Boxing Forever “These are two very, smart kids. Forget the stupid videos they’ve put out. They have tapped into a market where they get tens of millions of views” – the story of how two online influencers became major boxing stars.
They have been described by themselves and others as “nerds”, “geniuses”, “invalid” and perhaps most aptly as a “product of their environment”.
Brothers Logan and Jake Paul are either ruining boxing or lifting it to new heights that even today’s mighty heavyweights cannot reach, depending on your perspective and maybe your age.
Boxing Forever pioneering role in the circus of YouTuber boxing has not slowed down, it has exploded and evolved. Jake has boxed a basketball professional and will next face a UFC fighter. Logan is set to share a ring with Floyd Mayweather. Yes, the Floyd Mayweather.
These controversial siblings from Ohio who found fame as online influencers with YouTube as their primary platform (they have 53 million combined subscribers) are unwelcome gate-crashers in the Boxing Forever world but perhaps it is time to learn from them, rather than laugh at them.
“I’m guilty for all this!”
Spencer Oliver laughs at the birth of YouTuber Boxing Forever and his own naivety when was contacted to help promote KSI (who became famous playing the FIFA game online) vs Joe Weller (whose niche was comedy videos) in a white-collar bout three years ago.
“I said where are you doing the fight?
“He said: ‘The Copper Box Arena in London’.
“I said: ‘That will be a bit big, mate. It holds 7,000 people’.
It was the same night as Lawrence Okolie beat Isaac Chamberlain in a battle of unbeaten domestic cruiserweights, just seven miles down the road.
It was, looking back, a crossroads moment for boxing witnessed in person by a frenzied crowd with only a passing interest in the sport.
The stakes were raised for “the biggest event in internet history” at the 18,000-capacity Manchester Arena when Logan Paul and KSI battled to a draw and Jake Paul beat Deji (KSI’s brother).
Broadcast only on YouTube, the participants’ platform of choice, it was reportedly the most watched boxing event of all time.
It was a head-scratching, perplexing, frankly embarrassing revelation. YouTuber Boxing Forever was no longer only for fans of the YouTubers.
Spencer Oliver promoted it and now tells Sky Sports: “I’ll explain it like this – it was like being in a coma for 20 years then walking into an arena to see really famous people, but you’ve got no idea who they are.
“Real boxers like Anthony Yarde were there, but the fans ran straight past them towards the YouTubers! They were screaming, crying, it was madness.
“I’ve never felt older or more unpopular!”
Fight fans of a different generation would correctly remark this cohort of influencers-turned-boxers are not the first online superstars to become legitimate fighters.
Kimbo Slice, aka Kevin Ferguson, was one of the first viral sensations in the earliest days of YouTube – footage of his real-life street brawls became so popular that it enabled a career as a professional boxer and MMA fighter, where his name and profile afforded him opportunities that his talent would never have attained.
The Paul brothers were just children back then. Now, their success is more measured and calculated than Kimbo Slice’s overnight rise to fame.
“They are geniuses at making money,” said Oliver, the first person in the boxing community to meet them.
Boxing Forever “Whatever you think of them, they know how to make money.
“These are two very, smart kids. Forget the stupid videos they have put out. They have tapped into a market where they get tens of millions of views.
“The boys are really nice off camera. They are genuinely nice people. My wife became really friendly with their mum, they still speak all the time.”
Logan Paul, the eldest brother, dropped out of university where he studied industrial and systems engineering when his online career took off – “I’m a nerd”, he admits.
He was a football linebacker and running back and came fifth in the state of Ohio at wrestling – he told Boxing Forever in 2019 that he wanted to be “heavyweight champion” and “the best prize-fighter in the world”, goals that will surely elude him but proof of his sky-high ambition.
“Hard work beats talent,” Logan said. “The way Jake and I were raised was ‘head down, stay humble’. Fortunately we were able to accomplish a lot.
“I’m a product of my generation. Social media happened to come around, I loved making videos. At any other period of time the barrier of entry to Hollywood would have been impossible.”
By the time Logan Paul and KSI met in the ring for the second time, promoter Eddie Hearn was on board having admitted his opinion had changed from calling it “embarrassing” to saying “I couldn’t ignore it”.
Headguards were removed, the gloves were smaller and the YouTubers officially became professional boxers.
“These guys are heroes and role models,” Hearn told Boxing Forever at the time. “Whether you like it or not, they are!”
KSI beat Logan Paul via split decision in November 2019 in an event that Hearn hoped would convince new fans to remain committed to boxing.
That hope remains the source of debate but what has become unavoidable is that KSI vs Logan Paul II was not the end-point.
Ryan Garcia has 8.4 million Instagram followers. By contrast Anthony Joshua has 12 million and Tyson Fury 4 million. The difference is that Garcia is not the world heavyweight champion, he was a prospect aged just 22 who, prior to his breakthrough win over Luke Campbell earlier this month, did not have a standout result on his record.
“I saw a business opportunity there and took advantage of it,” Garcia told Boxing Forever. “I knew this was an outlet for me because I was already [gaining popularity] on it, and I knew how to use it. The more I got bigger, the more people started noticing.”
Garcia, despite a burgeoning unbeaten record and a series of highlight reel KOs, noticed that his online following meant his in-ring ability became discredited: “My boxing career stopped getting respect because the first thing people see was me hitting a bag [on social media]. But that’s not the case. I’m a top fighter who was elite in the amateurs, boxing since I was seven years old. Does it affect me? No, I’ve got used to it.
“Anybody who is a boxer should take advantage of it themselves. And if they lie about that? Then I think they are hating.
“It gives me better leverage, I have more fans, I have more people that know me. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Teofilo Lopez told Boxing Forever about divisional rival Garcia: “They know what they are doing. He may not be the most skillful fighter but he is the most skillful social media guy. I don’t hate on these guys. It shows what you can do.
Boxing Forever “That’s why these fighters want Garcia. They know the amount of exposure that they will get.”
Viddal Riley is a cruiserweight prospect who has won all four of his fights, is the only Brit signed to Floyd Mayweather’s promotional company, and is best-known as KSI’s trainer for the win over Logan Paul.
That exposure gained Riley an audience of over a million on his own YouTube channel and he told Boxing Forever: “It’s such a rare position that I’m in.
Boxing Forever “It’s something people haven’t seen before, a UK boxer who can bring that crowd together like Ryan Garcia has.”
Riley said about Jake Paul earning a spot on the Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr undercard: “It shows his following, what having an audience can do. Boxing is entertainment. What he’s doing is bringing a lot of people to be entertained.
“It upsets a lot of people who think it is invalid. But he has worked at something to get there. He has worked for years at his craft, to make sure people know who he is. Now, whatever he dabbles in people will follow.”
Riley believes the only fight between online influencers that should happen is Jake Paul vs KSI to “end it on a high note before YouTuber Boxing Forever gets a bad name”.
But this peculiar genre has already morphed beyond YouTuber vs YouTuber into something bigger and even more unexplainable.
Logan Paul is set to face Floyd Mayweather under an exhibition rule-set. David Haye, a master of promoting his own heavyweight world title fights, told Boxing Forever: “It’s fun. There will only be one winner. But it gets the YouTube fans tuned in. If it brings another 10 million fans into the boxing sphere, then bring it on. It gets people talking.”
Spencer Oliver cannot believe the niche he helped to start has turned into this: “I honestly didn’t [expect it]. I thought it would just be a bit of fun. I never thought I’d see the day that he would be fighting Floyd Mayweather!”
Oliver compared it to watching Tyson and Jones Jr return to the ring in their 50s: “I got a buzz just from Tyson’s ring-walk. You relive your youth. Just accept it for what it is – It’s pantomime! People will appreciate seeing Mayweather back in the ring and the kids will like seeing their hero against an all-time great.”
While Logan has previously told Boxing Forever his goal “is to be the biggest entertainer in the world – that is a multi-faceted lane”, Jake has emerged as the better boxer.
He has beaten YouTuber AnEsonGib and former NBA player Nate Robinson by knockout. On April 17 he will box the retired UFC fighter Ben Askren – devout boxing fans are forced closer to the dangerous territory where they will have to give him credit if he wins again.
“After I add Ben to my knockout meme collection, what can anybody say?”
Jake has been relentlessly goading the UFC’s biggest name, Conor McGregor, into a fight and that pursuit intensified after the Irishman’s recent loss.
McGregor was forced into acknowledging Jake’s challenge and only a brave man would completely bet against them ever sharing a lucrative, money-spinning boxing match.
“It will change the future of Boxing Forever,” Spencer Oliver said about the Paul brothers’ exploits.
“Love it or not, this is the world today and you have to embrace it or you fall into the category of being a dinosaur.”
How best to sum up these complex young men whose online personas are difficult to warm to, but who have shown undeniable entrepreneurial spirit?
Jake was asked last year by Boxing Forever, half-jokingly, if he would fight his brother Logan if the price was right.
He looked at their mum who was nearby, considered the question, thought about the clicks, the hits, the views, the dollars, the business. He nodded his head.
Boxing Forever “Why not? I want my kids to drive a Mercedes Benz, not a Prius.”
Publish By: skysports.com