Boxing purists were outraged when they had to tune into cards featuring the likes of KSI or Jake and Logan Paul to watch world champions compete on major American events
There is often a dispute about how much interest YouTube stars bring to the sport of boxing when they compete in bouts with other social media personalities.
KSI’s first two bouts with Joe Weller and Logan Paul were all-influencer white-collar affairs, but the waters began to get muddied when he and Paul turned professional for their rematch in Los Angeles. Eddie Hearn promoted the massive event, and pushed world champions Devin Haney and Billy Joe Saunders on to a card which also featured YouTuber Josh Brueckner.
Ultimately, Logan’s brother Jake Paul and AnEsonGib would follow them into the professional ranks, fighting on the undercard of Demetrius Andrade vs. Luke Keeler in Miami. And Jake has since become a major pay-per-view attraction, generating millions for his fight with Nate Robinson, Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley.
Boxing purists often tear their hair out having to watch YouTubers share the card with, often headlining over, world champions while they compete at novice level. But it appears to be a move that will keep coming as even more social media stars turn professional.
Here’s a list of some of the best examples of world champions fighting on YouTubers’ undercards…
Undisputed lightweight champion Haney won all the belts by defeating George Kambosos Jr in Melbourne last weekend. But did you know his first full world title fight happened on the undercard of KSI vs Logan Paul?
After Vasily Lomachenko was elevated to franchise champion in 2019, Haney’s interim WBC belt became official without him having ever fought for the full belt. This led to many fans declaring his belt the “email championship”.
Haney defended his belt against Alfredo Santiago on that card, where he struggled to get going over the 12 rounds and ended up taking a relatively comfortable decision. However, Haney would go on to keep winning and eventually get all the belts at 135lb.
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Billy Joe Saunders
Saunders made his Stateside debut against Marcelo Esteban Coceres in his first world title defense on the same card as Haney and KSI vs Logan Paul. He had serious issues getting into America, and barely arrived in time for the fight.
Flying 11 hours from the UK into California, where there is an eight-hour time difference, cost Saunders in a major way as he lost a number of early rounds, and might have been heading towards an all-time upset. But he pulled it out of the bag and stopped Coceres to defend his belt and push forward.
He parlayed that win, as well as a keep-busy pandemic bout with Martin Murray, into a record-breaking Texas showdown with Canelo Alvarez in 2021. 73,126 fans packed into the AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the bout, which Alvarez ultimately won on his path to undisputed.
Jake Paul’s close friend and multiple-weight world champion Serrano is one of the biggest stars in the sport after her barn-burner of a fight with Katie Taylor in April. But prior to that star-making turn, she competed on three cards under Paul as she built her worth for a mega-money bout with Taylor.
She and Paul first met when they shared an undercard at the Andrade vs. Keeler fight, with Paul taking co-feature billing while Serrano was close to the opening bout of the night. She fought a couple of times during the coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico, before joining up with the YouTuber ahead of his series of fights with Tyron Woodley last year.
She co-headlined at the Rocketmortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland for Paul’s first meeting with Woodley, and then again in Tampa she was a featured attraction. Paul, along with his her manager Nakisa Bidarian and her brother-in-law Jordan Moldonado will take care of her career going forward.
Two-weight world champion Jack has twice jerked the curtain for a Paul brother, although only once were they the headliner. He’s held belts at super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, but the Swede has since twice had to share a card with YouTubers.
Mike Tyson made his boxing comeback in November 2020 against Roy Jones Jr at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, with Jake Paul vs. Nate Robinson in the co-main event. Jack faced Blake McKernan on the undercard, winning a brutal decision against the tough undefeated American.
Then last June he appeared as the co-feature for Logan Paul’s exhibition bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Jack was supposed to get a shot at redemption for his controversial loss to Jean Pascal, but he popped for a banned substance and the Swede instead knocked out Dervin Hill within a few rounds.
Tyson Fury once called Steve Cunningham the toughest opponent he ever faced, and the former cruiserweight champion was a big attraction when he made his boxing comeback last year. He was set to face fellow ex-champion Antonio Tarver on the undercard of the younger Paul’s fight with ex-Bellator champion Ben Askren, but the fight was canceled due to Tarver not getting licensed.
Instead, he took on former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in his boxing debut, and found it difficult to get rid of the MMA legend. Cunningham ended up winning a comfortable six-round decision, and hasn’t fought since.
The bout was infamous for Oscar De La Hoya’s wacky commentary, among other issues with broadcaster Triller Fight Club that distracted from the action. From dropping Tyson Fury to opening the show for Jake Paul, Cunningham has seen it all in the modern boxing world.