In the realm of professional boxing, traditional values have long held sway: talent, dedication, and an unwavering work ethic were the prerequisites for aspiring world champions. However, a new form of boxing has risen to prominence—one that places the magnitude of your social media following above all else.
Over the last six years, social media megastars such as KSI, Logan Paul, and Jake Paul have ventured into the boxing world, bringing an unprecedented spotlight with them.
The pinnacle of crossover boxing history is set to unfold at the AO Arena in Manchester this Saturday when KSI squares off against Tommy Fury. While it’s promoted as a professional boxing match by KSI, this bout spans only six rounds and lacks the sanction of the British Boxing Board of Control, which oversees professional boxing in the UK.
KSI, whose real name is Olajide Olatunji, lacks a professional boxing license in the UK, raising concerns about governance, standards of behavior, and whether such contests encroach upon the realm of professional boxing.
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Critics, including four-time world champion Carl Froch, argue that these events are “making a mockery of boxing,” suggesting they should be labeled “play-fighting.”
Tommy Fury, initially known for his appearance on the reality TV dating show Love Island, stands to earn another substantial payday in his second fight after a licensed pro fight with Jake Paul in February. In terms of earnings, only his brother Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua will surpass him among British boxers this year.
However, the legitimacy and the standard of boxing in Saturday’s main event have come under scrutiny, with strong criticism. Froch opines that it’s “bad for boxing,” adding, “I don’t think he’s good enough to win a British title in a real professional boxing ring.”
This high-profile clash takes place just a week after a thrilling bout between Britons Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington, labeled a “fight of the year contender.” Wood, who retained the WBA featherweight title with a stunning knockout, is baffled by the influx of social media personalities into the boxing arena.
While KSI has transitioned from YouTuber to boxer, finding a new source of income and intrigue, Tommy Fury suggests that continuing to participate in crossover fights could potentially “damage his brand” as a professional boxer. KSI, on the other hand, appears unperturbed by the criticism.
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In a press conference ahead of the event, KSI was overheard mockingly asking John Fury, Tommy’s father, if he was “coming out” and if he was hitting on him, highlighting the controversy that often accompanies Misfits or crossover events.
The British Boxing Board of Control has urged Misfits to come under its governance, which would necessitate that fighters adhere to a standard of behavior. However, Misfits has opted to align with the Professional Boxing Association (PBA). KSI insists that Misfits has reprimanded fighters for poor conduct in the past.
Outside the British Boxing Board of Control’s jurisdiction, Misfits has the leeway to stage tag-team fights and gimmick matches, including one featuring two YouTubers, one aged 48, who weighed a combined 56 stones. The PBA ensures health and safety checks for each fight.
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In the co-main event on Saturday, Dillon Danis faces WWE star Logan Paul, a fight sold primarily on the back of controversy. A brawl erupted between them, raising questions about the nature of such events.
Prominent figures like Josh Warrington, a two-time world champion, contend that these fights lean more towards pantomime than genuine competition. While they may have initially attracted a new audience to the sport, the line between entertainment and authenticity in boxing continues to blur.