Youtube didn’t ruin boxing, it saved it
February 25, 2023 9:00 am
The fight between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury this weekend isn’t just a testament to their boxing skills, or their sportsmanship. It shows how the collision of the boxing and YouTube world has been a success. Celebrities like Justin Bieber, Mike Tyson and Wiz Khalifa have attended fights featuring YouTubers, they have sold out arenas like the Staples Centre in California and these fights have racked up millions of pay-per views online.
After postponing the long-awaited bout twice, the Love Island star and the former Disney actor are scheduled to go 10 rounds in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Before news of their fight took social media by storm, both Tommy and Jake had already made names for themselves in the boxing world. As the younger brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, Tommy was thrust into the sport from a young age, making his professional debut in 2018, aged 19. In the same year, Jake Paul had an amateur white-collar boxing match against fellow Youtuber Deji Olatunji – one of the first events that propelled Youtubers into boxing fame, and both Jake and Deji into the ring. It also brought a whole new audience to the sport.
YouTubers are swapping stagnating rapping careers or “roast videos” for the ring. Boasting a 5-0 record, Jake Paul has fought MMA star Tyron Woodley, ex-NBA hero Nate Robinson and Ben Askren. All of them were streamed online, and Paul v Woodley reportedly got half a million pay-per views. His older brother Logan first fought fellow Youtuber KSI in 2018 and their rematch a year later, which was promoted by Eddie Hearn, brought in over one million pay-per viewers on the streaming service DAZN.
Rashed Belhasa, better known as Money Kicks, Austin McBroom, Bryce Hall and Joe Weller are also influencers who have turned to the ring, with many of them cashing in big amounts from fights. Tommy v Jake will be streamed on BT sport this weekend, showing the reach Youtubers are having is increasing.
They bring huge audiences with them. The youngest Paul brother has nearly 60 million followers across his platforms, and Fury has over four million followers on Instagram alone. Many of the younger demographic known to watch their social media videos online have streamed their fights, and a new boxing audience has been born. This is an audience that will likely grow as Paul vows to continue his career after boxing “saved him” from a dark place in his life.
It’s an exciting new development for the sport, and one that current sportsmen are jumping on. Floyd Mayweather Jr, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2021, came out of retirement to fight both Logan Paul and Deji Olatunji, and he made no secret as to why (calling them a “quick pick up”, he said: “if they pay, I’ll play”). Youtuber/rapper KSI beat professional boxer Luis Alcaraz Pineda by TKO last year, and Jake Paul beat Anderson Silva.
These social media stars have been met with backlash for entering a new world of sport with many, including MMA fighter Paddy Pimblett, claiming Jake Paul’s fights are rigged, which Paul denies. Conor McGregor branded Jake Paul a “numbnuts” and a “wally”, and many viewers seem to agree that Youtubers lack the skill, talent and correct training to call themselves boxers.
But true sportsmen in the ring train hard, eat correctly and put on a show – if Youtubers are committing to this lifestyle, and winning their fights, the statements seem unfair.
Some may not have the best technique in the ring, they may not have the perfect training schedule and they haven’t been practising their punches since they were four years old. What they do though is put on a show, and it’s entertaining.
They know how to get their audience riled up online, they have widespread audiences and they mock each other online. After Tommy Fury’s first daughter Bambi was born with girlfriend Molly-Mae this month, Jake Paul commented on the post announcing her birth: “Just in time to see your daddy get knocked out.” Although he has since apologised, his comment did exactly what it needed to – it got an audience talking. It’s a highly anticipated bout, not only after it was postponed twice, but because of their confidence and online presence.
Something Jake Paul, like champion boxers Tyson Fury, is good at is getting in the minds of their opponent. The confidence and aggravation they provide is what keeps fans interested, engaged and ready to see the action. And it may be proving that Youtube didn’t ruin boxing, it saved it.