THE FINISHING KICK – SEPTEMBER 1
By Paul Wales

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO BOXING?

This past Sunday, we may have witnessed another new low for boxing, or is it the beginning of a new high? In his hometown of Cleveland, former Youtuber turned boxer, Jake Paul, took on former UFC great, Tyron Woodley.  In the 8 round match, Paul was declared the winner by split decision.

YouTubers and sport celebrities inside and outside of prizefighting seem to have taken over the sport of boxing.  For the last 4 years, they are generating just as much media attention as a Pacquiao or Canelo fight. How is this happening, you ask?  Well, read on and you’ll see what I believe has happened to The Sweet Science.

The main people responsible for this shift in boxing are Jake and Logan Paul. The Paul brothers started out as funny YouTubers.  Then, they branched their content out to other social media platforms and continued to grow their audience.

As that viewership expanded, they became more controversial as their content became for more mature audiences.  Still, they were able to maintain and grow their social media clout. Then, the Paul’s started butting heads with other YouTubers and social media influencers. They would feud with other celebrities online, through their platforms, while their fans consumed their drama.  Reality streaming, right?

In 2018, British YouTuber, KSI, called out the Paul brothers to a boxing match during their online feud. Logan Paul fought KSI which ended in a draw and Jake Paul fought KSI’s younger brother, Deji, and defeated him. After the draw, Logan and KSI had a rematch a year later where KSI slightly edged out the older Paul brother in a split decision. After discovering this new passion, as well as making lots of money in pay-per-view buys from these events, the Paul brothers seemed to have gone all-in on boxing.

A year before the first KSI vs Logan Paul fight, another boxing match unlike any other took place.  That was when the king of MMA, Connor McGregor, took a hiatus from the UFC to take on arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time, Floyd Mayweather who was 2 years into retire.

Everybody knows that money talks and both combatants self-promoted the event. The fight was a huge success and generated the second highest pay-per-view sales in boxing history. Throughout Mayweather’s career, the 11-time champion was criticized for ducking worthy opponents and purposefully fighting boxers before or after their primes so he could maintain his perfect record while raking in all the money he can get.

This is the problem with boxing right now. The best boxers in the world don’t fight the best opponents in their primes and it is so frustrating for boxing fans. Whether it’s for money reasons or to protect their record, the best of the best rarely go head-to-head in the ring any more. No more Ali vs Frazier.

Meanwhile, boxing’s rival sport, mixed martial arts, is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and doesn’t have this issue nearly as much as boxing does. The best fight the best on almost a nightly basis.

This problem, where boxing doesn’t match up the best fighters in a weight division, is a huge reason why celebrity boxing is on the rise and generating so much attention.  As crazy as this sounds, celebrity boxing might also fix this issue boxing is having. This new era of boxing is drawing in fans from these YouTubers and social media influencers that boxing has never had before. There is so much money involved in these celebrity fights that it’s almost a no-brainer to have a celebrity grudge match in the ring. Even Floyd Mayweather has cashed in on the opportunity when he fought Logan Paul in an 8 round exhibition. The fight generated tons of publicity to the point where even had sports talk shows like First Take and Undisputed were debating about the fight as if it was a huge event in the sport of boxing.  That’s because it was. The fight went the full 8 rounds, no winner was declared, and Mayweather walked away from the fight with 100 million dollars. Before the Tyron Woodley fight, Jake Paul took on retired UFC fighter, Ben Askren, and knocked him out in the first round generating a similar amount of publicity as well.

Earlier this year, there was even a TikTokers vs Youtuber fight card.  The participants were a bunch of TikTokers and YouTubers who were in the midst of online feuds and decided to cash in on their disagreements.  They decided to become promoters and made a pay-per-view card out of it.  They realized that the event was trending all over social media leading up to the fights. Free publicity and a ready made audience willing to spend money to observe this spectacle.  It was an entrepreneurial dream come true.

This simply shows that as long as you have a strong fan base, no matter what you do for a living, if you start a little drama online, get another celebrity to feed into it, and drag it out for a couple months, you can create a boxing event out of it and make big time cash from it. Ain’t capitalism great?

Some boxing fans may view this as the lowest boxing has ever gotten, but this new audience can be a huge opportunity for the pugilistic art. If popular celebrities, such as the Paul brothers, continue to grow in the sport by taking on tougher opponents and winning these fights while using their social media antics to create drama that leads to pay-per-view fight paydays, I say go for it.  The only sound you will here is the Cha-Ching of the cash register as it deposits the enormous ticket sales into their coffers.

So, welcome to the sport of boxing, where the best don’t fight the best.  As we know, it’s all about the Benjamin’s and any publicity is good publicity.

See you next week.  Until then, keep pushing for that finish line.