Hey what do you know
It is the penultimate Tuesday in boxing reality in 2021.
Yes, this reality.
The one that was overtaken by the likes of Jake Paul.
Love it or loathe it, the sassy Ohioan and his would-be older brother have become the straws that stir the in-ring drink.
Do not you think? Still don’t want to believe it?
Ask yourself a simple question.
Of all the high profile boxing shows this year, which one got the most attention?
And by buzz, we don’t just mean PPV purchases – we also mean the kind of high profile product placement that delivers live commentary from a distance on ESPN while also creating conversation pieces in the office work kitchen.
Here’s a hint, it’s not someone whose name is on the ring leaderboard.
And if that doesn’t mean anything to you, it should.
Right or wrong, fair or unfair, wise or stupid, people like this stuff. You are fascinated by it. You will be entertained by it. They want to hear more about it. And they’re willing to pay to see it again.
Whether Jake Paul can work with the gloves on or Logan can jump over a rope is irrelevant to her.
They just want to watch.
The younger man’s first loss to Tyron Woodley five months ago apparently made roughly half a million purchases, and Showtime’s clip of his Saturday night vaporizing the ex-UFC champion already has over 8 million views as I type this on an icy Tennessee Tomorrow less than 36 hours later.
That’s the response that used to be routinely received from guys named Mayweather and Tyson.
That said, if you take an influencer’s existing cache and merge it with a world-class PR contraption – like the Showtime Sports conglomerate and its myriad of branded tentacles – this is a match made in the sky of short attention span millennials.
It was they who want “real” fighters, at least when it comes to bank balances.
Or at least a desire to hang out with them long enough to get their own names out there.
Amanda Serrano, Miriam Gutierrez, Liam Paro and Yomar Alamo were prime examples over the weekend.
All are more accomplished fighters than Jake Paul.
But neither was the star of the show, nor was it why most of the fans came to downtown Tampa.
The venue they fought at on Saturday night – for those keeping an eye on things like this – collectively called the Amalie Arena – pulsed with an energy Paul created.
A 10-foot robot that gives punches. Bratty TikTok personalities draw the heat when stepping out of the backstage area. Continuous singing on any subject that could be crammed into four melodic syllables.
Not to forget, of course, the necessary fight in the stands.
And unlike the crowds you would normally see at a battle site, this one was young.
Or at least much younger than BoxingScene hero Jake Donovan (who I was sitting next to) and me.
Which, depending on your point of view, can mean that society is doomed or that any battle group is a good battle group, especially if all 18,000 of them – outside of the Tampa Bay Lightning players camped in front of the press table, so – paid at least $ 40 to convert getting through the door and at least as much more to get the problem kid t-shirts they bought on arrival.
After all, Team Paul doesn’t sell Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Hearns, or Mayweather-Pacquiao.
You’re selling a spectacle. A circus. A break from reality.
Or a farce if you prefer.
But they did their homework. You know your audience. And they delivered exactly what they were looking for.
Of course, it leaves the real boxing fan behind in two ways.
Either they hit their chests and insist that no one really pays attention to this nonsense – you know, like they did so many years ago at the UFC – or they shy away from the specter of their sport, that of resentment matches between being basically overrun by robbed social media celebrities.
The truth is, it’s probably somewhere closer in the middle.
The market for this stuff is hot right now. And Saturday didn’t hurt.
Neither of the two was a title contender, but it was balanced junk with a viral ending that, if it had happened in a “real” boxing match, would instantly vote for KO of the year.
So if you wanted to see Jake Paul in competitive danger, you did it.
But if you wanted to see him lose, you didn’t.
Paul got his toughest in-ring tests from an aging Woodley, but gutted a decision in the first and demonstrated legitimate tech and pop in the second.
“Jake Paul just put Woodley in the wood and made it as stiff as a board,” yelled Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo from the ring. “What a punch. What a knockout.”
Then he has a laundry list of wannabe slides for the next one.
And the longer it remains successful, the longer the dynamic will last.
But it won’t last forever. Nothing ever is.
He’ll win a few more. He’ll lose a few at some point. People will enjoy it, then get bored and start sniffing around for the next ridiculous distraction.
Gymnastics on skates. Full contact bowling. Live ammunition obstacle course.
Ultimately, when it comes to boxing, the need for authenticity will prevail.
But in the meantime, buckle up. We are facing an unconventional 2022.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title fight schedule:
No title fights planned.
This week’s trash title fight schedule:
WBA “World” minimum title – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Victorio Saludar (Champion / No. 5 IWBR) vs. Erick Rosa (No. 1 WBA / Unranked IWBR)
Why it’s rubbish: OK, we admit it. Rosa could be one of those guys. He could be a truly world class operator after four fights and soon be earning title recognition. But if you like him and you want to belt him on, make him a valid one. The only £ 105 WBA title worth winning isn’t Saludar’s.
Last week’s picks: 3-1 (WIN: Niyomtrong, Inoue, Beterbiev; LOSS: Mendez)
2021 chooses record: 52-17 (75.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,208-392 (75.5 percent)
NOTICE: Only fights in which the full titleholder of a sanctioning authority is involved are shown in the preview – no interim, diamond, silver etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if there is no “super champion” in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has been reporting on professional boxing since 1995 and has been writing a weekly column for the boxing scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.