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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: JAKE PAUL STEALS THE NIGHT

By Paul Magno | December 20, 2021
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: JAKE PAUL STEALS THE NIGHT

There were three boxing cards on Saturday night at roughly the same time. Fight fans could choose from the free FOX/PBC card featuring Cuban sensation David Morrell Jr. against Alantez Fox, the DAZN card headlined by Gilberto Ramirez vs. Yunieski Gonzalez in a WBA light heavyweight title eliminator, and the Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley pay-per-view.

Just as the evening started, I joked with a friend online about the suckers choosing the Jake Paul card. Were they the same ones sending their savings to a Nigerian Prince online in exchange for the promise of $50 million in gold?

Well, I guess the joke was on me as it was the Jake Paul fight that got all the attention-- from real fight fans and mainstream casuals alike.

This certainly wasn’t because of Jake Paul’s skills or his earned credibility over a long, challenging career. David Morrell has more boxing acumen in one dirty gym sock than Paul has in his whole body. Ramirez-Gonzalez was an infinitely better, more entertaining fight than Paul-Woodley 2. Most of the undercard filler on all three cards was better than the Jake Paul fight as well.

You see, boxing fame is not a meritocracy. And a jaded, cynical boxing writer like me shouldn’t have to be the one breaking that news to you.

Boxing stardom has always been independent of skill and accomplishment. Always. The thing is, in the old days, when we had promoters who cared to promote the game and a business model that didn’t strangle the life out of matchmaking, stardom and accomplishment went hand-in-hand. Fighters with star potential were put into challenging spots where they could prove their main stage worth while also building that star power.

There’s also the fact that boxing, back before everything was locked up behind paywalls, was actually PART of the mainstream sports world. 

Everything worked together. The stars were the ones who had been battle-tested as elites and the big fights were the big events because, well, the sport could actually be sold as a sport.

None of the above is the case anymore. 

So, don’t act surprised when a non-boxer, filthy with social media fame, cuts to the front of the boxing line and immediately becomes a more valuable asset than 99.5% of the active, “legit” boxers out there (and 99.5% may be a bit conservative, to be honest). 

Realistically, PPV buys for Paul-Woodley should be dismal. It just wasn’t an appealing event from any angle. It did, however, get tons of media attention after the fact and that ultra-telegraphed KO right hand from Paul will probably go down as the most (in)famous boxing knockout shot in a very long while.

From a boxing purist’s perspective, it’s not fair. But, so what? Life isn’t fair.

But, now that it’s here, what do we do with all this Jake Paul/Logan Paul/Celebrity Boxing stuff?

If we’re smart, we embrace it and try to make it work to the sport’s advantage. 

Of course, nobody would ever accuse boxing people at any level-- fans, media, networks, promoters-- of being exceedingly smart when it comes to productive use of their energies. 

The problem with boxing fans, specifically, is that they tend to want to keep the sport as almost a private club. They deride "casuals" and chase them away. And they do so proudly. Well, the hard news is that membership in this private club of theirs is shrinking and membership dues are drying up. 

With promoters who seem not all that interested in expanding the base and in selling the product to the mainstream, fans and media need to be ambassadors for the sport and work to bring people in. We can’t afford to be elitists and chase the casual-curious away because, whether we care to acknowledge it or not, the size of our base and available audience is totally fucking with our ability to put quality fights together. We desperately need new, young blood and new energy in the sport. 

These fluff fights give us a great opportunity to bring some fresh eyeballs and young energy to boxing. And even if we can’t convert all that many Jake Paul fans into boxing fans, it certainly doesn’t hurt the sport one bit to have him doing his thing for his audience. 

And, hell, his presence does at least help the “real” boxers smart enough to hitch their wagon to his hype train. I’d be willing to bet that Amanda Serrano, after just a couple of undercard appearances on Jake Paul shows, has a higher profile among young, mainstream America than even someone like Terence Crawford or Jermell Charlo.

So, boxing fans and media need to remove that stick from up inside their asses and learn that if they keep thinking of their sport as THEIR sport, the product will continue to suffer. It’s only through expansion that we can get the sport healthy and thriving. And if utilizing a tool like Jake Paul can aid in achieving this goal, to even a tiny extent, then it’s something worth tolerating. 

In the meantime, if you see anything that any current promoter is doing to work towards that goal of expansion and the sport’s long-term health, please do let me know.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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