The highly anticipated upcoming bout between Jake Paul (YouTube star and social media personality) and Ben Askren (former Bellator and ONE Welterweight champion) sees the pair facing off in a boxing ring on the 17 April 2021. This fight is a major event within fan bases of both combat sports and social media platforms. Although it is surrounded in hype, many are of the opposite standpoint and believe it is making a mockery of a sport that was built on pride, honour, and principles. As the world is trying to evolve to be more open and accepting, should our forms of entertainment have metaphorical barriers, preventing superstars in one avenue of sports or media crossing over?
To start, I want to begin with Jake Paul. Jake Paul can be considered like Marmite, you either love him or hate him. He has seen astronomical success on YouTube from 2013 up to present. He has made a name for himself with comedy sketches, pranks, teenage wildness, controversy and even a role on a Disney television show. Jake Paul and his brother Logan Paul, were very skilled wrestlers in highschool, and have always been keen sportsmen. From his current credentials, you wouldn’t expect him to have two previous boxing wins under his belt, but alas he does. Paul has been in the public eye for many different reasons, and all may not be the most flattering for someone who is trying to keep a large following on a platform populated by many under the age of 18. Deeming himself as a near “villain” of YouTube. This has aided his almost sharp turn to his boxing career making him marketable as the bad guy or the person who everyone wants to fight out of sheer frustration, giving him an abundance of credible opponents to choose from. After defeating popular YouTube stars Deji Olatunji and Ali Loui Al-Fakhri, commonly known as AnEsonGib, Paul has gone on to extend a challenge to Ben Askren.
“Askren is a skilled grappler, known for his tough chin, laid back persona and his ability to jest and humiliate opponents with a microphone.”
Ben Askren however, has been in the fight game and that is how he has made himself known in the public eye. Askren competed in wrestling in the Olympics and fighting promotions such as Bellator, ONE Championship and the UFC, having been a champion in two of these. Askren is a skilled grappler, known for his tough chin, laid back persona and his ability to jest and humiliate opponents with a microphone. Askren has gone on record himself to state that his striking is not the best, or anywhere near his grappling abilities. So why would he agree on a primarily striking fight, against someone who has been training in that particular skill? Money. Cold hard cash, and the satisfaction at having potential to cause an upset and make himself the man who was first able to take down Jake Paul.
With the back stories aside, it is interesting to see how online influence can allow people who are established in one outlet of media, to switch, emigrate to or even integrate new methods of income and notoriety that is drastically different to their original. In this case, Jake Paul switched from online video creation and social media which is quite a modern and new phenomenon going to a combat sport that was established centuries ago. Modern boxing is a widely beloved sport. It is easily comparable to being a rogue personality on video streaming platforms. The most popular boxers, such as Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and even looking back to Floyd Mayweather or Muhammad Ali, all have their own signature personality. Tyson Fury being titled as the “Gypsy King”, Muhammad Ali renkowned as “The People’s Champ” and so on. They all have something they can market themselves with easily. In a similar vein to social media personalities. Jake Paul, a so-called “villain” on the internet, has already established himself with a persona and a marketing ploy. All he needs to do is to get a professional boxing license and some skills to match, which he has. Making this new potential career path completely viable for the Paul brother.
“From the press conference, Paul seems bold, brash and cocky.”
Askren on the other hand, from his track record has fought under many promotions and competitions and has competed in different combat sports. Askren has the combat skills on his CV, but it is unsure if he has the personality to be marketable enough for these overly hyped contests and shows. From the press conference, Paul seems bold, brash and cocky. Askren however, sits in his jeans, t-shirt and flip flops as if he is in his front lounge with his feet up, very nonchalant. However, when it comes to the mental warfare on display, it is clear Askren knows what he is doing, progressively getting deeper and deeper into Paul’s head, as he has had to attempt to do so to over 20 opponents. Ben has also gone on to do many different podcasts and internet show interviews that have been posted all over YouTube and other streaming platforms. Becoming more comfortable with online interactions and how the internet works and how to grow his name and his popularity online, only aids Askren to gain more confidence and more hype around him as a personality, especially if he defeats Jake Paul.
To conclude, this bout is a pinnacle example of influencers and stars from one form of media or entertainment, seamlessly transitioning to other avenues, along with integrating skills and tricks from the new experiences that come with them. Askren already possesses many years of training in wrestling, basic level striking, and discipline. All this, along with mental toughness, and ability to wear his opponent down before even lacing up the gloves, makes him a formidable individual. He has now gained more marketability and hype, allowing him to establish a name for himself and get a deeper understanding of a plethora of potential opponents or collaborators for the future. Gaining knowledge, and friendship with superstars from a wider variety will only benefit his pocket. Jake Paul, who seems to be an unpredictable and undisciplined character, has learned how to focus, acquire skills and stick to regimens of high difficulty. He has learned to stick to strict routine and habits. All in all, regardless of debates of whether or not these bouts are good or bad for the sport of boxing, it has to be said, more people will be watching boxing, and newer viewers may stick and become fans of further promotions and/or divisions and fighters. More hype, means more eyes, more eyes means more money and money is everything when it comes to entertainment.