• Brett Podell

How Social Media Influencers Have Altered the World of Boxing for the Better


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When the bell rang on August 25th, 2018, English YouTube sensation KSI squared off with American media personality Logan Paul in an amateur six-round boxing match. Many of the sport’s devout fans declared it the death of boxing. To boxing’s faithful, KSI vs. Logan Paul served only to mock a sport that has such a storied history. The KSI/Logan Paul fight netted 1.2 million live concurrent viewers, with another 1.6 million tuning into the fight recap on YouTube after the bout. [2] [3] Much to the dismay of the staunch traditionalist boxing crowd, the fight was an enormous success. [4]


To those involved, though, the KSI v. Logan Paul fight marked the start of something new. Gone were the days of the typical boxing fight card as live streaming networks like DAZN began to become privy to the endless possibilities that the audiences of “Gen Z’s” beloved internet stars offered. Where some of boxing’s top-ranked fighters struggled to generate publicity for their world title bouts, YouTubers like KSI and Paul produced sizable viewership numbers with the click of a “send tweet” button. Given the upside of these unconventional altercations, the pair scheduled a rematch. [5] KSI and Logan Paul’s rematch just a year later was an even greater success than the prior bout, but from the match emerged a new star.


Jake Paul, Logan Paul’s younger brother, shined brightly in his boxing debut against a less experienced YouTuber. The November 9th, 2021 event, which was a real “who’s who” that was filled to the brim with celebrities, marked a new chapter in the boxing endeavor for the two brothers, who have shaken the sport’s fandom to its core and expanded its reach to new fans.


Some see this journey into boxing as a shameless and disrespectful besmirchment from the brazen younger Paul brother, but it has proven to be a very crucial lesson in social media literacy for a sport that needed it desperately. [6] The Paul brothers have 38.4 million combined followers on Instagram and another 43.6 million combined subscribers on YouTube, and they have leveraged their followings to secure fights against some of combat fighting’s biggest names, such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Tyron Woodley. [7] Through their large audiences, not only have they revived the sports claim to mainstream airtime, but they have altered the course of boxing for the foreseeable future. How? Promotion through established audiences.


Where promotion used to consist of commercials and press conferences, it has been replaced with social media posts, publicity stunts, and manufactured drama. This new promotion strategy has permeated through to the traditional boxing world as well. Some of today’s brightest upcoming stars, such as Ryan Garcia, have relied on their social media audiences to bolster popularity and sell pay-per-views for their upcoming fights. [8]


By extending its promotion to social media, boxing has been able to break the mold of typical advertisement strategies that have run stagnant. [9] While it is true that sports media outlets like ESPN and SkySports can reach a substantial number of viewers directly, they have failed to expand boxing’s audience. Conversely, as fighters like Garcia continue to team up with social media stars like Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, they open their fights to a brand new set of viewers: teenagers. [10] [11] Each post increases their follower count while simultaneously exposing the sport of boxing to a generation that is more media-hungry than any before.


Boxing is growing. To put it in perspective, Nielsen reports that Saturday’s NBA on ABC averaged 2.35 million viewers during the 2020 season; KSI v. Logan Paul II had 2.61 million concurrent viewers between pay-per-view and live streams. [12] Two inexperienced boxers had more eyes watching them than one of the world’s fastest-growing leagues. For a sport that has been widely considered to be banished to the realms of niche fandom to beat the likes of LeBron James in viewership, even if just for a night, is an impressive feat. [13] This new avenue of advertisement has shown to be a surefire way to increase viewership, and the world of boxing has YouTube’s finest to thank.




References:


[1] Peter, J. (2021). Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul: Round-by-round updates of the exhibition boxing match. USA Today. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/boxing/2021/06/06/floyd-mayweather-vs-logan-paul-live-round-by-round/7575379002/



[2] Nino, J. (2018, August 26). How many people watched KSI vs Logan Paul: Pay-per-view and illegal stream numbers. Dexerto. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from https://www.dexerto.com/entertainment/how-many-people-watched-ksi-vs-logan-paul-pay-per-view-and-illegal-stream-numbers-148278/


[3] DAZN Boxing, FULL FIGHT | KSI vs. Logan Paul (DAZN Rewind), YouTube (Nov. 6, 2019), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXEuyc_Kxrk.


[4] Dielhenn, J. (2021, January 30). How Logan and Jake Paul changed boxing forever. Sky Sports. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://www.skysports.com/boxing/news/12183/12201174/are-logan-and-jake-paul-revolutionising-boxing


[5] Nino, J. (2018, August 26). How many people watched KSI vs Logan Paul: Pay-per-view and illegal stream numbers. Dexerto. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from https://www.dexerto.com/entertainment/how-many-people-watched-ksi-vs-logan-paul-pay-per-view-and-illegal-stream-numbers-148278/


[6] Dielhenn, J. (2021, January 30). How Logan and Jake Paul changed boxing forever. Sky Sports. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://www.skysports.com/boxing/news/12183/12201174/are-logan-and-jake-paul-revolutionising-boxing


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[11] Ryan Garcia, I Taught @Dixie D'Amelio and @Addison Rae How To Box | Ryan Garcia Vlogs, YouTube (Sep. 15, 2020), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvC4iKq5jHU


[12] WallStreet, J. (2020, September 16). Boxing: "fading, niche sport" or are declining ratings the product of pandemic driven limitations? Sportico.com. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.sportico.com/leagues/boxing/2020/boxing-declining-tv-ratings-1234613171/


[13] Id.