Tag Archives: YouTube

YouTube boxing – genius or embarrassing?

Former WBA super-middleweight champion George Groves recently blasted the phenomenon of YouTubers infiltrating professional boxing as ‘horrific’ and ‘abysmal’.

He delivered his verdict following American vlogger Jake Paul’s win over FIFA YouTuber AnEsonGib on a Miami show headlined by middleweight world champion Demetrius Andrade. But is it really that bad?

What began as a light-hearted video between two friends has rapidly evolved into one of the biggest – and also the most divisive – invasions of a sport in recent times.

It’s safe to say that the traditional, hard-core boxing fanbase aren’t exactly welcoming this YouTube invasion with open arms, though. Many say that it is embarrassing the sport and stealing the limelight away from professional fighters who have spent years working their way up the ranks.

But, whether people like it or not, the demand appears to be there amongst the younger audience. According to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, the fight between Logan Paul and KSI last year sold more pay-per-views than Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.

How did it start?

When Joe Weller – a YouTube star from Brighton – uploaded a video of a boxing match with his friend Theo Baker in August 2017, no one could have possibly anticipated that it would be the catalyst for the whole landscape of the sport to change. And yet here we are.

Olajide Olatunji – better known by his online alias of ‘KSI’ – challenged the winner of Weller and Baker’s bout to a fight, perhaps not initially realising at the time how big it would become.

His fight with Weller ended up selling out the Copper Box Arena in London and clocked over 23 million views on YouTube. This, inevitably, prompted another fight between two internet stars; this time between KSI and Logan Paul.

This took things to a whole new level. Their first fight sold out the Manchester Arena and generated over 1.3 million pay-per-view buys worldwide. The rematch was made into a fully-fledged professional fight, picked up by streaming service DAZN and promoted by Eddie Hearn.

It’s been quite the journey and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of this train slowing down anytime soon.

What’s the problem, then?

The most recent fight between two YouTubers: Jake Paul – brother of Logan – and AnEsonGib – ‘Gib’ for short – was hardly the sweet science. And that’s being polite.

The Saudi Arabian-born Gib used a bizarre stance in the early exchanges of the fight in an attempt to crouch out of the way of a barrage of wild, flailing punches from Paul. However, his evident lack of defence and general boxing ability meant that he struggled to keep his balance and was an easy target for the American to just pick off.

After Gib touched down on the canvas three times in quick succession, the referee decided that he’d seen enough of the farce that was unfolding in front of him and declared Paul the winner by technical knockout in the first round.

KSI stormed the ring after the fight for a face-to-face confrontation with Paul. We can all see where this one is going, can’t we?

‘There’s a time and a place for ‘celebrity fights’ – but that place is not in the world of professional boxing’

These events have undoubtedly attracted fresh eyes on the sport – but at what cost? Is it worth putting on such farcical, comical shows just to get a few more people watching? And, realistically, how many of those new fans are going to stick around for the ‘proper’ fights?

This could be a slippery slope for boxing. Singer Robbie Williams has already called out former rival Liam Gallagher for a fight, and pop sensation Justin Bieber has expressed an interest in fighting KSI. The old cliche is that ‘you don’t play boxing’ and yet a lot of celebrities seem pretty keen to do just that and, perhaps more worryingly, there are also people out there who are capable of making it happen.

If this is what it is going to take to bring the sport into the mainstream, I’d rather we left it as it is.

There seems to be a certain level of naivety from these online stars as well. They strut around like they are Conor McGregor at press conferences but when the head guards come off and the 10oz gloves go on, it is no longer a game.

It’s not a YouTube video that you can just re-film if you make a mistake, it’s a proper fight. And in proper fights, people who don’t know what they’re doing can get hurt. This isn’t a charity football match where celebrities can just join in for a laugh, this is the professional fight business, where one well-timed punch can render an opponent unconscious and in need of urgent medical attention.

Less than six months ago, a promising young fighter in Patrick Day lost his life. In a chapter of the sport where safety is a topic that should be more prominent than ever before, it seems an odd time to start the trend of catapulting novices into the brutal world of pro boxing.

So far, it’s been YouTubers matched against other YouTubers. But who’s to say one of them might not get a couple of wins under their belt, start to believe their own hype and chase after fights against more seasoned pros? It could easily become more than something to poke fun at. It could start to become really dangerous.

Tommy Fury, the younger half-brother of Tyson, who is decent professional plus a Love Island celebrity, appeared to call out KSI in November, saying: “I’ve heard he wants to continue fighting so if he wants a real fight, he knows where I am.

“We are both from that influencing world — he is from YouTube, I am from Love Island. We both have a great following here in the UK. Why not make it a ‘Battle of Britain’?”

At the end of the day, there’s money to be made and that doesn’t even necessarily need to be a bad thing. Although it’s not great to watch, there’s clearly a market for this sort of stuff and it would be foolish to ignore it completely. And if these guys genuinely want to box and they’re willing to put the hard graft in, they should be able to.

It was easier to stomach, though, when it felt like a bit of fun. A fake rivalry, a bit of trash talk, nothing dangerous, nothing serious. It didn’t need to go any further than that.

There’s a time and a place for ‘celebrity fights’ – but that place is not in the world of professional boxing.

Featured image via: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H65ZxeDAysg

Fan marginalisation and the rise in amateur football punditry

It is commonly – and correctly – argued that the rise of fan punditry in football can be credited with digital advances.

Technological developments have facilitated the entry of non-professional voices into the journalistic arena and completely transformed the nature of discussion and analysis.

“The modern trend of prioritising corporate influence over fan involvement has left supporters unfamiliar with the sport they once knew, and bred huge resentment”

The rules have changed: punditry has become increasingly uncensored, certainly on social media platforms. The grip of sports editors, radio and TV producers over  discourse in the football media environment has been loosened.

In recent years, YouTube channels, vlogs and social media sites have provided football fans with platforms through which to express their opinions, in both unfiltered and instant fashion.

These new media have had a potent effect on the way in which football punditry is conducted. Fans, smartened through easy access to historical records, statistics and tactical information, have used alternative platforms to demonstrate their lack of patience with mainstream punditry.

As football fans have become more knowledgeable, their dissatisfaction with the quality of professional punditry has declined, perhaps the result of higher expectations and a desire to see their footballing acumen reflected on television.

Disconnect

Microcosmic of the growing competition between fan-led and professional punditry were Gary Neville’s comments on Sky’s Super Sunday recently about Arsenal Fan TV, a successful YouTube channel attracting hundreds of thousands of views.

He referred to Arsenal fans outside Stamford Bridge participating in filmed interviews as “embarrassing”, and called one man inside the ground brandishing a ‘Time for Change’ banner an “idiot”.

Irrespective of the views that were expressed, the segment illustrated a disconnect between mainstream and fan opinion.

I do not think that comment on whether Neville was right is necessary. But his comments were a powerful reminder that many fans simply no longer feel represented in the footballing world.

Television companies, intent on maximising their viewership and advertising revenue, hire big-name pundits on lucrative deals.

The result is often a monotonous and one-dimensional sample of experts. Most big football matches today are analysed by ex-Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United players.

For broadcasters, it has become more about presentation than it has intelligent – or even watchable – discussion. This fact symbolises one huge change in modern professional football. Fan marginalisation is now widespread.

In the upper reaches of the the game, it manifests itself in sky-high ticket prices, intensive commercialisation and corporate sponsors dominating the financial and sporting agendas.

Where it was once considered the norm for the working classes to pay the top clubs a visit and watch them play, nowadays, those in attendance tend to be older fans and clients at various events.

Replaced by corporate hospitality, commercial leverage on club policy and TV rights, the modern football fan has seen his or her role in and around the stadium attacked to a demoralising extent.

In many ways, football was always capitalist, but the modern trend of prioritising corporate influence over fan involvement has left supporters unfamiliar with the sport they once knew, and bred huge resentment.

Trusted

Once upon a time, football pundits were liked and trusted. Fans were more deferential. They knew less and didn’t have the same readily-available information that they now enjoy. Fans appreciated those ex-pros and their ‘expert’ views.

“Perhaps the most potent incentive for this has been the treatment of the modern football fan, left sidelined by the cynical business executives who really run the game”

Today, fans have been excluded from football’s centre of focus. Their response to this crushing blow has been to mobilise and attack the game from the new avenues provided by digital platforms – and with impressive popularity.

The disenfranchisement of modern fans has given birth to a monster that football itself can do little to change.

The anger visible amidst the content of amateur punditry, too, highlights the growing separation between the interests of the average fan and the direction that the game is taking.

One only has to watch YouTube clips and browse the internet for a few minutes to find individuals committed to rallying against club owners and the excesses of modern, neo-liberal capitalism.

The digital age, it is true, has allowed supporters to venture into punditry, share their views in blogs and videos and engage with others.

But perhaps the most potent incentive for this has been the treatment of the modern football fan, left sidelined by the cynical business executives who really run the game.