Jake Paul punches his way to top of influencer boxing world


LOS ANGELES — Jake Paul’s crowd doesn’t look like any other fighter’s crowd.

When the world’s most unlikely pay-per-view boxing star promotes a bout, as Paul did in Hollywood several weeks ago, the usual autograph-hungry fight fans are outnumbered by unfamiliar faces, mostly under 30. They include excited teenagers trying to interrupt Paul. press conference, hypebeasts in distressed white jeans, and even some ecstatic pre-teens and their mothers.

Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza knows these are Paul fans, not boxing fans — but that appears to be changing.

“What we’ve seen very clearly after just a few events is that these Jake Paul fans are staying and becoming boxing fans,” Espinoza said. “Our regular boxing audience is a small fraction of the audience that tunes in to Jake. We’re getting in front of people who don’t follow boxing, haven’t shown any interest in boxing at all. That’s great for this sport.”

The new fans are here because the blonde, bearded YouTube megastar is a big part of their lives, and if Jake is now into boxing, then they are into boxing. But Espinoza sees this unusual first taste creating an appetite for the sport’s more traditional flavors. In a sport that has been thought to be dying for nearly half a century, Paul is a welcome breath of life.

“These are fans we haven’t reached any other way,” Espinoza said. “If we look at all the different measures of consumer sentiment over the last two or three years, it’s very clear in all of our surveys that boxing is seeing a resurgence, especially in a very young demographic. I’m not going to put that down to just Jake Paul, but it’s definitely the phenomenon of influence boxing. It definitely created awareness and interest among a very different fan base than boxing had before.”

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About five years into the phenomenon of social media influencers becoming boxers, the subculture is still thriving. Former enemies KSI and Logan Paul – Jake’s older brother – are preparing to fight on the same card early next year along with several other content creators and MMA figures largely unknown outside of their social media.

But Paul fights in a different arena: While other YouTubers continue to throw haymakers for content creation and a small profit, Paul has become a professional award winner in every traditional sense of the word except in the level of his opposition, which is also increasing. .

“Everybody has to respect this guy,” said Anderson Silva, Paul’s next opponent. “Why? Because he opened the door to think about something new.”

When Paul takes on the former mixed martial arts superstar on Saturday night, promoters say the Desert Diamond Arena outside Phoenix will set its boxing event’s grossing record, with gate money on par with a top-rated UFC show.

While reliable pay-per-view numbers are largely kept secret, the most concrete sign of Paul’s success is that his fights have been profitable enough to continue staging more of them. Forbes estimated that Paul, who receives a percentage of his PPV earnings, earned $40 million from his three fights in 2021, but Paul claims that number is low.

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His fight against the well-known Silva could be the biggest yet, with Paul predicting more than 300,000 buys and optimistically hoping for 700,000.

“I grew up idolizing this guy,” Paul said of Silva. “I watched him on my couch, and being in the ring with him is something I never imagined. … This is surreal. I don’t think any of it makes any sense sometimes.”

It begins to make sense for Espinoza, who watched the influential boxing phenomenon with a raised eyebrow until Paul fought on the undercard of Mike Tyson’s exhibition with Roy Jones Jr. in late 2020. When Paul left former NBA player Nate Robinson unconscious on the canvas, Espinoza decided it was time to take Paul seriously.

“To beat somebody, that’s an achievement,” Espinoza said. “That’s just not something you do by accident.”

He booked a meeting with Paul, who turned out to be knowledgeable, intelligent and focused on building something concrete on his short-lived social media fame. Showtime reached a deal to put the former Disney Channel star on its pay-per-view platform, starting with his two wins against former UFC champion Tyron Woodley late last year.

“He was not what I expected at all,” Espinoza said. “I’m not sure what I expected, but I probably expected the guy who is a bit controversial and has made some mistakes on social media.”

Jake Paul only started boxing seriously in December 2019, but he has the financial resources and the determination to make it big. He claims to have a 30-person team supporting his training, which is mostly done at the Cleveland native’s base in Puerto Rico.

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“The key is non-stop work every day, and I’m addicted,” Paul said.

Paul has given boxing a boost, but it’s also clear that boxing is helping Paul, who has been in serious legal trouble several times amid his social media fame.

“He and (brother) Logan were very clear that they took this at a point where they started to spiral,” Espinoza said. “There’s been a lot written about the negative effects of social media and celebrity, and I think they both struggled with that. And like so many other people from all walks of life, boxing gave them direction and discipline, structure.”

Paul and Silva meet in an eight-round bantamweight bout on a card that also includes former NFL running back Le’Veon Bell fighting recently retired UFC veteran Uriah Hall, along with a YouTube-famous primary care physician named Doctor Mike taking on another former. MMA fighter.

“I understand there are definitely some purists who don’t like it, but we’re not going to stand still,” Espinoza said. “We’re not just going to say, ‘Hey, this is what the sport of boxing has been like for the last 150 years, and we’re not going to deviate from it.’ We’re going to do things that are new and innovative, while still respecting the sport and respecting the audience.

“I look at it a little bit like ‘The Masked Singer’ or ‘American Idol’ or something like that. Just because you like that form of entertainment doesn’t mean you won’t appreciate Celine Dion or Alicia Keys. You can enjoy both, you know. “

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