When ESPN reported late Tuesday morning that the Jake Paul company MVP signed Javon Walton to a promotional deal, I thought of the circus.
A circus is a company of performers that travel the country/world attempting to fill seats inside venues set to stage elaborate acts that compute into an entire show.
Each act is given a precise placement on the show to gradually build towards the show’s climax (the main event).
The main attraction, typically represented on the promotional poster, is meant to sell tickets, but the “undercard” is just as important because it represents the future of the promotion’s drawing power, long-term.
How much of this sounds familiar to boxing fans?
Boxing Has Been Compared To the Circus Before–Don King As PT Barnum, Anyone?
While every promotional medium (i.e., combat sports, stand-up comedy, and concerts) utilizes specific promotional strategies, they all use a form of the circuses blueprint.
Most people correlate the origins of the circus with P.T. Barnum — a showman, businessman, and politician — and that connection is both false and appropriate. The godfather of the circus is an ex-calvary man by the name of Phillip Astley.
Astley may not have revolutionized any one aspect of what we’ve come to call ‘the circus,’ but his efforts spawned other influential characters essential to its evolution in America.
Charles Hughes was a former employee of Astley, and when he left to start his own venture he set a course for his employee, John Bill Ricketts, to leave him and travel to America. Ricketts found his way to Philadelphia in the 1790s (does it get more American than Philly in the 18th century?) where he started the first large-scale circus in America.
Now, if we turn the focus on boxing, we can draw several parallels.
The main correlation we can draw from is the process by which fighters (and underlings) gain knowledge and experience from promoters before pivoting into their own promotional outfits.
Eddie Hearn learned from his father. Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. got their first lessons in professional boxing promotion from Bob Arum, among others. This is the way things go, and not just in boxing.
You could make the point that boxing uses tactics and strategies that follow a long line of traditional boxing promotion, but advancements in the modern age have caused the sport to venture into unchartered territories such as streaming and online consumerism.
It could also be argued that part of what has held boxing back is the insistence of utilizing tradition and a lack of consideration regarding what appeals to younger audiences.
Jake Paul Is Revising the Blueprint
In 2021, Jake Paul, who started boxing in 2018 but began his professional boxing career on January 30, 2020, became the latest fighter-promoter in the sport when he launched Most Valuable Promotions (MVP).
The first MVP fight card took place on May 26th and showcased up-and-comers on a show aptly titled “Most Valuable Prospects.”
Paul launched MVP with his advisor Nakisa Bidarian who said of MVP’s intentions: “to identify, grow, and maximize return for its own events and talent partners.”
The promotion was created in an attempt to give fighters a chance to showcase more personality and offer up opportunities for creative promotional strategies engaged through its athletes.
Paul’s MVP outfit has yet to lead a major promotion, but, to his credit, he has helped to elevate women’s boxing in a real way.
While some fans and media believe Paul takes too much credit for his impact on women’s boxing, it cannot be denied that since he has entered the space strides have been made that other larger promoters never attempted or flat out did not believe was possible.
Influencer Boxing Is Not Universally Beloved
In the past few months, we’ve seen cards on DAZN and PPV that blur the lines between professional boxing and entertainment. Between Misfits Boxing and Kingpyn fight cards, the sub-genre of “influencer boxing” is viable and maintains a youthful audience, this much is clear.
Hearn recently made comments about these fight cards which have showcased fights between two overweight fighters with a combined weight of over 700lbs and a female fighter who celebrated her win by flashing her breasts during her post-fight interview… a moment that prompted the question: what would Larry Merchant have done in that interview if he were 50yrs younger?
Levity aside, these cards are gaining traction and Hearn’s comments are indicative of that fact— why would he have made them otherwise?
That leads us back to Jake Paul and his plans for MVP.
How Many Instagram Followers Does Javon Walton Have Again
Paul signed Ashton “H20” Sylve, an undefeated 19yr old fighter out of Long Beach who brings both talent and a fanbase with him.
However, Paul’s best signing, thus far, is arguably New Jersey’s own Shadasia Green. She is 12-0 with 11 KOs and it is baffling, at least to this fight scribe, that Green was even available to sign.
The current WBC silver super middleweight titleist showed plenty of signs of being ‘the goods’ throughout her four-year pro boxing career, and she had all of the appeal of a star-caliber fighter in the division. This was a major get for MVP and it shows that the newfound company has capable recruiters.
That brings us to Paul’s latest signing.
ESPN reported late Tuesday morning that MVP has signed Javon “Wanna” Walton.
Boxing fans might not be familiar with this name, and if they are then it is likely they know him from HBO’s hit series “Euphoria.”
The show has drawn huge ratings — as well as some controversy for its “over-sexualization of teenaged characters”—and Walton’s character “Ashtray” was a favorite amongst viewers.
While the show has been greenlit for a 3rd season, it had been delayed due to the ongoing writer’s strike (we here at NYFights stand with SAG-AFTRA).
So, what does this signing represent? Is the signing of Javon Walton a step in the Misfits/Kingpyn direction? Or is it a means of gaining traction amongst those same fans in an attempt to put more eyes on the likes of Green, Sylve, and Amanda Serrano (one of the first pro signings for MVP/Paul)?
Walton, who is from Atlanta, Georgia, has amateur experience and it would be inaccurate to completely chalk up his signing to Hollywood clout. Inside of his over 80 ammy bouts, he has several victories in junior amateur tourneys and five state championships in the Georgia circuit.
Outside of Paul, Javon Walton has the most followers on social media with over 10 million followers spread out through three platforms including Instagram (5mil). At 17 years old, Walton has the time to develop, but how much time and energy he has to dedicate to boxing alone is the question as the actor has appeared on one of the biggest shows on HBO and Netflix: “The Umbrella Academy.”
In a statement from Javon Walton, the actor said:
“I've been training so hard and working for the majority of my life for this moment. MVP feels like family, and that's very important to me. I know they can help me reach my goals in professional boxing and do it in a way that feels special to me.”
He plans to continue fighting amateurs with the plan to make his pro debut next year. MVP is advising him during this pre-debut period, helping with his marketing as a fighter and overall brand. Paul is undeniably the best promoter in the business to help with branding and content creation, the very foundation that has propped up his own successful boxing career.
Javon Wanna Walton Has Legit Boxing Experience
Walton is trained by his father, who helped guide him to becoming a two-time Junior Olympics national silver medalist, but he is a talented athlete outside of boxing, evident by his prowess as a gymnast.
In fact, he signed a deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand last November based on what he’d already achieved as an athlete—making him the youngest Jordan signee in company history.
The signing will commence officially Aug 2nd when Walton will be introduced during a media workout for the Paul-Nate Diaz event in Dallas.
MVP certainly has lofty expectations for Javon Walton, who they said is primed to be the “face of combat sports over the next decade” in a prepared statement.
This is, in fact, a major signing, and one that opens a gateway from the fandom of Hollywood to the world of boxing, a sport in desperate need of an infusion of young fans.
The coveted 18-36 demo is something that boxing has been unable to maintain from event to event. However, the “influencer” genre has shown promoters and networks that the market can be exploited in a way that pro wrestling and MMA have achieved.
The problem with boxing is casual fans have caught on to its biggest problem, highlighted by the recent comments by Tom Holland, the actor currently portraying Spiderman, where he said Lomachenko was his favorite fighter, but he doubted the possibility of a rematch with Devin Haney because… well, boxing.
The problems caused by the old guard can only be overcome by a movement perpetrated by the youth, or so it seems. There will be those that resist the commercial surge, but Paul deserves the chance to see his vision play out because so many others with far shakier backgrounds have been given the chance, and they did not have Hollywood stars with millions of fans eager to get in the ring.
After all, the world of boxing promotion is just another genus of the circus, and the motto has never changed: come one, come all.