Think Jake Paul and this Youtuber element is bad for boxing? Try telling that to the million-plus viewers who tuned in last Sunday night. As the hardcore fight fans sit and scratch their heads at this new spectacle, the sport continues to evolve, adding a new breed to the current crop of dinosaurs that watch, for the better or, the worse.
(Photo credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime)
As a 16-year media veteran of the sport who started this venture lukewarm like everyone else, I’d say not only is there a seed of promise in this platform, but there’s a blueprint many promoters and fighters can learn from. To support that theory, let’s take a closer look at a few undeniable facts that not only shut the door on that “bad for the sport” angle but remove all doubt!
Jake Paul, as well as all the other non-boxing entertainers on these cards, bring millions of fans in a base built and bred on social media. That base doesn’t cost the Boxing world one red penny. Imagine that! A ready-made promotion, guaranteed to generate millions!
Tyron Woodley is a Hall-of-Fame talent in UFC/MMA circuit. Last night he earned what will probably go down as his greatest career payday, and he did it on the back of that massive social media following fueled and fed by Jake Paul. Critics will say the American Boxing landscape is eager to find a new “Great White Hope.” Realists will say promoters tapped deep into a jackpot known to be a paying demographic.
Woodley came up short in the final results, but he woke up this morning with a taller bank account and greater appreciation for the man who helped him get it…..no matter what his interview excerpts say.
For those who can’t understand why Boxing would allow such a sideshow, let’s inject a little logic and perspective, as truth is absolute. These are fully sanctioned fights promoted by real fight promoters, taking place on real fight networks.
Don’t think the action is real enough? Think about all the legendary ‘tough men’ on the NFL’s gridiron, the NBA’s hardwood, and the grimy streets of the rap world. Now consider the fact that no matter how ‘hard’ those soundbites appear in these articles and soundtracks, NOT ONE OF THEM are racing to sign up!
50 Cent, The Game, Ron Artest, and James Harrison (Pittsburgh Steelers) would be great for this stuff, right? Absolute ‘beasts,’ right? Allow me to complete that sentence for you. All ‘beasts’ (who knew to stay in their own lanes).
You play football; you play basketball. You play ‘hard’ in the rap world. The boxing ring doesn’t give fighters ‘balls’ to play with, but you sure as hell better bring yours! You’re going to need them! You play those other sports. You don’t play Boxing.
The Greg Hardy’s and Chad OchoCinco’s of the world earned every penny they collected to lace up. Much respect to both for taking the challenge.
In an era where we see athletes drop the mental health card like spades, the Paul Brothers have both not only embraced the pressure of these blinding bright lights, but they’ve done it in a forum that could end in the most embarrassing way. A hardcore lesson spelled out in four letters: K-T-F-O.
The Boxing ring has a way of separating the “rose” from the “thorn.” Roses are cosmetic. They look and smell great, but they wilt under heat and intense pressure. The thorn is strong and on point in all terrains. In a sad way, Boxing has become the ‘fake boobs’ of the sports world. It was once viewed as the natural knockout. Today it’s amazing to the naked eye, yet empty and often unfulfilling when it’s time to perform.
We should commend the Paul brothers in their willingness to take part in such a brutal sport, as Boxing is filled with top talents who often opt-out. At the top of the sport on the mythical pound-for-pound list, if you don’t have the name Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, you probably have the name, Terence Crawford. As great as Crawford appears to be, sadly, we don’t truly know. Ego, money, and politics have stunted his willingness to show.
He couldn’t come to terms with Errol Spence Jr., failed to come to terms with Manny Pacquaio, and “isn’t interested” in facing young, hungry lions like Virgil Ortiz and Jaron “Boots” Ennis.
The unfortunate reality is that Crawford isn’t alone. Very few of the top talents in Boxing are facing opponents the world wants to see them face. A sharp contrast to yesteryear when legendary fighters like James “Lights Out” Toney and others fought the best for far less. Don’t expect that to change any time soon. Marvin Hagler once educated the world on the “silk pajama” theory. A tough reality fighters face when their paychecks are more, and the effort to earn them becomes less.
These new fight cards don’t always cut the mustard, but make no mistake: these ‘filler’ fights are indeed a lifeline that preserves a slowly dying sport. Not the barely active Champions, and not the loud talking youngsters who are more worried about their bling than facing the best in the ring.
Love him or hate him, but the UFC’s Dana White is doing a much better job at managing the politics of a budding fighting sport. The rich history of Boxing can never be replaced. But this thing you call “garbage” is certainly too beneficial to waste (pun intended).
(Vivek Wallace can be reached directly at 954.770.9807 or firstname.lastname@example.org – for Social Media, he can be found on Facebook and Instagram)