Image Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing
Tonight, DAZN premiere’s its second boxing match featuring non-boxers. The self-proclaimed “world’s largest sports streaming service”, and Matchroom Boxing USA will present a special night of boxing on Thursday, Jan. 30 in Miami, Florida, ahead of the big game.
The main event of the evening features undefeated middleweight star Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17 KOs) defending his WBO World Middleweight championship against contender Luke Keeler (17-2-1, 5 KOs).
However, the much-hyped co-main event fight of the night is a grudge match between YouTube stars Jake “The Problem Child” Paul and AnEsonGib. The fight is the second installment after a successful pairing of YouTube stars Logan Paul vs. KSI.
On November 9, 2019, KSI (1-0) triumphed over Logan Paul (0-1) in front of 12,137 fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In the fourth round of their six-round bout, Paul knocked down KSI with an uppercut that was ruled illegal and resulted in a two-point deduction. KSI ultimately won by split decision to settle the score following their majority draw in August 2018.
“January 30 in Miami just became a whole lot bigger,” said Eddie Hearn, Managing Director, Matchroom Boxing USA. “After the huge success of KSI vs. Logan Paul 2 which broke broadcast numbers Worldwide and also got nominated as Ring Magazine ‘Event of the Year,’ I’m delighted to add Jake Paul vs. Gib to our World Championship tripleheader on Super Bowl weekend in Miami, live on DAZN.
In the age of influencers and social media proliferation, YouTube-based digital celebrities are now wrapping their hands and jumping in the squared circle.
There are other fights on the Miami card like a super featherweight grudge match between, IBF Titlist Tevin Farmer and JoJo Diaz. Unified world super bantamweight champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10 KOs) defends his titles against Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6 KOs). Coupled with the Andrade fight, the card features solid championship bouts, however, the focal point has been Paul vs. Gib.
With the streaming wars in full swing, DAZN’s looking to edge out competitors like ESPN+ with these unconventional fights. However, does the pairing of non-boxer social media stars pollute an already sketchy combat sports world?
The age of Don King and the ever-present threat of “fixed fights” and corruption has just left the fight business. The nineties and early 2000’s carried the stench of nefarious promoters and fans didn’t know if they could trust the business anymore.
In the age of fighter owned promotions, the boxing business has never been better led by the bricks laid by Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and infamously Floyd Mayweather’s Mayweather Promotions.
Ironically, it might be Mayweather that also showed the financial possibilities that sideshow fights can yield. His 2017 “Money Fight” against UFC star and debutante boxer, Conor McGregor is now the second-highest viewed pay-per-view boxing match in history.
That level of success is not easily replicated, however, DAZN and promoter Eddie Hearn and the DAZN brass think YouTube influencer fights are in that vein.
“Jake Paul vs. Gib will add a hell of a lot of noise to our Jan. 30 event in Miami,” Joseph Markowski, DAZN EVP, North America. “These men are not just celebrities of the internet; they are brilliant content creators with a proven ability to engage audiences largely ignored by traditional media.”
When top tier, legit boxing talent is merely a sideshow for social media stars, it says a lot about boxing’s priorities. Boxing’s golden gloves competitions and amateur ranks have already lost the popular momentum that elevated fighters like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather.
With this new genre of celebrity-driven fights, there is a threat to the overall system of professional combat sports in favor of untrained amateurs. Like everything else in the sports world, fans will have to discern for themselves the difference between sports entertainment and entertainment for entertainment’s sake.