How YouTubers Jake and Logan Paul are helping, not hurting, boxing's rank and file

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read

Teofimo Lopez, the unified lightweight champion, had to be the happiest man in the sport on Tuesday when it was announced that the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and YouTuber Logan Paul had been postponed.

Lopez took to Twitter on Sunday evening, begging for the end of the so-called celebrity boxing matches that have become all the vogue recently.

As a young champion who is positioned almost perfectly with an abundance of great fights at lightweight and a division above, Lopez need not be concerned about the YouTubers stealing his shine.

His frustration represents a viewpoint that is widely held throughout the sport. Paul and his brother, Jake, are getting paid more than the vast majority of, for the lack of a better term, legitimate boxers, and earning vastly more attention for it.

That is bound to create bruised egos and hurt feelings, if not outright hostility. Lopez put into words on Twitter what so many of his peers believe.

He’s missing the point, though. The YouTuber fights actually help, not hurt, boxing’s rank and file, and particularly the elite fighters like Lopez.

Logan and Jake, who is scheduled to fight ex-Bellator champion Ben Askren in April, are showing the boxers of today what is possible. The exhibition fight between boxing legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones in November sold 1.9 million on pay-per-view, an astounding figure that made it one of boxing’s 10 biggest PPV fights in history.

Tyson has repeatedly credited the presence of Jake Paul, who knocked out ex-NBA player Nate Robinson on the undercard, for selling an enormous number of the pay-per-views.

Tyson fought as pay-per-view was still developing and he remains one of its greatest performers. Had he fought the bulk of his PPV bouts at the time Mayweather did, Tyson, not Mayweather, would be the PPV king. Mayweather just had a far larger wired audience to sell to than did Tyson.

When Tyson is crediting Paul with selling roughly 40 or 50 percent of the pay-per-views, it’s telling.

Boxing is a sport dependent almost entirely on the revenue from the gate and from television. As the postponement of Mayweather-Logan Paul proves, when the money is not there to support the financial demands of the fighters, the bout isn’t going to happen. That’s not how it is in other sports. The Lakers are going to play the Celtics whether one person buys a ticket or 20,000; whether one person tunes in on TV or 10 million.

Such is not the case in boxing.

The Paul brothers are showing it doesn’t necessarily take boxing talent; it takes bravado, a willingness to promote and a sense of what the public wants to see.

Jake Paul celebrates with his brother, Logan, after defeating AnEsonGib in a first round knockout during their fight at Meridian at Island Gardens on January 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Jake Paul celebrates with his brother, Logan, after defeating AnEsonGib in a first round knockout during their fight at Meridian at Island Gardens on Jan. 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

It’s not like these fans who are buying the Paul fights are turning into rabid boxing fans; quite the contrary. They’re watching to see how Jake and Logan do, and they’re paying precious little attention to the rest of the show, if any.

The Paul brothers know this. They know how to position themselves for maximum effect, how to create news and generate attention.

It’s what Lopez needs to do, and Gervonta Davis, and Devin Haney and just about every boxer in the world.

They don’t need to turn into comedians or trash-talking clowns, but they need to formulate a media strategy that is long-term, effective and coherent.

Interim WBC lightweight champion Ryan Garcia is a great example of how boxers need to manage their profiles. Garcia is making himself available via media and social media, he has a message and he understands how to create attention.

DAZN hasn’t had a ton of luck with subscriptions in the U.S., but Garcia’s victory over Luke Campbell performed well better than expected on the streaming platform, sources said.

Lopez’s win over Vasiliy Lomachenko attracted an extraordinary rating on ESPN; that had much to do with the promotion the network gave it and the prime-time slot on a Saturday night during college football season.

Logan Paul is out there talking about knocking out Mayweather, something that a slew of boxers who are already in the Hall of Fame couldn’t do. He won’t touch Mayweather when they fight; Mayweather, even though he hasn’t been active, will be able to dictate how, when and why the fight ends.

Paul has to know this, unless he’s a complete fool, which he is not. But he’s selling the point and it’s taking headlines away from boxers with 100 times the talent he has and 1,000 times the investment in the sport.

But Paul has learned how boxing sells, and he’s using it to his advantage.

Boxers need to consider this because they’ll get paid more if they create a better profile for themselves. There aren’t many very good promoters left in boxing, and so it’s largely upon the fighters to take that role on for themselves.

The methodology works and is right there in front of them for them and their managers to see and understand.

The Paul brothers and their ilk will soon fade away, as they’ll lose interest and their fans will move on. But here’s hoping the boxers who will be around long after they’re gone will heed the very important lessons they’re sending.

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