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Floyd Mayweather vs Aaron Chalmers: The chequered history of boxing exhibitions

When boxing legend Floyd Mayweather takes on reality TV star, retired MMA fighter and part-time boxer Aaron Chalmers in an exhibition bout on February 25 at the O2 Arena in London, he’ll be struggling not to laugh out loud.

Mayweather, 45, came off a sixth-round stoppage over Deji – a social media influencer – in Dubai last November. Reports suggest the former five-weight world champion and Hall of Famer raked in over $30 million for moving against an inexperienced opponent. And you can bet he’s getting paid handsomely for the Chalmers affair.

“I was originally supposed to play another opponent but injuries do come up and I’m glad Aaron Chalmers was able to step in so we can give the fans what they want,” said Mayweather, who was set to fight Liam Harrison. “The UK fans have always been great to me and supported me throughout my career so an event like this has been a long time coming.”

MORE: Everything you need to know about Mayweather vs Chalmers

The boxing exhibition fad feels relatively new due to the tremendous amount of interest it’s garnered lately. In reality, however, the practice has been around for decades, and Mayweather isn’t the only one banging out pay long after he’s retired.

Sporting News now looks back on five exhibition matches in which all-time great boxing champions have performed:

Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki

  • Date: June 26, 1976
  • Location: Nippon Budokan, Tokyo
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In early 1975, just months into his second reign as world heavyweight champion, Ali threw down the gauntlet on a visit to Japan.

“Is there no oriental fighter who will challenge me?” asked an exuberant Ali when introduced to Ichiro Hatta, President of the Japan Wrestling Federation, “I’ll give him a million dollars if he wins.”

Legendary wrestler Antonio Inoki eventually accepted this challenge, but it would take over a year for the matchup to materialize. Arranged as a pseudo martial arts collision between boxer and wrestler, the rules were hastily put together and the event turned into a disaster.

MORE: The world of martial arts reflects on the life of Antonio Inoki

Inoki, who was only allowed to kick below the waist, was terrified of being tagged and spent 15 rounds crawling across the floor and kicking Ali’s legs. “The Greatest,” who ended in severe blood clots, landed a total of six jabs in 45 minutes of fight time.

Incredibly, Ali received a career-high $6 million payday for what turned into a sham. Three years later, as his career was drawing to a close, Ali boxed in an exhibition against American footballer Lyle Alzado.

Result: Pull

Larry Holmes vs. Bernardo Mercado and James Tillis

  • Date: March 11, 1990
  • Location: Senyan Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia

Larry Holmes, 40, was two years away from his KO loss to Mike Tyson and was considering another comeback.

The opportunity to venture out to Jakarta, enjoy the nightlife, sing a song or two and box a four-round show against a pair of average heavyweights was a shame to test one’s resources.

Without any training, The Easton Assassin could still land with that lightning bolt, and his unrivaled experience allowed him to put on a show. The ex-champion opened on Mercado and Tillis once or twice, but the TV show was contested in very good spirits.

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Holmes’ friend, mentor and former opponent Muhammad Ali attended the event and was literally besieged by fans and well-wishers.

MORE: Floyd Mayweather Jr: Reminiscing about the stunning Pretty Boy from 25 years ago

The great Holmes returned to his real action a year later, challenging Evander Holyfield and Oliver McCall in championship matches. He lost both by decision and finally retired in 2002.

Result: N / A

Floyd Mayweather vs. Tenshin Nasukawa

  • Date: December 31, 2018
  • Location: Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan

Over a year after his final retirement, Mayweather was approached by a Japanese team interested in him facing featherweight kickboxing standout Nasukawa in a boxing exhibition.

That didn’t sound like the best idea.

Mayweather stays in shape year-round, and while the ex-champ was nowhere near the intellectual boxing genius he once was, there’s no way a naturally smaller rookie should be allowed in a boxing ring near him.

MORE: Floyd Mayweather vs. Aaron Chalmers purses, salaries

After just over a minute, Nasukawa was on his back thanks to a left hook to the head. The battered Japanese fighter bravely stood up and tried to fight back, but it was all over. Two more knockdowns convinced Nasukawa’s corner to throw in the towel.

Floyd has reportedly raised $9 million for embarrassing a 20-year-old who should have known better.

money for nothing.

Result: Mayweather TKO 1

Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones

  • Date: November 29, 2020
  • Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles

If you wanted to see two of the biggest stars in boxing history mix it up — even on an eight-round show — you’d have to dig deep.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening life as we know it, these two former champions came together for a pay-per-view event without a live audience. Tyson reportedly received a $10 million guarantee while Jones received $3 million.

The pair did a passable emulation of what made them special during their respective heydays. Jones, 51, released his hands in deft thrusts and used the ring. Tyson, 54, peaked his man and occasionally held him by the ropes.

Neither fighter was allowed to seek the knockout and the fight was settled as a draw.

These two were on the verge of really mixing it up almost 20 years ago. By this time Jones was one of the best fighters in the world and Tyson, though faded, remained a megastar.

Result: Pull

Evander Holyfield vs Vitor Belfort

  • Date: September 11, 2021
  • Location: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Miami, Florida

The all-time great heavyweight king, Evander Holyfield, defeated Father Time multiple times during his pro career. However, his foray into the fast money exhibition circuit ended in disaster.

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When former multiweight world champion Oscar De La Hoya retired from an exhibition bout against MMA star Vitor Belfort, eyebrows were raised when the much taller Holyfield stepped in as a substitute.

Size didn’t matter.

Holyfield, 58, was ridiculously slow trying to bat. His southpaw opponent quickly capitalized on well-timed raids and a knockdown late in the opening round. The tall former champion rose, but Belfort’s follow-up attack convinced the referee to call off the fight.

Fifteen or twenty years earlier, Holyfield would have beaten Belfort so badly he could have been served in an eggcup.

Result: Belfort TKO 1

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