The internet boxing landscape over the past few weeks has seemed a surreal place. Take it from someone involved closely for the past ten years that this truly is a sport-altering tangent.
One week, a 50-odd-year-old Mike Tyson returns to the ring to punch another 50-odd-year-old legend in the head without a guard. The next thing, Floyd Mayweather is fighting a vlogger who will outweigh him by 50 pounds.
Internet boxing – you couldn’t make it up.
Back in 2010, the boxing world seemed a whole lot more tranquil and straightforward place.
A fighter works his way up, earns a following through sheer hard work, and ends up on Pay Per View – if he’s lucky.
Nowadays, there’s a whole new ball game.
Social media has played a massive part in making the world a much smaller place. Gathering pods of millions to follow one mass fad, craze, or movement.
This power’s strength cannot be underestimated, but I fear it was by many of those at the very helm of the sport.
It seems the TV generation, who by no fault of their own were set in their ways, are being overrun by a millennial tribe hell-bent on taking boxing into the underground.
Without the need for any major TV networks, the sport’s biggest names are being lured to streaming apps where they can earn millions in subscription-based and standalone Pay-Per-Views linked to social platforms.
Huge boxing stars of the past are moving towards a ‘dark web’ sideshow to the usual ESPN brand, Showtime, and FOX-led events and proving more than a mere smaller rival.
So, could this movement become the internet boxing future? Will we see YouTubers, sports stars, or rappers headlining mainstream PPV’s?
Nobody really knows where it will end. Let’s be real. Not many could have predicted that we’d be where we are now.
Back in November 2011, in my earlier and greener days as WBN Editor, I asked whether ‘it will soon be normal to see boxers fighting in their 50s?’ – It turns out the answer was yes.
When that question was asked, it was only due to an observation of how many boxers were still competing in their late 40s.
Dare I ask whether it will soon be normal to see boxers competing in their 60s? – I sincerely hope not. Evander Holyfield is ready for a comeback at 58, so who can really tell.
For my money, anyone getting punched in the head after a long layoff and later in life is inherently risking their safety and prolonged lifespan.
If you ask any boxer doing this, though, they will probably tell you they had that risk when they were just starting anyway.
Internet boxing spectacles aside, the sport is becoming unrecognizable to a past era when the top stars fought each other, and the biggest earners were only those in their prime.
Everything is changing. Whether that will be for the better in the long term will ultimately be for those in their 20s or 30s at this present time to decide.
Over the next decade, the direction of our sport lies with them and the decisions they make as fans and contributors.
In a world where Errol Spence and Gervonta Davis struggle to reach a couple hundred thousand Pay Per View buys and Mike Tyson or Floyd Mayweather can come back to get over a million in the blink of an eye, something may have to give for the good of the professional code.
Outlawing YouTubers being given full licenses would be a good start.
INTERNET BOXING IN THIS AGE
There’s a whole age group who grew up knowing nothing but the internet and video platforms on demand. Their cluelessness about the essence of pure boxing is what really threatens the existence of the sport we’ve known and loved for decades.
The notion that you’d rather see your favorite vlogger fighting than a skilled, trained, and expert pugilist is one that – if unchecked, could tear down the whole fabric of what has been built since the dawn of trading punches.
It’s up to boxing to change this by ensuring the best fighters are locked into facing each other. The top TV networks have to be on the same page and stop bickering about percentages and protecting their own fighters.
If those things don’t happen soon, more and more youngsters will turn to witness YouTubers blast out NBA stars bereft of how to defend themselves.
Is that really boxing entertainment?
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of Phil Jay.
WBN Editor Phil has over ten years of boxing news experience. Follow WBN on Twitter @WorldBoxingNews.