The Emergence of Celebrity Boxing: Is it Good For the Sport?

Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather during their exhibition fight. (Photo courtesy of Instagram @sportscenter)

Celebrities entering the ring is a recent phenomenon, and its success has everyone talking. Despite the economic benefits and new viewership, it is not helpful for the long-term growth of the sport as it doesn’t create loyal fans and strays away from ‘traditional boxing.’

 On June 6, the 50-0 Floyd “Money” Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers of all time, took on 0-1 YouTube Star Logan Paul in an exhibition match at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. With an undercard, a list of less important fights on the same bill as the main boxing match, that featured former NFL wide receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, the broadcast had no problem highlighting the carnival aspect of the event. Since the main event was an exhibition, there was no official winner. However, it was clear that Mayweather won, despite Paul lasting all eight rounds. Over one million people paid to watch a non-competitive main event between a forty-four-year-old and a YouTuber.

Another recent celebrity boxing event was the YouTubers vs. TikTokers showdown on June 12 also at Hard Rock Stadium. This event featured twelve fighters, six on each side, and was headlined by YouTuber Austin McBroom vs. TikToker Bryce Hall. After some controversies and surprise winners, team YouTube was victorious, winning five out of the six fights. Vinnie Hacker was the only TikToker to win a fight, defeating YouTube Star Deji by technical knockout (TKO).

Celebrities and social media stars getting involved with boxing have opened the eyes of a certain demographic. Paul has 23.2 million subscribers on YouTube, and even though only a very small percentage of these subscribers are avid boxing fans, a lot of them will tune into an event like this just to watch their favorite content creator throw some punches. This is one of the main reasons behind the economic success of these types of events. The large following of these celebrities leads to more Pay-per-view (PPV) buys which ultimately results in success for all involved. However, this is not a long-term good move for the sport of boxing.

As mentioned before, Paul’s audience was willing to pay to watch him in his boxing match. Thus, one big question with these celebrity boxing events is how many of those Paul fans will become fans of the sport after watching that event? How much of that PPV audience was satisfied enough by the grueling competition to become ‘real’ boxing fans? 

Tyson Fury will defend his WBC heavyweight championship against former champion Deontay Wilder in a rubber match on July 24, but how many people in the audience from the celebrity boxing events will watch two of the top boxers in the sport? The same can be said for TikTokers and YouTubers getting in the ring. Most people tuned in because they wanted to see Hall get knocked out, not because they love the sport or want to become boxing fans. 

This new era of celebrity boxing is detrimental because it moves away from traditional boxing, thus tarnishing the sport. When people think about boxing, they think of legends such as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, not TikTok influencers. This makes traditional boxing fans upset because they don’t want these first-time fighters to infiltrate their beloved sport. 

It is crazy that this TikTok vs. YouTube event is a part of the same sport as a historic event like the Thrilla in Manilla, the third and final boxing match between Ali and Joe Frazier that lasted fourteen ferocious rounds. Additionally, it is frustrating that these influencers, because of their fame, have their first big fight on a huge stage and don’t have to build up their status like traditional boxers have had to do for years.

Paul made north of $10 million in his fight against Mayweather and Hall made $5 million for just stepping in the ring for his fight. It is mind-boggling that many professional boxers have to grind to even make sufficient money while these teenagers have easy access to top trainers and are making millions right away.

Aug. 28 marks the next significant celebrity boxing event when YouTuber Jake Paul takes on one of the greatest welterweight champions in UFC history, Tyron Woodley. 

We support people going outside of their comfort zone and trying new things, but this new phenomenon of celebrity boxing is not good for the long-term growth, authenticity and competition of the sport.