Jonny Rashman makes a plea on behalf of genuine boxing fans to keep the YouTube fighters like Jake Paul and AnEson Gib separate from real athletes
Like caviar and cigars, the operatic voice is an acquired taste. The piercing sound of a soprano voice glides down the back of one’s throat accompanied by a glass of champagne. The musically sophisticated tones, blended in with a reserved audience dressed to the nines, is the product on offer. You don’t expect to see a crowd from the local boozer drinking pint after pint whilst attempting to throw darts (not that there is anything wrong with that). But what happens if the crowd from the boozer suddenly takes an interest in the opera and can afford to sample the finest champagne, and a pair of the shiniest black shoes? All of a sudden, the lure of a night at the opera has been tainted. It’s not the product it once was.
The YouTube craze has infected the Noble Art of boxing. History, tradition, skill and will have been joined by classless, unskilled individuals who have been given the airtime to compete alongside the gladiators we all revere. Boxing fans didn’t sign up to this!
The recent shambolic performance from AnEsonGib (‘Big Nose Na” spelt backwards) not only embarrassed the sport but humiliated his team, who made out the British YouTube star was the next coming of Mike Tyson. It was cringy, tacky and tasteless, and what of Gib’s opponent, Jake Paul? Although he looked more competent and in better shape than his overmatched foe, these two should have never been allowed in the same ring at a local White Collar Show, never mind on a professional world title card. How Gib was ever granted a professional boxing licence is as concerning as it is embarrassing.
We’ve all heard the argument regarding the mind-boggling views the YouTubers bring to the table. The phrase ‘Short-term gain, long-term pain’ springs to mind. When streaming giants DAZN made their play into the boxing arena, we (the fans) were sold the dream. Big fight after big fight, regular, slick, online content, the Netflix of boxing, all for just under £12 a month (even though it’s not available to English fans). It was as if boxing fans were in a permanent fantasy.
The $365m investment to secure Canelo Alverez to an 11-fight deal over five years highlights the mammoth sums that have been shelled out. Somewhere along the line DAZN want a return on their investment. Simply put, they need subscribers and quick!
Hence the infinity ocean of the YouTube community, with new eyes and a younger demographic on offer, so does it matter they are from a completely different industry? Apparently not. The sport is being diluted right before our very eyes, and the scary thing is there is a strange demand to watch two technically inefficient individuals compete against one another.
“Making boxing sexy again,” is a phrase super-promoter Eddie Hearn has been spoonfeeding us. To the boxing community this new development is anything but. It’s a mockery of the sport Hearn himself has worked his backside off to bring to the mainstream.
Am I ignorant to the money being generated by this craze? No. What I do object to is men who have come off the sofa competing alongside, albeit not against the best fighters in the world. It’s like mixing ice cream with mustard, they just don’t go together.
Boxing fans don’t want to see it corrupting the shows they watch or attend. Yes, there is clearly a demand for it, so why not make a dedicated YouTube boxing channel, with a fight card consisting of solely YouTubers? Put it under the DAZN banner, this way the boxing community doesn’t have to endure the ridiculous content that surrounds a YouTube boxing event. Watching countdown programmes, heavily edited to show the least amount of boxing possible, and respected fight figures forced to somehow analyse the limited boxing ability of these men is farcical. I can’t think of another sport where this has happened. The closest thing I can compare it with is WWE’s CM Punk swimming with the sharks of the UFC. He’d had several years of BJJ training at a respected gym too, yet we all know how that ended.
Would English football fans put up with these YouTubers playing in the premier league? No, there would be an outrage. The fact it’s allowed to happen in the sport of boxing is a kick in the teeth for the fans, fighters (who aren’t on the card), mangers and everyone else who have spent a lifetime supporting the industry.
Stay in your lane, that’s all we want. There are many industries that bring eyes and money to the table, does this mean they have to merge? No.
Watching legendary, Hall of Fame MC Michael Buffer, who has announced the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather and Canelo into the ring, now adding YouTubers to this list is a sorrowful sight, (although I’m sure his bank manager doesn’t agree).
My disdain at seeing these personalities in the boxing game doesn’t cloud my admiration of their hard work and success. They have created a market for themselves and have an ability to produce content that seems to always be in demand. No matter what level you fight at, you must have the testicular fortitude to enter a boxing ring.
Whilst I agree the future success of boxing lies with more mainstream eyes on the sport, there has to be another way than merging two completely different industries together. It’s simply not sustainable. Take a leaf out of the UFC’s book, their success derives from fan-friendly content with the best fighting the best.