Eddie Hearn views last Saturday’s celebrity match between YouTuber Jake Paul and former UFC fighter Ben Askren as a threat to the sport of boxing because the fights are generating numbers on pay-per-view.
Hearn feels the only way boxing can compete with the social media stars taking over the sport is by the promoters and fighters making the best possible fights.
For that to happen, it’ll require that the promoters and elite boxers that have made their millions start making more compelling fights.
The threat to boxing is the power that the social media stars like Jake and Logan Paul, and many others, with their millions of followers on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter to purchase their fights in high numbers.
Boxing is under threat
Not even Canelo Alvarez has the number of followers on social media to compete with the likes of the Paul brothers.
Matchroom Boxing promoter Hearn believes that the network platforms will observe the huge numbers that the celebrity matches bring in and compare them to what a typical boxing card pulls in, which could result in a change.
Hearn doesn’t say what he fears, but he’s likely concerned that the networks paying less for the true boxing cards and providing fewer dates.
If we suddenly see a storm of celebrity matches involving social media stars using their millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram to create interest in their boxing matches, we could see a total wave of these types of events.
As a result, the network platforms will go with the celebrity cards over the traditional boxing cards produced by promotional companies like Matchroom, Top Rank, Golden Boy, Etc.
The networks would be making a logical decision by choosing the celebrity match events over regular boxing because they produce the numbers.
The fight generated $65 million and brought in 1.5 million pay-per-view buys on Triller PPV, according to Jake, a day after the fight.
Although we still don’t know if those numbers are valid, there’s no question that the Jake vs. Askren fight created a tremendous about of buzz last weekend, which totally drowned out the other boxing cards that involved quality fighters WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade.
Social media world + celebrity world = threat to boxing
“You’ve got this other crazy world which is trying to enter our world [boxing] and our zone, which is the social media world and the celebrity world,” said Hearn to DAZN about the emergence of Jake Paul’s celebrity boxing, which involves him using his huge social media following to drive interest to his fights on pay-per-view.
“We’re under threat, under pressure as a sport,” Hearn continued. “It’s just not boxing. Unless we start making the big fights, this is going to become more of the norm.
“Because the people who pay, i.e., the platforms, are going to look at the numbers from the other world, and say actually that’s outperforming boxing.
“So when I look at things like Jake Paul and Ben Askren, we can all laugh at it and say it’s ridiculous, but if it’s doing numbers, our sport’s under threat,” said Hearn.
It didn’t look good last weekend with former WBA light welterweight champion Regis Prograis relegated to being an undercard fighter on the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren event on Triller pay-per-view.
It doesn’t matter that Prograis was the only fighter on the card that was a relevant fighter with talent. He was now fighting on an undercard of a celebrity match.
Some boxing fans point the finger of blame at Hearn for creating the problem of celebrity matches in the first place by placing the Logan Paul vs. KSI match on one of his cards in 2019.
That fight gave birth to what has become a trend, which could spin out of control resulting in the celebrity matches taking the spot that boxing once had.
If that happens, promoters like Hearn could push to the side and lose fight dates with the networks unless he stays competitive by scouring the social media world to find guys with tons of followers that are open to doing celebrity boxing. It sounds bleak, but it’s as entirely possible.
“We have to come up with compelling fights, we have to show people how great our sport is and for all those people moaning, you’re going to have to step up and have compelling fights,” said Hearn.