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Influencer boxing matches: Have they changed the sport for good?

By Nathan Whitehead, April 22 2024—

The rise of influencer boxing is often criticized as a bastardization of the sport. However, the rise of influencer boxing is a surprising return to form. Influencer boxing first became prevalent in Feb. 3 2018. Modern boxing evolved from bare-knuckle boxing which was a betting sport in England. Boxers would fight weekly and make their living off of a portion of the proceeds. Back then, boxing looked quite different. Athletes competed bare-knuckled and the sport involved considerably more grappling than modern boxing.

Boxing’s core appeal back then was as a betting sport. As much about figuring out who would win a fight and profiting as it was about watching an intense match between athletes. In that sense, pitting two otherwise non-fighter celebrities against each other is at the core of the original appeal of boxing. Because two influencers can start drama with each other for any reason, this core appeal of deciding who would win becomes all the more interesting. In most boxing matches, records and previous fights can be looked at as nobody starts a professional boxing career with no fights.  However, instead of fight records, influencer fight betting and interest are centred around personalities and drama. 

On the opposite side of that is the more modern appeal of boxing: a technical and intense display of athleticism. Influencer fights do not disappoint in this regard either. The technical skill and conditioning displayed in these matches do not disappoint. While typically not on the level of more traditional boxing professionals, Logan Paul’s match against Floyd Mayweather shows that influencers have a respectable grasp of the sport.

Another positive that is often overlooked is the increased attention to the sport in a new way. The audiences of influencers see their favourite creators enter a sport that is often seen as inaccessible or ‘hardcore’. Because influencers come from all walks of life- their fans can see a foray into boxing as more accessible to them personally. All sports benefit from an increased competitor base. 

All this being said, are influencer fights a positive for the long-term health of boxing? Influencer boxing means an influx of newcomers into the sport, sometimes to the detriment of the viewership of non-influencer matches. Can the uptick in interest in boxing be maintained past the lifetime of this trend? It can be argued that yes as this will bolster the general public’s interest in boxing going forward. As mentioned above influencers can oft be seen as more relatable than boxers with long histories of fighting. By putting the spotlight on newcomers, the ease of entry into boxing is highlighted. Fans of influencers can see that anyone can train and fight a good fight.

In that sense, boxing has strangely come full circle. In its origin, professional boxers came from many walks of life. Some were laid off while others were tired of their previous career. The first reported instance of a boxing match was between a footman and a butcher. They fought for money and attention but also a love of the sport. Influencer boxing is just that.

Influencer boxing — whether a trend or a new tradition — is likely good for the health of the sport. Despite displaying a lower level of skill, any sport benefits from more competitors and more interest, increasing the likelihood that more of the younger generations will pursue boxing. Their flamboyant personas and surrounding gossip only serve to further bolster the stakes of the fight. That after all is one of the most fun aspects of personalities. One style against another. One ego vying for supremacy over another. Now, one influence against another.

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