By: Frank Cannistra
In a sport that lives and dies on its mega stars of the past, rich traditions and consistent professionalism, two brash YouTubers with minimal combat training have become the center of the boxing universe, and they just might be what saves it.
Long gone are the days of boxing being one of the world’s favorite sports to watch. For years now, the sport has been without a solid foundation or any mega stars to hang its hat on. Today’s top stars, Canelo Alvarez, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence are relative unknowns to the general public, leaving boxing in the worst shape it’s been in in quite some time.
A sport falling into obscurity the way boxing has been often leaves the door open for new and unique ideas to drum up interest. Enter Jake and Logan Paul. For a few years now, the Paul brothers have been changing the game in the combat sports world, drawing more eyes than the sport has had since Floyd Mayweather’s prime.
This past Saturday, the latest installment in the Paul brothers’ boxing endeavors saw Jake fight former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. The fight was relatively eventful, Paul controlled a majority of the fight, while Woodley landed the biggest shot, almost scoring a knockdown in round 4.
Ultimately, the judges awarded Paul a split decision victory. Despite the fight taking place in Paul’s hometown of Cleveland, his entrance, the fight and his victory were all met with a chorus of boos, a reaction that has become quite familiar to Jake and Logan alike.
In just about every single one of their fights, the crowd has been eager to see them get punished for their domineering trash talk and their arrogant personalities. When the lights are the brightest, the Paul brothers are almost always doing something controversial or annoying, so clearly they must be terrible people right? That’s where this past Saturday night’s broadcast gets very interesting.
Showtime Championship Boxing was the main broadcaster for Saturday’s event, and the structure of the broadcast said quite a bit about the Paul brothers’ marketing strategy. In the most important moments, like the opening of the show, the pre-fight breakdown, the walkouts and the main event itself, Jake acted like an over-confident influencer just looking to stir the pot, but there was an entirely different approach taken to the rest of the broadcast.
In seemingly unimportant moments, like the middle of an undercard fight or smaller mid-card intermissions, video packages played showcasing Paul in a completely different light. For instance, there’s almost seven full minutes of broadcast time where Jake is just cooking breakfast with his mom, talking about how much he loves her. Then he’s shown meeting Woodley’s mom and they discuss how nothing’s personal, it’s all just business.
The “just business” theme persists in Jake’s promos as the show continues, as does his dedication to the other fighters on his undercard. Before the co-main event, a women’s world title fight, Paul is shown training with one of the competitors, world champion Amanda Serrano. He’s beaming throughout this interview, Paul cannot stop talking about how awesome Amanda is and why everyone should be dying to see this woman perform.
So, throughout the night there are moments where Paul is made to look like an idiot in front of the whole world, but when the audience shrinks, and only the boxing purists are likely listening, good-guy Jake Paul can be found talking about business and elevating other fighters.
It’s all a marketing strategy. People who don’t care about boxing and just want to see that annoying YouTube kid tune in to hopefully see him get knocked out, but while those people aren’t listening, Paul takes the die-hard boxing community and turns them into massive Jake Paul fans. I know because it happened to me, and it’s genius.
Some boxing loyalists will not get behind the Paul brothers, though, as some feel their insertion into boxing’s main event scene is undercutting those who have worked harder to be there. Local boxing trainer Anais Zoub says, “I just see it as unfair especially because I work with a lot of these kids who have trained so much longer than them and will have to work so much harder to make a career out of this because they can’t buy their way into it”. Zoub poses a perfectly valid point, but at the same time, an iconoclast like Paul is likely necessary for the aforementioned kids to find an audience in this day’s boxing scene.
The proof of Jake’s positive impact is clear to see in the case of one man, Montana Love. Love was a relatively unknown prospect who fought on Jake’s undercard this past weekend. He was quite impressive, knocking out former world champion Ivan Baranchyk with one deadly uppercut in the seventh round. Love got a hero’s reception in his hometown, and his social media impressions increased by 253% in the one weekend alone. He was a nobody, now he’s a star because there was a massive audience there to watch Jake Paul.
Even other fighters are starting to come around to the idea that the Paul brothers’ involvement may turn out to benefit boxing in the long run. Professional MMA fighter Charlie Campbell said, “For better or worse the world of Boxing is drawing a bigger audience of people that never turned in before. Yes, everything is about money, so ultimately it is a good thing.”
Whether you like them or not, the Paul brothers are forcing a spotlight on a sport that was slowly falling off a cliff. They may be easy to hate, but they’re working like crazy to improve the sport, creating new stars at every step of their careers.