Vlogger sloggers

05 February 2018 | Lloyd Hughes

I do love a good boxing match.

While I’m no die-hard aficionado, and indeed more of a fair-weather fan than an obsessive, I do pay for the big box office fights when they come around, while watching a lot of boxing footage on YouTube.

A boxing related story caught my eye over the weekend which stood out for an unusual reason as it involved two popular vloggers duking it out in front of a crowd of 8,000, while it was also livestreamed over YouTube.

This in itself is an unusual setup, but added to this were astronomical viewing figures for an amateur fight.

Apparently the livestream had 1.6million viewers with an anticipated eventual reach of 20million. This is far more than many professional pay per view fights. Given it was free, that might not seem that surprising, but for a couple of amateur sloggers throwing haymakers those are undeniably huge figures. Bookies also estimated around £100,000 was bet on the fight, which is a massive amount given it was between two unknowns.

Despite being between two YouTube ‘personalities’, this was no mere publicity stunt. The two had trained over the course of several months and with good reason – boxing is a serious business.

A year or so ago I agreed to go down to my mate’s boxing gym, naively thinking we’d be doing some pad work and a bit of fitness. Turning up, when they put the kettle on and got me to mould a gum shield, I realised I’d underestimated what he had in mind.

However, having had numerous dust ups in the street during the stupidity of yoof (record: several black eyes – received and given), I thought it wouldn’t be too bad. So I gamely stepped into the ring and then got punched in the face and body repeatedly by multiple people over the course of a couple of hours.

The morning’s work included something called ‘Ring of Fire’ where during an intense four-minute period, four people took a minute each to punch my head in, while my lungs were literally burning and they were comparatively fresh. Hence the ‘fire’. This was on top of several other rounds of sparring individuals, taking the blows I’d received to the head in a single morning somewhere over the two hundred mark.

I was concussed for about a week.

Despite the exhausting drain though, there’s a curious satisfaction to getting punched in the head with a gloved fist – until you’re smacked in the jaw with a heavy overhand right and your teeth are rattled (gum shield or no), or you step forward to land a punch just as you’re on the end of one. This is when you realise, yeah this does hurt actually. Plus, once the adrenaline has died down, you find yourself aching all over.

Most boxing gyms wouldn’t have let me get near the ring until I’d had several months of training, so on reflection, this was pretty stupid. Peer pressure is a terrible thing, evidently. But while it was strangely enjoyable, I’ve not been back since (mainly because my wife was so against it!). Yet this taster, although brief, gives me much more of an appreciation for what people are setting themselves up for by stepping into a ring for real. In sparring, punches are pulled, in a fight, they’re not.

So, this was no publicity stunt. It was a genuine spectacle, with a genuine audience, with contestants giving it their all. It was also a slick and professional setup, with headline sponsors including JD Sports getting on board, suggesting brands had spotted the marketing potential on offer.

It’s also, yet again, cast a spotlight on YouTube as a medium. The fact that two YouTubers are capable of generating such an audience is a real eye opener and underlines the impact of social media influencers, but there’s also the fact YouTube is capable of hosting and enabling such a large audience for a live event. Could it be a serious platform for pro fights?

The media landscape is ever evolving. In a recent blog, I said it was a risky business to alienate social ‘influencers’ long term given the fact they’re becoming increasingly influential. This is yet another example of how media is changing and brands need to be agile enough going forward to adapt accordingly if they want to be in a position to take advantage.