Who’s Going To Call The Bluff?

This weekend saw two huge boxing fights, but it was a third boxing bout that stole the show: Jake Paul vs Anderson Silva. Neither of them is a professional boxer, yet they are reported to have brought the largest audience. Influencer boxing has been discussed before, but nobody is asking the question: who will call the bluff?

We have covered influencer boxing on this site, mainly because it is drawing the largest audiences to one of the most significant martial arts. The influencers, I have maintained, are deserving of a chance. Many of them are training hard and trying to prove a point in the ring. Everyone who steps into the ring deserves respect, no question about that. Nevertheless, there seems to be an influencer ringleader who is drawing more attention than all others combined: Jake Paul. 

I hesitate to give him so much space, but it isn’t Paul as a person that interests me. By all appearances, he takes his training seriously and he has a business mindset of the highest degree. What confounds me is that he has seemingly got a hold of the entire boxing world without anybody questioning how he rose to such prominence. More eyes on the sport in all honour, but at what cost? An entire industry has emerged around Paul and the like, which gives fans what they want, but not boxing fans the sport they deserve. 

Speaking to fellow boxing fans and writers there seems to be a hushed atmosphere. I ask them “is this really boxing?” And the response comes with a look over the shoulder and a shake of the head. Others are more brazen and say it’s not boxing, but who cares – it draws a crowd. Some reporters are rightly calling out influencer boxing, but the articles seem to be met by deaf ears. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s a change – and perhaps it was inevitable. The sport has placed itself in a crisis, and a crisis welcomes a solution. Influences might be said to be that solution. 

I’m yet to be convinced. Paul’s wins against athletes of the calibre of Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and now Anderson Silva, are highly impressive if it is genuine. However, “if” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that previous sentence. Sure, neither of them is a professional boxer, and neither of them is at the prime of their career. It is possible that Paul is as good as he claims, but suppose for a moment that he isn’t. Athletes at the end of their career seeking a secure payday and another spot in the spotlight. Stranger things have happened. 

It’s not only the competition that at least appears odd. Suspicion as to whether the fight was ”fixed” or not was the first thing I saw circulating on social media following the fight. But there is more. Paul has been sued by Eddie Hearn, whom he recently arranged a huge event with: Taylor vs Serrano. Now they are at loggerheads suing each other for money, and for what? For claiming to have staged fights. You can’t make it up. But if they are in on it it’s beautiful PR. I don’t blame them, fans get to see fights, and the promoters and fighters get a decedent salary. 

So perhaps the sceptics are wrong. But it’s in the nature of scepticism to keep asking questions obstinately until there remains no shred of doubt about the object of scepticism. Here are some questions that need to be answered: can Jake Paul hold his own against a real, professional, and perhaps even ranked, boxer? If he is as good as he says he is, let us put the theory to the test. Moreover, what is the nature of his business dealings with Eddie Hearn and other promoters? There is a side of boxing that runs on negotiation and business, where a lot of the deals remain undisclosed. Perhaps there is no bluff to be called, but until we know for sure, some of us have to remain at the table and call their cards to see what hand they’re ready to play next. 

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