“You don’t play boxing. You really don’t. You play golf, you play tennis but you don’t play boxing” – Sugar Ray Leonard
Boxing is often referred to as the “Sweet Science”. A literal chess match where humans are the pieces. It requires the ability to assess opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, formulate a plan, and execute accordingly. While that description does dress things up a bit, the truth is easier to explain. The goal of boxing is to inflict as much damage as humanly possible on your opponent in order to win a fight. Boxers put their health and well-being on the line each and every time they step into the ring. Boxing at times can literally be a matter of life and death. With that understanding, you would think many of these celebrities (I use that term loosely) would err on the side of caution and not risk it.
You would be wrong.
Celebrities entering the world of boxing is not a new thing. Remember Fox Celebrity Boxing? For your sake I hope you do not. Fox complied a roster of names such as Todd Bridges, Rob Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice for you kids), Tonya Harding, and Jose Canseco just to name a few. The fights were horrible to say the least, but they drew big ratings. The ratings were so good in fact that Fox ordered a second season, but thankfully we were spared a third. A few things to note however; 1.) Those were celebrities fighting each other and never claiming to be boxers. 2.) The fights were contested under exhibition rules; i.e. fighting with headgear, and heavier gloves as to try and minimize any real damage done.
Fast forward to August 25, 2018 and the game changed. The fight between YouTubers KSI & Logan Paul sold out the Manchester Arena to the tune of 21,000 tickets sold. It was billed as “The Biggest Amateur Fight Ever”. The live gate was a success as it generated 3.5 million in revenue. The decision by the judges that night saw KSI take home the victory by a close split decision. Given the success of the fight, and the close scoring a rematch would have to happen, and it did. The rematch was set for November 9, 2019 with both fighters making their professional debuts.
Wait…. What? Professional debut. You read that right. Somehow after 2 fights, two YouTubers were able to call themselves professionals. On that same card actual professionals, Devin Haney defended is WBC title, and Billy Joe Saunders defended his WBO title. That’s right, actual professionals, with actual titles from actual boxing sanctioning bodies, fought on the undercard for 2 guys with 2 fights. Combined. Just a couple months later, Paul’s younger brother Jake made his “professional” debut against fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib. He would come back the following year on the undercard of the Roy Jones vs. Mike Tyson exhibition fight in November 2020. Was that fight against another professional fighter? Of course it was not. It was against retired basketball player Nate Robinson, whom he knocked out in brutal fashion in 2 rounds.
To be clear, I am not against these bouts because I understand what they are. These fights serve as a way to make a bunch of money by reaching an audience that would not tune into the product otherwise. The fans invested in these fights are fans of the personalities involved and not the sport itself. What other possible reason would Floyd Mayweather Jr., a champion in five different weight classes and recent IBHOF inductee, even have to entertain a fight with the Paul brothers?
The danger comes in when anyone who wants to step into the ring is allowed to call himself or herself a professional, especially when they do not compete in that fashion. They do not fight other professional fighters. How can you be a professional when you do not participate on that level? It also inspires others to think they can just jump into the boxing arena. Recently, Brandon Marshall a retired NFL Wide Reciever said that he would “outbox and outclass” former Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. The same Deontay Wilder who has 44 professional bouts with 42 wins with 41 coming by way of KO. That is a 93% knockout ratio in case you were wondering.
I would advise Jake and Nate Paul, Brandon Marshall, Nate Robinson or anyone else who may come across this to do some research before treating this so casually. Look up Gerald McClellan, Super Middleweight Champion who after losing a fight in 1995 was comatose for 2 weeks. He is now blind, hearing impaired, and needs the use of a wheelchair to get around. Maybe read about Patrick Day, Tim Hague, Roman Simakov, Kim Duk-Koo, Benny Paret and countless others who paid the ultimate price after stepping into the ring.
You Don’t Play Boxing.