Floyd “Money” Mayweather, one of the greatest athletes in the boxing world, stands in one corner of the ring. With 12 world championships under five weight divisions, the illustrious fighter faces a surprising choice of opponent in the form of YouTuber-turned-boxer Logan Paul. This extreme mismatch would profit $50 million, drawing in a huge audience.
The champion was able to cleanly dictate the entire fight despite the YouTuber’s perseverance. So despite Paul exceeding Mayweather’s expectations in the match, with the fight going the entire distance of eight rounds, Mayweather would tell reporters that the match would have been over by the first round if this was a real boxing fight. This sentiment serves as an allegory for the attitudes held against YouTuber boxing as a whole and reveals how many see it as a subgenre of the combat sport rather than genuine boxing.
At its core, YouTuber boxing involves social media influencers participating in professional boxing or boxing exhibitions. The very conception begins with Olajide Olayinka Williams “JJ” Olatunji, known professionally as KSI, fighting with Joe Weller, whom KSI was publicly unamicable with. Once the two decided that boxing would answer these tensions, they unknowingly sparked a flame that would become YouTuber boxing insofar as the novel match would inspire many others to partake in the combat sport. Boxing became, then, a medium for social media stars to “squash the beef” while also publicizing themselves with marketing and promotions.
The pinnacle of the phenomenon would be the aforementioned YouTube sensations KSI and Logan Paul’s second match, which would be the first to be promoted by an established promoter, Eddie Hearn and flourished with a generous 1.3 million pay-per-view (PPV) buys. With many more matches that featured beloved social media stars wrapping up their gloves, the trend would prove to persist in the sport as it attracted already-established audiences associated with said stars.
However, YouTubers in the ring did not meet favor when addressed by the boxing community. There was worry that these inexperienced stars misrepresent the sport, as the YouTube fighters indubitably have less experience than the average conventional amateur boxer hailing from a gym. Now, there are several boxers stating that YouTuber boxing makes a mockery of the sport. This has been mirrored by Hearn’s decision to step away from promoting these events, stating, “I don’t even look at YouTube boxing as boxing, I just look at it as an entertainment format,” undermining YouTuber boxing’s legitimacy.
The discourse stemmed mostly from the younger Paul brother, Jake Paul, setting himself up to fight Tommy Fury, an amateur boxer who set out to make a name for himself. Fury would posture himself as the villain to YouTuber boxing as he made himself out to be the face of “real” conventional boxing, challenging Paul, the former Disney actor and Vine phenom.
With Fury’s convincing victory over Paul and a subsequent closer victory over KSI, the argument seemed settled for many that YouTubers cannot be boxers — but it wasn’t. Ironically, Fury’s fights would show how social media could become boxing’s ultimate catalyst for reviving the stale sport that is boxing.
The matches with Paul and KSI have propelled Fury from an amateur with a mixed record to a recognizable face of boxing. This is what the sport needs — boxing needs more traction. The current state of the combat sport is decrepit for many reasons. A prominent one is how there seem to be no notable personalities for the sport, which is often attributed to having too many weight divisions and champions and those champions never fighting each other.
This problem contrasts the more popular, premier sport of MMA as fans are able to closely follow a concentrated eight-weight division format. And it’s evidently a better model as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fights are able to draw in more PPVs than boxing. While hardcore fans would follow the sport, more casual viewers would find themselves lost in finding who to follow and waiting for eons just to find how notable names would avoid each other in favor of padded records.
In short, boxing fans are deprived of potentially thrilling stories right now. And where can we find big personalities willing to fight each other and challenge big names? The answer is social media.
YouTuber boxing, with its plethora of huge personalities, can reignite a fire under the current boxing scene with multitudes of storylines. In addition to attracting multiple audiences and bringing established YouTuber fan bases alongside boxing fans, these opportunities inevitably bring in money and traction (which boxing needs at the moment). Tommy Fury is representative of a seldom talked-about amateur boxer who rose to fame by attaching himself to the colossal entertainment giants of Jake Paul and KSI.
At the end of the day, boxing will thrive off of more exposure from social media. It needs more stories, personalities and charisma, and YouTuber boxing is a martyr to the combat sport.