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Floyd Mayweather vs Bruce Lee? Former champ signs TV deal to fight legends from history in 'unprecedented virtual boxing matches'

Floyd Mayweather vs Bruce Lee? Former champ signs TV deal to fight legends from history in 'unprecedented virtual boxing matches'
Fight fans desperate for a glimpse of ringcraft will be offered the chance to watch a virtual Floyd Mayweather take part in simulation boxing matches after the undefeated former champion added his name to a lineup of greats.

Mayweather has been out of action since beating Conor McGregor in August 2017, but the commercially astute pay-per-view star has signed up to a curious new series with Pulse Evolution, the production company behind a giant hologram recreation of late pop star Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

Their planned line-up of “unprecedented virtual boxing matches” includes Muhammad Ali against Mike Tyson and bouts for Mayweather against Sugar Ray Leonard and martial arts icon Bruce Lee, aimed at capitalizing upon the longstanding debates about how champions from different eras would fare against each other.

Mayweather will work with virtual entertainment company Facebank, whose previous depictions range from rapper Tupac Shakur to crooner Elvis Presley, to develop a “comprehensive digital likeness” of the American based on photos, films and mathematical representations of his face.

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The modeling results behind each fight will remain “top secret” but will be based around factors such as punch velocity, reaction speeds, strategy and stamina in a series of real-time, short film-style simulations.

Negotiations with other fighters and pay-per-view partners are ongoing, with fans initially able to watch the fights on streaming platform fuboTV, which is part of the same group as Facebank and has moved into a variety of major sports since launching in 2015.

The move is the latest attempt to appease sports fans through virtual match-ups as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wipe out the traditional sporting calendar.

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Formula 1, which is facing the prospect of losing its entire season because of the global health crisis, has launched a Virtual Grand Prix series, and the NBA launched the NBA 2K20, a tournament featuring several of its top players and a $100,000 prize to relief efforts, last week.

In tennis, former Grand Slam champion Andy Murray and French world number 62 Lucas Pouille have been announced as the first names for a virtual Madrid Open later this month, when they are expected to play as depictions of their choices of some of the best-known players from the sport’s history in a gaming tournament with a prize of more than $163,000 towards the fight against coronavirus.

Mayweather is no stranger to recreations of his likeness in the virtual world. Mayweather Boxing + Fitness, the gym franchise which opened after his lucrative win over former UFC champ McGregor, allows members to use a VR headset to take part in training sessions recorded with him through a virtual headset.

“Virtual Floyd is programmed to smack-talk a little bit and real Floyd obviously does the same thing,” explained James Williams, the CEO of the franchise, speaking to Sport Technie.

“They give each other some good insults back and forth in the VR.”