YouTube celebrities donning boxing gloves and entering the ring have opened the floodgates, rightly or wrongly, to a new entertainment and revenue stream. This isn’t real boxing, it’s celebrity white-collar boxing, and yet it has boxing fans, and some in the boxing world were outraged and outraged.
Should professional boxing be concerned about the growing trend? Should novice boxers out Love Island whether the influencer world is mining wealth and wealth, fame and acclaim through boxing matches and grabbing the headlines of those who honed their skills in the ring from an early age? Is boxing being copied and diluted by a new wave?
At the heart of this phenomenon are ‘KSI’ – aka JJ Olatunji Olajide Olayinka Williams – the most influential YouTuber in the UK, a rapper and celebrity with 24 million subscribers and 41 million followers on social media, and the Paul brothers, Jake and Logan from the US, who together have 45 million YouTube subscribers.
So influential is KSI that last week the 29-year-old from Watford signed a five-year deal with sports broadcaster DAZN for the aptly named ‘Misfits’ boxing series in which they will collaborate on six fight cards a year, including two pay cards. -per views. Last weekend, a fourth event in the Misfits series, the KSI vs Faze Temperrr boxing event – where KSI knocked out his foe Temperrr in the first round – garnered 300,000 pay-per-view buys on DAZN in the UK and the USA and sold out Wembley Arena. I attended the event.
Given the event firsthand, it was certainly a very different and much younger crowd at Wembley Arena than there would be for a professional boxing event, with 10,000 fans in the venue from the first fight to the last.
Ringside were the likes of Louis Theroux, Holly Willoughby and Krishnan Guru-Murthy – with their teenage children. While KSI was enthusiastically praised for stopping his foe Temperrr (yes, three R’s), the undercard also featured a number of famous faces, including OnlyFans star Elle Brooke, DJ Tom Zanetti, BMX rider Ryan Taylor and TikToker Salt Papi. It was a huge success. The boxing was as expected, far from amateur or professional level, and often like playground scrap. But the audience loved it.