Frank Smith says influencer bouts vital for attracting younger audience.
- First white collar amateur event in 2018 garnered 1.3 million global PPVs
- Fighter narrative key to selling sport to new generation, says Smith
White collar amateur boxing events such as last November’s rematch between YouTube influencers KSI and Logan Paul are essential for the future growth of the sport, according to Matchroom Boxing’s chief executive Frank Smith.
Speaking on the opening day of the SportsPro Live 2020 virtual summit, Smith noted that the bout in Los Angeles, which was available to live stream via YouTube on a pay-per-view (PPV) basis, received widespread criticism from traditional boxing supporters, but added that such fights are crucial if the sport is to appeal to a wider audience.
With an eye on attracting younger demographics, the Englishman insisted that Matchroom, which promotes several top boxers including British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, will look to stage similar influencer clashes in future.
“[The KSI v Logan Paul rematch] was really about taking two guys who are content creators and huge within what they do with huge followings on YouTube,” Smith said. “We got a lot of stick from the traditional boxing fan, but we’ve seen that we need to bring a new audience into boxing.
“Ultimately, if we can keep ten to 20 per cent of that new, younger audience that KSI and Logan Paul have brought in, that is essentially good for boxing and the growth of the sport.
“YouTube has been a huge part of that and I think you can see, with everything that we’re doing, that’s the direction that we’re pushing for. Essentially, if you lose the fanbase or it grows old, the sport grows old with it.
“We need to keep changing, developing and learning about the market.”
Turning to recent global events, including the resumption of live boxing behind closed doors, Smith said that unprecedented access to talent during Matchroom Boxing’s recent Fight Camp, held at the Matchroom’s UK-based headquarters in Essex, has also helped them in “selling the fighters” to a new generation of fans.
“We had an eight, ten-week period to build up to the fight camp, once we announced it,” Smith continued. “Our key then was to, following all guidelines, to visit all the fighters and their camps and start telling the stories of those individual fights.
“Being in the ‘bubble’ of the hotel, in terms of our business of promoting, it was perfect because, usually, you have a weigh-in or press conference and they will go off and you won’t see them again.
“This was all within one confined space where we could follow them, tell their story … and get to know them. Essentially, that’s what people want. They want to see the characters and, in boxing, we’re lucky because there are so many different characters – be that the fights, the trainers or managers.”