British heavyweight boxer David “Hayemaker” Haye hasn’t been in the ring for three-and-a-half years, which is an eternity in boxing (ask Muhammad Ali) but apparently just the right amount of time for a 35-year-old slugger with bad shoulders and nagging fears about his place in boxing history to really miss the limelight. Before retiring Haye came up short in his lifelong quest to unify the various heavyweight belts, so this Saturday he will start the hunt all over again against Mark de Mori, the first step on a journey, Haye hopes, back to relevance, a title belt, redemption, and maybe some peace of mind. This is the curse of the professional fighter, the great tease of the boxer’s life: glory recaptured is always just around the corner.
Glory and economic opportunity are just around the corner. And since we are living in the glory days of synergy, where it’s not enough to be an athlete, one must also be a businessman in tune with all cross-promotional money-making opportunities that arise—like Floyd Mayweather with his team-building efforts or LeBron James with his vast branding empire—it’s not enough for David Haye to merely drag his aging body back into the ring and pick up a check. If, in 2016, you haven’t found ways to monetize yourself and your efforts from three different angles at once, you’re not trying.
So in addition to returning to the ring, David Haye is looking to revolutionize the way we watch boxing by joining forces with digital content provider IM360 to produce the first-ever live boxing match virtual reality viewing experience. David Haye will not only be making money by fighting Saturday night; he will be making money by producing our experience of watching him fight.
IM360 will be using multiple cameras to create a 360-degree video. Viewers will be able to pan in all directions to watch the match (and even the crowd watching the match, which could be more interesting, depending on how much ring rust Haye is suffering from) from multiple perspectives, making the comeback fight a truly immersive experience. Viewers who get the specially made IM360-produced Hayemaker 360 app for their Android smartphones and tablets (sorry, iPhone users) and a virtual reality headset will also have access to exclusive “backstage” content, like Haye’s workouts.
This isn’t the first time boxing has dabbled in virtual reality, by the way, but it is the first time it’s happened live. Last year Showtime produced a 360-degree interactive video of the Daniel Jacobs/Peter Quillan fight, but only after the fact.
In a press release published on his Web site, Haye said, “I’m fascinated by new emerging technologies, and am constantly looking to embrace the digital world in order to connect with my fans. With this in mind, I’m thrilled to bring immersive VR technology to big time boxing—allowing the public to stand alongside me in the ring, letting them see what I see and experience every punch.”
Whether viewers want to see what a 35-year-old recently retired boxer unhappy with his legacy sees when he returns to the heavyweight ring after nearly four years away, or experience every punch thrown by a six-foot-two Australian knockout specialist, remains to be seen. What we know is that Saturday night’s fight will be an unprecedented blend of the very new and the very, very old. 360-degree virtual immersive interactive live experiences might be the freshest thing in boxing, but there could be nothing older, nothing more time-honored, than the return of the aging fighter who, after years out of the spotlight, finds himself unable to stay away from the fight game, physical and mental consequences be damned. It’s a tale as old as time and one just as filled with melancholy and disappointment. Now you can experience all the possible redemption, and all the inevitable tragedy, as if it were happening to you.
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