Roy Jones Jr. took part in a celebrity boxing match against NDO Champ—a 250-pound-plus bodybuilder with major clout in the fitness industry on Friday night, in the first Official Celebrity Boxing “Metaverse” event.
The Jones scrap took place in Miami, and on PPV.
It brought me back to the year 2011.
The movie in theaters was “Real Steel,” a film set in a futuristic world where boxing is no longer a fight between actual human participants and is instead a sport where robots controlled by gamers duke it out in front of massive crowds.
This is a world where E-Sports meets the sweet science to form a new combat sport.
The movie is enjoyable if you can get beyond a somewhat clunky plotline, but it is complete fiction. Or is it?
Meta What Now?
In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus. This acquisition set the stage for FB founder, Mark Zuckerberg, to launch his next futuristic idea.
In 2021, Zuckerberg announced FB’s rebranding as META and set a course to completely change the online world into the Metaverse, a place where people can live virtually.
You don’t have a sweet 5,000-square-foot penthouse and a flying Lambo? No problem, you can be and own anything in the metaverse.
Celebrity boxing matches are already a novelty, but the tech that was used tonight was the real story.
Damon Feldman Promised A Spectacle
Damon Feldman, the event’s organizer, was clear that fans would “see something they’ve never seen before” in an interview with TMZ. He was right.
While the 54 year old RJJ and NDO Champ, real name Robert Wilmote, 39, actually put on gloves and “fought” inside an actual boxing ring, the entire thing was broadcasted with “video capture” tech that made them look like a video game.
The tech was not flawless as the picture was pixelated in spots, but it was impressive for a debut.
RJJ’s style and patented movement were proof enough that these guys were actually fighting—there isn’t a video game in the world that could be this accurate with styles.
It certainly was a sight.
Without being able to know for sure, I’d say that the punch ceiling was set at 75% force.
As expected in a celebrity boxing match, neither guy was trying to hurt the other.
That said, RJJ looked better overall.
His movement probably appeared better against his oversized opponent because it was missing in his last outing against former MMA lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
Damon Feldman is the brother of David Feldman who runs BKFC (Bareknuckle fight league).
Many fans assumed early in BKFC startup that the idea would flop, but the promotion kept running its race and has now gained traction in the four years since its inception.
There is no way of knowing how dedicated Damon is to this concept, but if he is cut from the same cloth as his brother than there may be reasons to keep an eye on this.
Highlights From the Roy Jones Jr Fight
The fight had exciting moments as RJJ caught NDO in the 6th round which hurt the IFBB pro bodybuilder. The right hand from Roy sent NDO back towards the ropes, and the Pensacola-born fighter took full advantage.
RJJ looked much faster, but as mentioned earlier, the opponent comparison could be the reason. However, he also was very accurate with his punches to the body from both the inside and outside.
After a successful flurry from RJJ that backed NDO into the corner, the referee called for a standing 8 count. NDO was not happy and appeared to shove the ref as the action commenced.
RJJ kept throwing punches and hurt NDO to the body with a left, then after another body shot NDO did a 360 to stay away from Roy. After a flurry to the head, the ref called a halt to the fight which NDO protested.
It was actually a bit difficult to tell what was happening at that moment. Part of the confusion was based on the fact that we were watching something we’d never seen before. But you have to expect some confusion to take place in celebrity boxing, so I don’t think the pixel issues were all that bad.
Instead, the future success of these events will depend on the demand.
There was a narrative from fans that RJJ would ruin his legacy by competing in an event like this, but I don’t think those people remember Roy’s legacy well enough.
This was not about Roy’s boxing legacy, but it was a chance for an actual legend to take part in something that may offer a glimpse into our collective future.
Why This Concept Might Have Legs
Head injuries in sports have gained mainstream attention and after Miami Dolphins QB, Tua Tagovailoa, suffered multiple head injuries from devastating hits in back-to-back games there have been conversations suggesting radical changes to contact sports.
There could come a day in the not-so-distant future when society deems combat sports and football too dangerous, and this would open the door to the kind of alternatives that were achieved Friday in the meta space.
Still, the confusion that fans have conveyed on social media regarding this fight leaves plenty of room for doubt. I mean, there are fans that paid for the event ($19.99) that still aren’t sure if RJJ and NDO Champ fought in the realm of reality.
They did fight, and RJJ did look good (by comparisons), but the lack of understanding from fans equates to a lack of confidence.
This event may be too ahead of its time, or it may exist in the wrong universe entirely.
Is the Concept Still Ahead of Its Time?
There was something lost in appreciation for just how big NDO was in the ring.
The guy already looks like a video game, so fans might not appreciate the unreal visual of a guy that looks like a video game in the real world being made to look like a video game in the virtual one.
There was a novel called “Ready Player One,” written by Ernest Cline and later turned into a movie.
In this world, the metaverse was part of everyone’s reality. This kind of world is probably closer than ever, but just because you can own anything in the metaverse doesn’t mean that the same metaverse can own everything outside of its virtual walls.
Combat sports may not be acquirable.
Are we going to look back on June 30th, 2023 as the event that launched a new era in combat sports?
Or are we going to collectively shake our heads (sans emojis) one day as we look back on this event with the same pessimism as we do “tag team boxing?”