fought seven fights under the rules of boxing and won six of them, four of them by knockout. Among his opponents were not only bloggers, but also professional fighters: Ben Askren, twice – Tyron Woodley and mixed martial arts legend Anderson Silva. So, in fact, his record is six wins and one loss. In his last boxing match, Paul lost on points to Tommy Fury of Great Britain, who is the brother of world boxing champion Tyson Fury.

Absolutely all bouts are licensed by the sports commission – in other words, all athletes undergo a special medical examination, which allows or does not allow boxers to fight. Since it is not always possible for a professional athlete to fight in exhibitions, health clearance plays a crucial role at such an event.

In Russia there is also a history of exhibition fights. Back in the beginning of the last century, nobleman, baron of Kostroma and a great lover of boxing and lifting weights Mikhail Otonovich Kister held exhibitions on his own arena. He did it only to popularize sports, holding three-round fights with local strongmen of the time. Such events were very popular among the people and already 100 years ago gathered crowds of onlookers.

And soon we’ll see an exhibition fight of former professional mixed martial arts fighter Jeff Monson, who renounced American citizenship and is now a member of the Council of the Krasnogorsk urban district. The boxing rules match will be held between him and the head of the Ingushetia Boxing Federation, Lom-Ali Gazgiriev.

Exhibition fights do not lose their relevance to this day. Moreover, in the age of social networks, people have become interested not only in watching fights between professional athletes, but also in watching the exertions of popular bloggers. Thus, high performance sport is becoming closer to the common people, repeating to us the popular motto of Soviet sport: “The main thing is not to win, but to participate!”

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