Over the weekend we saw Jake Paul knockout Nate Robinson with a brutal KO, which has been meme'd left, right and center since the bout took place. Notably it's a bout that has been criticised by current fighters and the media, as well as fans, with some suggesting it was a joke, a farce, shameful and dangerous.
If I'm being honest however I don't really understand the outrage, at all, and put it down less to the danger aspect of the fight, and more the profile of the men competing and the amount of money they both got paid along with the profile of their bout on what turned out to be a very successful and hugely entertaining show. Genuinely the card probably wasn't worth the PPV money it cost to watch, but it was brilliantly entertaining and in 2020 that is, essentially what we all needed, especially after some of the boxing duds we've been served this year. We're looking at you DAZN!
Here comes the Money!
I'll start this by looking at how much the fighters got paid before we move on to the other issues, as this one is pretty simple and straight forward marketing issue that more seasoned professional have got to think about whilst complaining about what they get paid. It'll likely come across as harsh, though I dare say everyone will see some sense of truth in it.
The purses for the two men are rumoured to have been $600,000, though there is some discussion that they each got paid significantly more than that.
I fully get some fighters are very angry that they are paid so little in comparison to the Jake Paul's of the world. We all know, however, that boxing purses are not based on merit, talent, or skill. They are based on interest, fan intrigue, marketability, brand awareness, entertainment and ability to negotiate and what you bring to the event. Paul and Robinson ticked those boxes.
We all know that a fighter with no profile, or a lower weight fighter, or a fighter with no ability to sell themselves, or a foreign fighter in the US, will typically get lower purse than a marketable, big punching charismatic Heavyweight. Likewise an Olympic champion will generally get paid more than some newbie when they begin their career. General rules, sure, but they are generally pretty spot on and are based on a long line of simply how the sport has paid people.
A very obvious and well known example of this type of thing is in the UK where young fighters known for their ability to shift tickets get more opportunities than fighters with higher skill levels because they make the promoter money on a show by show basis, and essentially pay for their fight.
Whether we like it or not a fighter needs to generate money for the promoter to make money themselves. Paul, with over 30,000,000 followers on social media, and Robinson, with a name from his days as a professional NBA player have that. They also built their fight well, and likely did help the promotion with advertising and marketing, bringing in a younger generation of eyes to the product and getting people interested from outside of the walled garden of boxing fans. Boxing's lack of cross over stars is hurting it, and the injection of personalities like Paul and Robinson at least gets eyes on the product, some boxing desperately needs
Admittedly a lot of those eyes were likely illegally streaming the event, but there was eyes and attention on the product, that wouldn't have been there otherwise. If fighters want to bemoan the size of their purses in comparison, they need to look at what Paul has done and become a name in the media, become someone the media outside of boxing circles discusses, and generate the attention and buzz to bring over a cross over fanbase. Especially those younger fans who don't follow the sport, who aren't marketed to and haven't got an interest in boxing.
Yes that is easier said than done, but it is something that fighters wanting big pay days need to consider. Jake Paul on twitter telling his 3.7 million followers he's fighting on PPV is a huge boost to the promotion of the event. On the other hand a fighter with 56,000 followers on the same platform is going to interest a significantly smaller amount of people to buy into the event. Likewise a fighter with 32,000, which is less than 1% of Paul's followers, will struggle to move the needle. And most of their followers will be boxing fans to begin with anyway, not the cross over market needed to move the proverbial needle.
I've mentioned it before but the average age of boxing fans is increasing, and the sport needs new, younger, fans for it to continue to be relevant. That is the typical fan base for "YouTubers" and it is almost certain that they contributed to the event having the largest PPV sales in boxing this year, with a rreported figure of over 1 million buys. Yes Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr played a much bigger part, but we can't ignore the draw to younger eyes that Paul and Robinson had.
For fighters unhappy about the size of the purses that Paul and Robibson got I understand it might feel unfair, especially at someone coming into your field and getting more. The sad truth however, is that they bring more to event in term of crossover appeal, money, fans, and sponsorship than almost any current fighter.
We all know that a fighter doesn't get paid based on their skill and ability in the ring. If that was the case someone like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford would be paid far, far more than Heavyweight counterparts. Instead they get paid on what the promoters feels they are worth and what the promoter feels they add in value, be it sales, profile or whatever, to an event. This is why Ryan Garcia is on the verge of becoming a huge draw in boxing, and why Adrien Broner, love him or hate, was being paid well in excess of what his skills deserved.
Interestingly a few years ago a fighter got paid less than 1% of what Paul and Robinson reportedly made, in what was a world title bout. Since then they've seen their purses, profile and bouts rise astronomically. The fighter in question is Jerwin Ancajas, who got paid $3,700, before fees, for his IBF Super Flyweight title win over McJoe Arroyo. Since then he has seen his purses sky rocket to over $100,000. It's a tiny purse compared to some of the big names, but he took the gamble and made it pay off. Something a number fighters have shown themselves unwilling to do.
Making the Sport a Joke
The sport of boxing is, in many ways, a joke. It has been for a very, very long time, and there is little reason to pretend this has made it a joke, or that anything Paul is involved in has made it a joke. Boxing is one of the sports where the level of entry is incredibly low, and that's right across the sport. Boxers and media might tell you that you "don't play boxing" and whilst that's true, there is no real entry barrier to it other than being physically fit enough to pass a medical and being willing to get into the ring.
We need to take a step back and begin by admitting that "gimmick fights", which is essentially what Paul Vs Robinson was, aren't a new thing.
Back in the the 1950's and 1960's we had the legendary Archie Moore fight a number of professional wrestlers and the sport has carried on well since then. In the 1970's we had the infamous Muhammad Ali Vs Antonio Inoki farce, which was remarkably dull but still a massive attention grabbing event. In Australia we often see Rugby players get into the ring, and have some genuinely mixed success with some having genuine notable careers. In the UK Freddie Flintoff fought a bout and in the last few years Japan has seen a famous comedian and singer fight in the professional ranks, not against each other, and a Japanese model even went on to fight for a world title. We've also had Mickey Rourke restarting his boxing career at one point. We've had American Footballers and Basketball players try their hand at the sport, and even a top MMA fighter, Conor McGregor got involved.
Another notably, but often forgotten example, occurred in 2000 when David Matthews, a journalist, turn his hand at the sport, losing in a 6 round decision to a journeyman in the UK.
If it's Jake Paul and Nate Robinson that has made the sport a joke in your eyes you perhaps are looking less at the sport, and more the profile of the two men in the bout. This wasn't any worse than numerous other examples. Credit however goes to Paul, more than Robinson, for not just having the 1 and out bout, like Flintoff and many others but sticking with the sport.
The entry for boxing is also one of the best things about it. There are so few barriers for someone to pick up the gloves and take part. Many choose to only fight once, realise it's fucking hard and painful, and walk about from the sport. They get a new found respect for the sport, the fighters, their training and what a boxer needs to go through. Few people will come back for a second time when they end up with a broken nose, a cracked rib or a black eye. Lets be honest we won't be seeing Nate Robinson back in the ring after this weekend.
For those wanting to say having gimmick bouts makes boxing a joke, you'll find a lot of those involved get a very serious dose of reality and a new understanding of how hard the sport is. Further legitimising the sport in their eyes.
The fact anyone can compete in boxing, from the world class elite level fighters to the absolute nobody is a great asset of the sport, not a detriment of it. It's a sport that has a welcoming door, but a door that can kick you in the backside if you disrespect it. It's also a sport that allows those without amateur experience to learn it, and climb through it's many ladders to the top. We have certain countries that essentially have novice and rookie focused competitions, such as Battle Royal in Korea, Rookie of the Year in Japan and the C Class tournaments, also in Japan. The entry level to competition allows anyone to taste leather and be involved. We shouldn't be complaining about having a sport that is welcoming to participants.
Those entry level requirements of "passing medical and making weight" can also give us some truly amazing novice bouts, such as the Ieyasu Yashiro vs Ricardo Arredondo Jr bout we'll include at the bottom of this article.
The sport also allows these novices to face off against each other in a some what safe environment. This isn't a world champion beating up some hapless, defenseless fighter, but two limited fighters stepping in there against each other.
If we increased the entry level of the sport to only those who have had amateur success at National or International level the sport would be a million times worse than it is today. We wouldn't have had great success stories like Manny Pacquiao battling their way out of extreme poverty and there wouldn't be enough fighters in the sport to support it's self.
It was really dangerous!
We all understand that one of the biggest and most serious dangers in the sport is brain trauma.
The worst brain trauma, and even deaths in the sport, typically happen in the later stages of fights from repeated concussions. The shorter novice bouts can cause injury, sure, but the risk is significantly reduced to what what is it in 10 and 12 rounds, where accumulated damage begins to play a major factor.
Jake Paul Vs Nate Robinson being scheduled for 6 rounds really did limit that risk. It also helps when one of the fighters has no idea how to defend themselves, meaning that whilst they did get KO'd, quite brutally, they didn't take a prolonged beating. They got caught clean and got put to sleep. A quick knockout is typically better for the health.
One other thing in regards to the safety is that we genuinely don't imagine either Paul or Robinson actually having the heart to stay in there under intense fire. The best fighters have a fighter's heart and stick in their through thick and thin, easy and hard. They grit it out when tagged. When you take up the sport as a bit of fun, rather than with aspirations of being a champion, and don't need money from boxing it's a lot harder to dig to the depths of a true fighter. That alone makes this type of fight much less dangerous, at least if the referee is a capable one.
What is a lot more dangerous than this are the poor health protocols we see in some places, and the complete and utter mismatches we see on a regular basis. The mismatches we accept as just a typical part of the sport, and as part of the development process for top amateurs.
The day before Paul and Robinson battled we had an incident in Florida where Sahret Delgado was visible struggling for air after his bout was stopped against Mahammadrasul Majidov. There was no Oxygen brought to the ring to help Delgado, the medical assistance was left to Majidov and Delgado's corner when they really needed medical assistance in the ring.
Likewise it's only a few years since Magomed Abdusalamov had a life altering bout with Mike Perez, where he was essentially told he was fine and to get a taxi to hospital. He didn't need a taxi, he needed medical assistance, and an ambulance after an incredibly tough, punishing 10 round bout. He needed help and didn't get it. He was essentially let down by boxing.
It's also only a few years ago that Frida Wallberg essentially had her life saved by Lucia Rijker, the trainer of her opponent, who called for a doctor after Wallberg displayed worrying symptoms of a brain issue.
These are just cases from hundreds that the sport has had. Sadly the sport is dangerous. The sport is a life changing one. It takes the best part of some of it's competitors.
The sport is dangerous, and it's even more dangerous when basic health and safety protocols aren't in place for every fight. The sport will take lives, it's the sad and unavoidable reality of what happens when two people repeatedly hit each other in the head. The risks of deaths in the sport can, however, be reduced by general safety standards in the sport increase.
At one point deaths in Japan there was 5 deaths in a single year, and there were deaths pretty regularly in the sport. Since then health and safety in the country has improved massively in the country, fighters are given suspensions after being knocked out, and given longer and given lengthier suspensions when stopped 3 times in a row, and need to pass medical checks from the commission. There is a list of international fighters who aren't allowed to compete due to a lack of ability and it's not as easy to get a license as it is in some areas of the world.
Likewise the UK need ambulances on site for fights to take place, something we saw actually play a role recently when both on-site ambulances had to take fighters to hospital causing a hold up in an event. We have seen these things reduce deaths in the sport, and they need to be universally around the sport.
As well as medical standards needing to be improved in the sport corners also need to be more willing to say "no more". The sport is dangerous by it's self, but there is nothing more dangerous than a corner too brave to say "it's time to stop". The great Eddie Futch famously stopped Joe Frazier from going out against Muhammad Ali in one of the biggest bouts in history, and if Eddie Futch can stop Joe Frazier, any corner can do the same.
Likewise there needs to be better education of fighters. We've had tragedies where fighters have underlying issues they've hidden and concealed, which have resulted in tragedy. Fighters need to be aware of the full effects of the sport, what having constant headaches may mean, and actually reach out for help. They need understanding teams who know what to do, and we dare say brain scans need to be a lot, lot more regular than they are.
The brain is a wonderful thing, and boxing damages it. Having novices face off however, will be less dangerous than having top level professionals drain their body down for a weight limit, then going into the ring for a long, punishing, tough, battle with another top professional.
But Paul won't beat any "proper" professionals
I want to finish on this one, because this is the most amusing point I've heard, and one of the most confusing.
As mentioned the entry to professional boxing is low. It's not far off being an open door. What makes someone a "proper" professional is a weird argument. We would assume someone who fights regularly, right?
With Jake Paul being a Cruiserweight he's currently in a division with more than 1,200 professional fighters. These including people like Petr Pirko-Pulo (0-17), Rudolf Murko (3-95-2, 3), Ladislav Slezak (5-34-2), Noe Gonzalez Cervantes (0-21), Thitiwut Ungsuworapluk (0-7) and Alvaro Vazquez Guerrero (1-19). People who Paul would beat, and likely stop. Would that prove anything? No. But he would have beaten a "proper" professional.
In fact we've former 2-weight world champion Sirimongkol Singwancha (97-4, 62)* fight at Light Heavyweight in recent years and there's no reason he couldn't pack on a few extra pounds to face Paul, and we'd not be surprised if Paul stopped the 43 year old blown up former Bantamweight, who looked awful last time he was in the ring,
Another argument is that he wouldn't beat anyone in the top 100 or top 200, though I would admit there maybe some top 200 guys who could beat. We don't typically expect a 2-0 (2) guy to beat top 100 guys. There are some fighters who can, but your typical fighters is never expected to do that. They are expected to get some experience and be moved on to progressively better competition.
Top amateurs are expected to be moved quicker sure, but someone without a strong amateur background isn't and stating Paul wouldn't beat a top 100 fighter is like stating the grass is green. He and those around him will be aware of his limitations, his lack of experience, his poor technical ability, and the work he needs to do. They aren't stupid. They'll pick and choose their fights careful, as any team should. To expect a rank novice to be moved quickly is just bizarre.
Boxing has levels, we all know that. And the "YouTubers" who turn to boxing are shrewd business people. They, like most prospects, won't take bouts with opponents expected to test them. That is no different, at all, to what we see from prospects under major promoters like Matchroom, Top Rank, Golden Boy and Queensbury. To expect otherwise, just because of Paul's profile is just bizarre. He and his team will know there's a chance to cash in big money for easy fights, just off his profile, and you better believe they know they can do that without taking risks, letting him build his name, and leave the sport when he wants. He doesn't need boxing and he doesn't need to get punched in the face. He knows that, we know that. Lets not pretend he's in it to be a world champion, and lets instead accept he's a novice who is raising the profile of the sport.
As promised a brilliant all novice bout:
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces