YouTuber Jake Paul has immediately cut to the front of the boxing line, listed among the high-end earners of the sport. He’ll be headlining a Showtime PPV card at Madison Square Garden this coming August 6.
The 25-year-old, undefeated “Problem Child” has accomplished all of this, by the way, without having fought a single “real” boxer with a single “real” boxing match in any of his five pro fights thus far.
This has ticked off some hardcore boxing fans to no end.
The celebrity boxing trend has angered boxing “purists” because of the attention it supposedly siphons away from those fighters who have dedicated their entire lives to prizefighting. YouTubers, social media stars, and athletes from other sports tend to get significantly more attention and publicity (and, of course, money) than many professional boxers who have put in years of hard work to make their living.
Criticism of these newcomers has been loud and aggressive.
Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez has recently gone on record with his view that this trend is harmful to the sport.
“This is damaging to boxing,” the 48-year-old Marquez recently told media. “I remember hearing someone ask a trainer if he would like his son to be a boxer and [the trainer] said no. Boxing is a difficult sport, but now everyone wants to be a boxer.
“Without fear of being wrong on the mater, I view it as a lack of respect. Boxing is something that is taken seriously. [A fighter] trains, prepares, the fighter leaves everything inside the ring. It is not fair that a YouTuber is fighting inside the ring, a former basketball player or a former NFL player. Boxing deserves respect. This is not a game. When you fight a life is at stake and the respect for the sport has been lost.”
That’s certainly one way of looking at things.
Another way to look at this is, perhaps, a bit more pragmatic.
These celebrity fighters bring attention to a sport that is sorely lacking in mainstream exposure at the moment. Bringing new, younger, enthusiastic fans to the table– in any way possible– will always be a good thing. Even if only one-half of one percent of these new fans stick around to become “real” boxing fans, that’s still a win-win for the sport.
As for taking attention and money away from the actual boxers? Well, that’s not true at all. No legit, full-time boxer is getting any less money or attention because of Jake Paul (or any other celebrity boxer). Those tuning in for the celebrity fights weren’t going to be going out of their way to find “real” boxing, anyway.
If anything, the exact opposite of this assertion is true. Jake Paul and the other celebrity boxers bring attention to the other “real” fighters on the card and allow for more money to be brought to the event, which, actually, brings more money to everyone competing on the card.
Marquez’s point that everyone wanting to get into boxing leads to a lack of respect for the sport also doesn’t hold water. One look at the growth of the UFC and the subsequent appearance of MMA studios across America is proof positive that appreciation for a sport goes hand-in-hand with participation. If anything, more people wanting to fight will lead to more people having a first-hand appreciation of its difficulty and understanding of its fundamentals.
In this modern age, boxing people have often come to see the sport as a private club of sorts. They look down on “casuals” and sneer at the idea of outsiders coming in to besmirch “their” sport. Well, this attitude assures a shrinking base and zero growth.
Boxing needs new blood and if enduring some sloppy celebrity fights is the price to pay for having a chance to reach new fans, then, so be it.