We are all losers. All of us – absolute losers. Even if you didn’t watch the Misfits Boxing card on DAZN over the weekend, you’re still a loser because you’re devoted to the sport of boxing (why else would you be reading this?). And somehow this card, full of egotistical chronically online cash-grabbers, took something from almost all of us invested in this sport, whether it was time, money, sanity or – in the case of boxing itself – respectability.
Because there is no line between actual boxing and whatever we are supposed to call events like this. Influencer boxing? Crossover boxing? Late-stage capitalism with gloves on? Once it became clear that this brand of buffoonery was sticking around for at least the next few years, those of us committed to boxing did our best to compartmentalise it as something completely separate to our sport. Even the higher-ups at DAZN, the broadcaster most invested in this, would speak in interviews about how it is “sports entertainment” rather than actual competition.
And for many of us, we can make that distinction. We know when we are looking at two highly-trained fighters trying to work each other out and we also know when we’re being subjected to two complete novices trying to swat flies off of each other.
But there is a generation of people – aged from about 10 to 18 – who cannot recognise that. This generation is who the likes of Misfits, KSI and the Paul brothers target their content at, and that includes these events. In the same way KSI and Logan Paul tell their adoring fans that the Prime energy drink they created together is healthy and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, they also convince them that whenever they step through the ropes, it’s real boxing. That’s the same Logan Paul currently embroiled in an alleged long-running cryptocurrency scam.
If you were to have watched DAZN’s broadcast on Saturday night with more naive eyes, it would have been so easy to get swept up in the pantomime. There were no tongue-in-cheek moments, no winks to camera to suggest anyone involved is in on the joke. No, this is real, man, and we’re all so tough.
The biggest culprits were those on commentary, led by an insufferable Todd Grisham. They gushed over literally every influencer who stepped into the ring, speaking as if they were accomplished champions and frequently commenting on how good they are as people outside of ‘boxing’. And when it came to the chief-support and main event, any minute shred of integrity lingering was torn asunder. As Paul dragged his puffed-up frame around the ring, throwing punches that would barely impact the constitution of a paper bag, the commentators spoke about how “fresh” he looked and how he “could go another 10 rounds.”
Ariel Helwani, an excellent MMA journalist, embarrassed himself as co-commentator and in-ring interviewer, treating the likes of Paul with the same reverence he offers legitimate UFC world champions. There was an attempt at some sort of technical breakdown of a fight so devoid of any meaningful action that one of its combatants actually attempted a takedown.
The worst was still to come though. KSI and Tommy Fury embraced each other more over 15 minutes than my father and I did for the 19 years of my life he was alive. And according to the commentators, this was solely Fury’s fault despite the fact KSI would bounce up and down like a pogo stick, throw one awfully telegraphed punch and then grab hold of Fury for dear life. Then, when the result was announced (Fury won), they were beside themselves with anger and confusion. It’s almost as if KSI is a founder of the company staging the show.
There will be countless people (mostly from the aforementioned younger generation) who enjoyed this show. But for this writer, it was genuinely disturbing. So much of it reeked of the stench boxing has been trying to wash itself clean of (to an extent): scantily-clad women paraded around like objects, poor sportsmanship (KSI threw a tantrum after losing, looking like a prepubescent teen who had just had their gaming console taken away by their mum), phoneys jockeying for position in front of the camera and, ultimately, conning its audience.
Before the event Tommy Fury spoke of his desire to “end YouTube boxing” by defeating KSI just as he had Jake Paul earlier this year. Obviously he hasn’t done that, but perhaps this woeful event is a sign of decay. When “sports entertainment” isn’t at all entertaining, there’s no point in it and no matter how much the likes of Misfits and DAZN dress it up, you can’t hide the fact that a fight absolutely sucks. Perhaps these events will ultimately collapse under their own weight and eventually the juice will no longer be worth the squeeze. Perhaps.
In far more significant news, more than two dozen female fighters – past and present – joined together in a statement last week calling for the option to fight 12 three-minute rounds if they choose to do so for championship fights. The charge was led by Amanda Serrano and Danila Ramos, who fight on October 27 in a championship bout that will historically be contested over 12 three-minute rounds.
Other notable names who signed the statement are Chantelle Cameron, Seniesa Estrada, Natasha Jonas, Mikaela Mayer, Franchon Crews-Dezurn, Holly Holm, Heather Hardy, Christy Martin, Ann Wolfe, Shadasia Green, Laila Ali and Ramla Ali.
In a sport without unions, it’s quite extraordinary to see solidarity among fighters like this and it is hugely encouraging. The onus is now on other stakeholders and supporters of boxing to join this call for parity among male and female boxers. Indeed it’s the WBC who remain the largest opposers to women fighting 12 three-minute rounds, with president Mauricio Sulaiman demanding to see “clear medical research clearance” to prove it is safe to do so, despite there being no credible scientific evidence to suggest it is more dangerous for women to box under the same parameters as men.
Boxing on the Box
Joshua Buatsi-Dan Azeez
Sky Sports Action
Coverage begins at 8pm
Jack Catterall-Jorge Linares
Coverage begins at 7pm
Alexis Rocha-Giovani Santillan
Coverage begins at 1am