Sure, no one expected Celebrity Boxing to be good. Broadcast in 2002, the two-episode Fox TV special put pillow-sized gloves and headgear on unserious entertainers and a cast from the scandals of the 1990s (like Paula Jones and Tonya Harding), pitting them against one another in a boxing ring for three rounds. Its unstated appeal was easy to understand: it was a train wreck where you could look at familiar bodies splayed across the tracks and laugh.
But the show was miserable viewing, and not just because the fights were as aesthetically bad and as dehumanizing as you’d expect from something that included a gender-versus-gender match between Chyna and Joey fucking Buttafuoco. It was because the “celebrities” were all functionally irrelevant: the star of Danny Bonaduce, for example, had burned out literally three decades earlier. Beyond those diminished names, there was no drama or backstory to compel anyone to give their evening over to watching something so grotesque on TV, unless the remote was all the way over there.
Enter Chris Brown and Soulja Boy—rappers, former collaborators, and mostly relevant names—who rung in the new year with a Twitter beef that metastasized into a three-round pay-per-view boxing match in a matter of days.
The timeline of events is dizzying for its triviality and stupidity, magnified through the lens of fame. It started Monday, after Soulja Boy liked a picture on his Brown’s ex’s Instagram and said Brown called him threatening to fight him. It escalated from there; most of Brown’s posts have since been deleted, but Soulja Boy’s remain. On Wednesday, Soulja issued a quasi-apology because, he said, his mom is in the hospital and “I know she’s not proud of my actions and what I’ve been doing recently. I want to make music with Chris Brown…”
But by then, the brain trust of 50 Cent and pound-for-pound boxing king Floyd Mayweather saw dollar signs, with Mr. Curtis Jackson said he’d bet $100,000 that Chris Brown would beat Soulja Boy—a bet that he later said Mayweather accepted. Four-time champion Adrien Broner posted an image of the fight poster claiming that Boy-Brown was scheduled for March, adding that he’s training Brown and Mayweather is training Soulja Boy. Soulja Boy called Mayweather his “trainer/big brother”, claimed he was set to make a million dollars for those three rounds, and went back to insulting Brown. Brown, before snapping at Soulja Boy (in a since-deleted post) for posting a (since-deleted) picture of his two-year-old daughter, said: “#CELEBRITYBOXING CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.” Mayweather reposted a mock-up of the fight poster.
Even Martin Shkreli, the worst human to own a Wu-Tang album, wants in.
Call me cynical for not expecting this to happen ever, but let’s be charitable for a second. Whether or not it comes to fruition, if booking a fight with Brown means Soulja Boy swats a heavy bag instead of slugging lean, that’s good. On principle, so is settling irreconcilable differences with your hands and a fair one instead of an entourage and whatever you’ve got tucked into your waistband, or—even worse—more decentralized jabs across social media platforms.
And hey, if you the observer want to pay for a stream or stuff your laptop with Russian malware to watch it for free, there are way more depraved enterprises you could find on the Internet and feel worse about watching afterward. But if you are planning to part with money to watch two celebrities’ e-beef become fisticuffs—or if you're 50 Cent or Mayweather—remember the lesson of Celebrity Boxing: the idea of watching the famous and incapable fight each other is usually better than the execution.
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