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Saunders threatened a boycott of Saturday’s super middleweight unification bout at AT&T Stadium over the size of the ring they will fight in. His camp chided Alvarez early and often, whether it was in the hotel lobby or at Tuesday’s faceoff, when Saunders stepped toward Alvarez while wearing a blue Versace robe with gold trim.
But those shenanigans pale in comparison to the circus surrounding the current era of YouTuber boxing. Recently, the sport’s most visible cards have been headlined by the likes of Jake and Logan Paul, the brothers who have leveraged their social media followings into pay-per-view boxing spectacles.
That’s what makes this weekend’s Alvarez-Saunders fight so important. Those mocking the sport for letting its ineptitude create a path for social influencers to run amok and overshadow the rest of the boxing world have valid points.
Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) is arguably boxing’s greatest draw. For years, the Mexico-born fighter has been one of the sport’s top superstars. On Saturday, he is fighting for the third time in the past six months.
And yet, even he’s being overshadowed. The sport’s headlines have been dominated by the Paul brothers; Jake Paul is coming off a knockout win over retired MMA fighter Ben Askren, an event that included the likes of Justin Bieber and SNL cast member Pete Davidson.
It’s a trend that Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn helped accelerate when he promoted a bout between Logan Paul and fellow YouTuber KSI in 2019.
“When I was doing the press conferences, part of me was dying a little bit inside,” Hearn said.
But the numbers, he said, showed why it was worth the headache. And it was an opportunity to introduce younger fans to the sport.
Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs), who holds the WBO belt, was on the undercard of Logan Paul-KSI. So was Devin Haney, the current WBC lightweight champion.
Fights between YouTubers and non-boxers have sparked similar events between retired boxers, or hybrids of the two ideas, including an upcoming exhibition pitting Logan Paul against the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr.