Jake Paul punches his way to top of influencer boxing world

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LOS ANGELES — Jake Paul’s crowd doesn’t look like any other fighter’s crowd.

When the world’s most unlikely boxing star promotes a fight, as Paul did a few weeks ago in Hollywood, the fans hungry for autographs are mostly unfamiliar faces and mostly under 30s. They include rowdy teenagers who try to disrupt Paul’s performance. press conferences, animals in distressed white jeans, and even a few ecstatic teenagers and their mothers.

Showtime Sports president Steven Espinoza knows they’re fans of Paul, not boxing, but that seems to be changing.

“What we’ve seen very clearly after just a few events is that these Jake Paul fans are sticking together and becoming boxing fans,” Espinoza said. “Our typical boxing audience is a small fraction of the audience that emulates Jake. We’re playing in front of people who don’t follow boxing and don’t care about boxing at all. It’s great for the sport.”

The new fans are here because the blonde, bearded YouTube megastar is a big part of their lives, and if Jake is boxing now, they’re boxing. But Espinoza saw this unusual first taste as creating an appetite for the sport’s traditional flavors. Paul is a welcome breath of life for a sport that has been supposedly dead for half a century.

“These are fans we wouldn’t have been able to reach any other way,” Espinoza said. “If we look at various measures of consumer sentiment over the last two or three years, it’s clear from all of our research that boxing is resurgent, especially with a very young demographic. I wouldn’t attribute that to just Jake Paul, but it’s definitely an influencer. is a boxing phenomenon. It’s definitely created awareness and interest among fans that is very different from boxing before.”

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Five years after social media influencers started becoming boxers, the subculture is thriving. Old foes KSI and Jake’s older brother Logan Paul are gearing up to fight on the same card early next year alongside other unknown social media content creators and MMA players.

But Paul is fighting on a different front: While other YouTubers are throwing haymakers to create content and make a small profit, Paul has become a professional prizefighter in every traditional sense except for his level of resistance. .

“Everybody has to respect this guy,” said Anderson Silva, Paul’s next opponent. “Why? Because he opened the door to thinking about new things.”

When Paul faces the former mixed martial arts superstar on Saturday night, the Desert Diamond Arena outside of Phoenix will set a boxing record, according to promoters.

While the reliable pay-per-view numbers are kept under wraps, the clearest sign of Paul’s success is that his fights have been profitable enough to stage more. Forbes estimated that Paul, who receives a cut of PPV revenue, earned $40 million from his three fights in 2021, but Paul said that number was low.

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His showdown with the popular Silva could be the biggest yet, with Paul predicting more than 300,000 buys and optimistically hoping for 700,000.

“I grew up idolizing this guy,” Paul Silva said. “I saw him on the couch, and being in the ring with him is something I never imagined. … It’s surreal. Sometimes I don’t think it makes any sense.”

It makes sense for Espinoza, who watched the boxing scene raise eyebrows until Paul fights on the undercard of Mike Tyson Jr.’s exhibition in late 2020. When Paul was left unconscious on the court by former NBA player Nate Robinson, Espinoza decided it was time to take Paul seriously.

“It’s an achievement to knock someone out cold,” Espinoza said. “It’s not something you do by accident.”

He booked a meeting with Paul, who was knowledgeable, intelligent, and focused on building something concrete out of his fleeting social media fame. Late last year, Showtime secured a deal to bring the former Disney Channel star to the pay-per-view platform after his two-time victory over former UFC champion Tyron Woodley.

“He wasn’t what I expected,” Espinoza said. “I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I guess I was expecting a guy with a bit of controversy and a social media blunder.”

Jake Paul only started boxing in December 2019, but he has the financial resources and determination to do it. He said he has a 30-man squad that trains at the Cleveland native’s base in Puerto Rico.

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“The key is to work non-stop every day, I’m addicted,” Paul said.

It’s clear that boxing helps Paul, who has faced repeated legal troubles amid his social media fame, despite his push for boxing.

“He and (brother) Logan made it very clear that he did it at the starting point,” Espinoza said. “A lot has been written about the negative effects of social media and celebrity, and I think they both struggled with that. And like so many other people from all walks of life, boxing gave them direction, discipline and structure.”

Paul and Silva square off against former NFL running back Le’Veon Bell, recently retired UFC veteran Uriah Hall and another primary care physician named Dr. Mike of YouTube fame in an eight-round bantamweight bout. MMA fighter.

“I understand there are some purists who don’t like it, but we’re not going to stand still,” Espinoza said. You don’t just say, “Hey, this is how boxing has been for the last 150 years, and we’re not going to deviate from that.” We are going to respect our sport, respect our audience, and do something new and innovative.

“I look at it like ‘The Masked Singer’ or ‘American Idol’ or something like that. Just because you want that kind of entertainment doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate Celine Dion or Alicia Keys. You can enjoy both, you know.”

Additional AP Boxing: https://apnews.com/hub/boxing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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