Tell me I’m wrong: Influencers are tarnishing the legacy of boxing
By Josh Werle, Staff Writer
Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and… Jake Paul. One of these names doesn’t belong in that list, and yet, many fans who have recently been introduced to the sport of boxing may believe that it does.
Boxing has been around for many generations, and has long been one of the most well-recognized forms of combat sports today. It has given birth to many influential figures of our time, with some of these athletes seemingly transcending the sport itself. Today, there are many boxers who have dedicated their entire lives to this craft, and who deserve to receive the attention of the sports world. Canelo Álvarez, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis and Tyson Fury are a small fraction of the top boxing names that come to mind.
The problem is, many sports fans have recently decided that “boxing” is now synonymous with “Jake Paul” or “Logan Paul.” I have the utmost respect for the Paul brothers, or anyone who decides to enter the ring and compete in the sport of boxing, social media star or otherwise. That being said, these social media boxing events that pit YouTube and TikTok stars against other influencers, or worse, athletes from other sports, have tarnished the legacy of boxing.
People have been so encapsulated by the flashy lights, celebrity attendees and elaborate press conferences that come with every social media boxing event that it is almost impossible to not pay attention. Coupled with the massive followings these influencers have already garnered on social media, any sort of event involving them is almost bound to be a success.
Canelo Álvarez and Tyson Fury are two of boxing’s biggest stars, and their Instagram follower count is currently 12.4 million and 5.4 million, respectively. Compared with Jake and Logan Paul’s 18.4 million and 21.9 million followers respectively, it is already evident that this generation’s best boxers are not getting the respect that they deserve.
Boxing has been on the decline in popularity, and on Nov. 2, 2019, this decline hit an all-time low. UFC 244 was an event that pitted Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz against each other, and was a massive fight under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner. On that same night, boxing’s top star Canelo Álvarez was also competing in a match against Sergey Kovalev.
As these two events were taking place at the same time, the organisers of the boxing match made the decision to wait until the UFC event was done before they started their main event. In theory, this would maximize pay-per-view buys, but in reality, it just made them look silly.
Footage of Canelo sleeping in the back with his gloves on while the entire arena was forced to wait for the conclusion of the UFC event was a horrible look for boxing. At the end of the day, the business side of boxing has always played an instrumental role in the sport.
Today, many of the top boxers are all signed to different promoters, making it difficult to have the best face off against the best. This ultimately leads to less intriguing matchups and leaves boxing fans wanting more.
In order for true boxing matchups to become popular once again, there are a few things that need to be done. The promoters need to come together and allow the best to box with the best, and try to put their egos aside. We have seen the popularity that social media stars have, and that’s just with one member of the fight carrying notoriety.
If people are willing to tune in to Jake Paul and are actually entertained with the level of boxing that is displayed, then people can easily be entertained with fights like Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua. All it takes is some cooperation from the promoters, fighters and marketing teams.
You would tune in to watch Mike Tyson box because you know there is going to be a knockout. You would tune in to watch Floyd Mayweather box because you know he is going to go 12 rounds without taking any serious damage. But why would you tune in to watch Jake Paul? People have seemingly transitioned from wanting to watch the boxers display their skill and having more interest in watching the personality perform.
In order for the real boxers to undo the damage that social media boxing events are causing, everyone involved needs to step their promotional games up and garner more interest in the fights. All it takes is one spectacular fight to turn someone into a fan. All the boxing world needs to do is command more respect and make sure that people tune in.