Tommy Fury will face Jake Paul this weekend in arguably the most-watched matchup between two rookies in boxing history.
“This fight just goes to show that Jake Paul is not a professional boxer and you can’t confuse YouTube boxing with professional boxing,” said Fury, brother of WBC heavyweight champion Tyson.
Boxing has taken some unexpected and divisive turns over the past six years, starting with a fight between YouTubers Joe Weller and Theo Baker at the Brighton Arena in 2017.
Following its success, many video content creators, reality TV stars and social media influencers have turned to boxing; created a new wave of fighting fans and generated a fortune.
Boxing enthusiasts see this as a mockery of the sport; an insult to the more talented fighters who have spent years honing their craft, but are still struggling to make ends meet.
BBC Sport spoke to Fury, promoters Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn and former two-time world champion Karl Frampton to discuss what Fury has gained and lost against Paul, and Weeks whether Sunday’s fight in Riyadh could be considered a “real” boxing match or the latest installment in a celebrity boxing story.
“I see it as a form of entertainment”
Proponents of the YouTube boxing phenomenon say it brings new, younger, fresher eyes to the sport. Increasing boxing’s appeal, they argue, can only be a good thing.
“But I struggle with that because I’m probably a more old-school hardcore boxing fan and it just doesn’t suit me.
“That doesn’t mean it won’t be of interest. It’s entertainment. But I don’t even see YouTube Boxing as boxing, I just see it as a form of entertainment.”
Fury, 23, had a fight some amateur games, But most of his fame comes from his appearance on the dating show Love Island. As a professional, he won all eight of his bouts, despite his opponent’s combined record of 24-176 and 5 draws.
Paul, 26, has won all six of his professional games, but his opponents include a YouTuber, a former NBA basketball player and Former Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
So is Fury-Paul entertainment or “proper” boxing?
“Jack Paul vs. Tommy Fury, I actually deleted it from the world of boxing on YouTube,” Hearn replied.
“They’re two undefeated guys. They’re not going to go on to challenge for a world title, but they’re better than some professional boxers.
“They go to real training camps, they put in hard work. Just because they have a lot of name recognition doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to be a professional boxer.”
‘Boxing can learn from YouTubers’
To promote their upcoming fight, Paul and Fury clash in the ring Before last month’s world title light heavyweight bout between Anthony Yarde and Artur Beterbiev.
Beterbiev, one of the best players in the world, waited patiently in his locker room for a shirtless Fury to go head-to-head with Paul.
It’s an intuitive representation of how boxing has evolved in recent times, and it raises the question of whether it’s acceptable for an expensive star to wait for his title defense while two rookies hype their fight?
Warren defended the decision, saying it was a great opportunity to promote Fury to a global audience, while Frampton called it “a little cringe.”
Hearn isn’t a fan either, but he believes boxers can learn a lot from the rise of recreational boxing, especially how to build an image and engage with fans.
In an age where social media fanbases often define your level of celebrity, Paul has 63.9 million followers and subscribers across YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
“These YouTubers are very good at self-promotion,” Hearn said.
“They spend full time building their own personal platforms and interacting with fans and customers on a daily basis.
“Whether it’s boxing or YouTube, people love characters, people love personalities, people love confrontation.
“We can learn that boxers need to build their image, they need to build their platform, they need to spend time with themselves through their promotional companies.”
“Anger loses everything”
The match is the latest lucrative sporting event in Saudi Arabia.
Kingdom has spent billions Saudi Arabia has brought elite sport to its country, but critics such as rights group Amnesty International have accused Saudi Arabia of trying to erase the country’s “poor” human rights record through “sports washing”.
According to Sports Zion, Paul’s total prize money is expected to reach $8.6 million (£7.1 million), while Fury will reportedly earn $4.5 million (£3.7 million) for the fight, including a 35 percent pay-per-view sales.
But despite the career-highest payday, Fury insisted he wasn’t in it for the money.
“I’m not getting anything out of being in this fight, and I’m fully aware of that,” he added. “All I got was the clear message that Jake Paul wasn’t a professional boxer, and I’ve always said that. I didn’t get any titles or honors for it.”
For Fury, there’s more to it than boxing credibility. His brother Tyson and father John warned him he would be “disconnected” from his family if he was beaten by Paul.
“As far as being a boxer, in terms of having the name Fury, he’s going to lose everything,” Warren said.
“he stood [for] boxing world. But he has a ton of money to earn. This will benefit him for life.
“It’s like risk or reward. The reward was there before he stepped in the ring. But the risk now is whether he wants to be seen as Tyson’s brother or potential world champion Tommy Fury. )?”
The WBC ranks the champion too much?
In a move that angered many in boxing, including Frampton, the WBC governing body announced that the winner would receive heavyweight ranking with organization.
Especially with Paul’s push, this could lead to a future challenge for a world title.
In the past, Paul has boldly named boxing superstars and world champions such as Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
“When you have Jake Paul calling Canelo, it’s a bit over the line for me,” Frampton said.
“Any rookie fighter named Canelo, you laugh at them and think ‘you’re an idiot’.
“If he continues to do what he’s doing and continues on this trajectory and continues to get better, then there could be a bigger row or some sort of title fight.
“But would Jack or Tommy beat some of the top fighters in the world? Absolutely not.”
After a backlash, the WBC clarified that it would be a ranking of the top 40, not the top 15.
“The question remains in the WBC’s ruling,” Frampton added.
“There will be legitimate fighters who are 15-0, good fighters, who will never come close to the WBC rankings at this point in their careers.
“And these two rookie fighters could get a world title just because they’re in the rankings? It seems weird and unfair to me.
“But it doesn’t surprise me. Boxing is like a circus sometimes.”