We stand at the dawn of a new boxing era, an expansive landscape growing larger every day. A new generation is growing up with the world literally at their fingertips, and still…… most m@th#rf%ckers don’t know sh*t about boxing!
Joking, but in all seriousness, the world around us is evolving rapidly. Many of us are left asking, is the boxing world able to keep up?
The internet has everything caught in its web, boxing is no exception. Streaming has rapidly emerged as the main platform for consumption.
Game Has Changed, All Over the Place, You Best Keep Apace
Social media is a popular source for breaking news (just don’t forget to fact check people, for the love of all sanity). X is the new way to keep your ear to the streets.
This is bringing levels of connection and engagement never seen before. Cross-over fights, on-line betting, YouTube boxing channels, insta stans, trolls, all these moving parts are creating momentum.
Like it or not, it is all part of the machine now. Many may disagree, but I believe that there are more eyes on boxing now than ever before. The business of boxing must adapt to keep those eyes peeled, and therein lies the challenge.
Another End To An Era For Boxing, As Showtime Boxing Shuts Down
The past year has added a lot to the conversation. As it comes to a close, it takes along with it Showtime Boxing.
The announcement came like a splash of cold water in the face of hardcore fans who are coming down off what has been an amazing year for the sport. What does this mean? Will we really be watching PBC on Amazon? We wait with bated breath.
To many it’s not surprising, rather a poignant sign of the times. There were murmurings about what would happen when Paramount+ absorbed Showtime at the top of the year. ESPN remains as boxing’s last tie to network television. That tie is a weak one, more on that in a minute.
2018 was the year that really shook the table.
With HBO announcing the end of its legendary boxing program, many saw it as the beginning of the end for traditional broadcasting of the sport. Archive Hit: John Gatling reacts to HBO shuttering.
Spanning over 45 years of boxing, your favorite fighter’s favorite fighter likely watched THEIR favorite fighter on HBO with a twinkle in their eye. From the Thrilla in Manila to the thrill is gone, dwindling viewership was cited as the cause.
As HBO was bowing out, DAZN was making its boxing debut. Sidestepping network television entirely, this platform was based solely on the wave of the future, streaming subscriptions.
With rosters from both Golden Boy and Matchroom Boxing, the opportunity for good match ups had room to expand. For this reason, many enthusiasts had hoped that PBC would land with them too. DAZN has decent brand recognition from more casual fans as well, with some of the most recognizable names in boxing gracing its platform.
2018 was also the year ESPN got its feet wet in the streaming game. Thrown into the water by its parent company Disney, like an old school dad telling his son to sink or swim. ESPN+ was born. You could say it’s been a bridge over troubled waters.
Price wars recently resulted in a blackout of ESPN channels on Spectrum cable, affecting millions of subscribers from New York and Georgia to Texas and Hawaii. It remains to be seen if ESPN will cut the final cable cord and/or if they will continue to develop plans for a stand-alone streaming app.
What new platforms will emerge from all of this? Time will certainly tell.
Speaking Of Troubled Waters…
Illegal streaming has created a major blind spot in projecting revenue for fights.
Networks blame this for the rising costs of PPV. Promoters blame pirating for preventing fights and even mediocre undercards. Fans blame high PPV costs for pirating and are mad at the prices, the fights, the fighters, and the promoters.
Promoters are swaying back and forth between blaming the fans and sympathizing with them.
Enthusiasts are blaming casuals for almost everything, and casuals have no idea what anyone is talking about. Everyone is worked up, except for maybe the networks, they probably have bigger things to worry about.
In 2020, it was estimated that over 10 million people illegally streamed Fury vs Wilder 2.
In 2022, Al Haymon named pirating as a main hinderance in closing the Crawford vs Spence deal.
2023 saw Stephen Espinoza pleading with fans to stop stealing the fights. Fans pretty much told him to read the room, lower the prices!
With many PPV events costing upwards of $80, even those who are willing to pay the costs for multiple monthly subscriptions are stealing PPVs. The business of boxing is still trying to find its balance in all of this.
DAZN is probably watching the whole thing in amusement. Shout out to them for bringing us the “Day of Reckoning”, a mega card featuring A.J., Wilder, and Bivol all on the same night. Major chefs kiss on 2023, a year that has fed the fans pretty consistently. Yet and still, not all appetites have been satiated.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With so many solid fights to appreciate this year, most of the highly desired match ups remain to be seen. The consensus still seems to be, we are not seeing the best fighting the best. This frustration is often channeled towards the fighters, with accusations of ducking thrown around.
*Hot take coming in*
At the end of the day, a fighter’s job is to get in the ring and fight. They put their lives on the line with every round, what is everyone else bringing to the table?
Of course, if it don’t make dollars then it don’t make sense. I get it. It is a business at the end of the day, and a dirty one at times. My point is, if we want to see change, we have to make it make sense. This is a deep subject so suffice to say:
Accountability is needed for ALL the hands in the pot. Between promoters and networks, sanctioning bodies, and so forth, that’s a lot of hands. Fighters too.
We are at a crucial turning point in the boxing timeline. History, technology, business, human connection, all converging at a crossroads. The future of the sport hangs in the balance.
Social Media Is Good and Bad
Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I may lose some of you here. As hardcores and purists turn their noses up at the casuals- Wait, what’s that in the sky?? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, oh no, it’s the rise of the Insta-Stan!
Me, myself, I am far from a boxing expert. I personally identify as an avid casual, heavy on the avid. Call me what you will, I have a deep love for the sweet science. Super rich with metaphorical angles to apply in real life. The way I see it? Not only is there room for everyone here, but the room needs everyone in it.
That’s right all you boxing snobs, I said what I said! No matter how you look at it, boxing needs all the views it can get, paid views that is. Let’s not act like hardcores aren’t out here watching illegal streams too. I saw that crackstream.com in your browsing history!
Yet and still, I can empathize with the frustration long term boxing enthusiasts must be feeling. Theres levels to this thing, many of them invisible until you start peeling back the layers. You must keep in mind that this also applies to its spectators. The term “casuals” covers a versatile group of people. Real life has nuance.
Cue Imagine By John Lennon
The key is in keeping people engaged. There’s always something new to learn and appreciate about the sport. You could help peel back those invisible layers for a casual. Turn a fan boy into a real man, I mean boxing fan.
Yes, that sounds nice… doesn’t it? Wait a minute.
*Insert record scratch*
Not so fast. Theres another level to explore here. This is where it all comes together. A most fascinating study into the dark crevices of human psychology. The social media realm.
Here you will find the most absurd boxing debates you have ever heard in your entire life. Nothing could prepare me for some of the things I’ve seen on boxing Twitter (X?).
Promoters beefing with their fighters in real time, fantasy match ups between Inoue and Mike Tyson, swing round robberies?!
Let’s go to YouTube. I’ve watched a live stream with a panel asking if body shots count in boxing. And no one knew the answer. On a boxing channel? On another channel, a Ryan Garcia fan gets schooled in a debate with a 12-year-old enthusiast.
What can we make out of all this confusion? Well, it’s a gift and a curse, depending on how you use it. More avenues are available to draw in new fans, new revenues. On-line betting creates more demand for boxing insights.
Fans have access to more pieces of the puzzle now, some can earn money doing commentary on their own. More ways to connect and interact while watching the fight from home. Platforms can be used to gauge interest in fights. Isn’t this likely how the Tank vs Ryan Garcia fight happened?
Fighters can engage fans any time from anyplace. No need to wait for a presser or interview. They can be their own promoters now, sometimes having a stronger online presence than the promotional companies themselves.
I have seen mega stans coming in with the craziest takes and doubling down on them. But some of them are still in the chat, and you can tell that they want to be able to make valid points.
Remember those invisible layers? It’s almost like magic when you figure out how to see them. When you know what you’re looking at, you find even more to love.
Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia: 1.2 million PPV buys reported. That’s impressive, landing on some “highest grossing of all time” lists, right under Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson. Certainly, the highest selling PPV of the year. Some of the other big fights were:
Crawford vs Spence (700,000)
Canelo vs Charlo (600-700,000)
Paul vs Fury (800,000)
Loma vs Haney (150,000)
Fury vs Ngannou (100-150,000)
Canelo and Paul have the most followers at around 16 million
Garcia next at over 10 million
Tank at around 6 million
Fury at around 5 million
Loma at 2.2 million
Haney at 1.2 million
Charlo has under 100,000
While we’re here, let’s take a glance at the platforms themselves….
Regarding monthly active users….
TikTok has 1.6 billion
Instagram has 2.35 billion
YouTube has 2.70 billion.
How reliable are these numbers? I’m not sure, that requires its own deep dive. Yet and still, that’s alooot of eyeballs.
Putting It All Together
If you ask a boxing fan that does not have social media, they barely know who Ryan Garcia is.
Yes, people without social media still exist, I swear, I spoke to one the other day.
If you take the time to really start asking people around you, you will notice how pivotal YouTube is.
Anyone I’ve talked to who doesn’t use social media, if you ask them where they saw or heard something, they will tell you YouTube. It’s literally the new television. Think about that.
Social media may not be the best indicator on the numbers a fight will do, but it’s certainly a tool to utilize.
This brings us back to fans of boxing vs fans of fighters. Some enthusiasts have a distaste for fighters like Jake Paul. They feel that the skill of boxing, the science of it, is erased and made into more of a spectacle. A quick payout, not establishing a consistent respect or viewership for the sport. Taking away from the “best fighting the best.”
Others feel that we need more spectacle in the sport to draw in more viewership. To make the money for the fights that the boxing fans really want to see.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
One thing’s for sure, attention is currency now.
Boxing has the ingredients to keep people engaged. There’s something for everyone, whether you want to see a good brawl or a high-level chess match. The rounds are perfectly formatted to hold the short attention spans of the public. Put the recipe together, sprinkle your own seasoning on it.
All forms of social media should be used in a more consistent and robust manner. Not only YouTube and X, but also Instagram and TikTok. Maybe competitions to win tickets to events?
Start appealing more to the younger audience. PBC and Top Rank posters styled like the Avengers and the X-men or something like that, make it pop.
I know some in the business don’t care for it, but YouTube is a great way to get people hooked and engaged, educated even.
Overzealous copyright strikes are not helping. Find the balance. People don’t generally go to YouTube to pirate fights, they’re going to learn about them.
Remember when I was talking about the kid debating the Ryan Garcia fan?
*Shout out to little Jayceon in Brick City, and his fav YouTuber Boxing Gems*
I got the opportunity to ask him how he got so into boxing. I was thinking maybe from a family member or maybe he was part of a gym/club. You know what he said? YouTube.
I asked him why he loved boxing so much over everything else, like football for example. You know what he said? He said he loves boxing over everything else because…
“It’s not a game.”
When it comes to boxing, it’s a testament to the human spirit, the desire to rise above adversity. The will to survive. The ability to adjust, to download information and put together what you know. Just like inside the ring, the connections you miss are just as pivotal as connections you make.