What started simple, a technical breakdown of the Jake Paul vs AnEsonGib fight, blossomed into a broader look at 2010’s boxing renaissance, celebrity fights, and the future of the ancient sport.
The Chronicles of Boxing: The Promoters, The Profits and The Youtubers
Officially announced on the 23rd December 2019, Jake Paul and AnEsonGib (Ali Al Fakri) confirmed their professional boxing debuts for the 30th January 2020. Hosted at the 10,000-seater Meridian at Island Gardens Stadium, Miami, Paul vs Gib was broadcasted on subscription-based streaming services DAZN (US, Canada, Brazil and major European countries – 8 million subscribers) and Sky Sports (UK – 24 million subscribers). Although the bout involved two individuals best renowned for their internet stardom, rather than boxing ability, no financial information has been leaked online. While fight purse/split and gate/stream numbers would have confirmed the event’s success, Paul’s inclusion on the Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr. undercard (28 November 2020) evidences his box office appeal.
The Promoters and The Profits
The most likely culprit behind the information blackout is Eddie Hearn, managing director and promoter of Matchroom Sport Boxing, and the overseer of the Paul-Gib proceedings. Son of snooker, darts, pool, and tenpin bowling promoter, Barry Hearn, Eddie was thrown into the deep end of boxing promotion. Fumbling together his first show, a heavyweight headliner between David Haye and Audley Harrison, Hearn entered boxing as a result of an impromptu meeting with Harrison at a poker game. Disregarding the snooze fest that the fight was, Hearn had smashed the financial operations out of the park. Not only had Hearn managed to secure Matchroom Boxing as the exclusive provider of boxing on Sky Sports, but he had also managed to flog 223,000 PPV buys. Better yet, Hearn’s bolstered reputation led to him signing top British contenders (Darren Barker, Kell Brook) and middleweight world champion, Carl Froch. With a growing stable of quality fighters, Hearn had sparked the embers of a boxing renaissance.
Just four years after Haye-Harrison, Hearn masterminded the build-up to the hotly anticipated Carl Froch and George Groves super-middleweight world championship rematch on 31 May 2014. Shattering the previous post-WW2 British attendance record of 55,000 (Ricky Hatton vs Juan Lazcano, 2008), Froch-Groves II crammed 80,000 fans into Wembley Stadium, sold 900,000 PPVs and generated over £22 million. Froch-Groves II officially propelled British boxing back into the public sphere. Hearn had managed to force boxing back into the mainstream through the simplest of formulas.
The formula, in its most distilled form, follows:
- Recruit a roster of media-friendly and stylistically exciting fighters that appeal to a casual audience.
- Milk the potential from the scraps of the roster (e.g. heavyweight flop Audley Harrison, British middleweight Darren Barker).
- Move on to more surefire stars (e.g. Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua, middleweight GOAT Gennadiy Golovkin, and future women’s hall-of-famer Katie Taylor).
- Host regular boxing events across home soil to create a loyal domestic market.
- Start by regularly hosting event at classic, small British venues (York Hall, Wembley Arena) to win over the hardcore boxing crowd.
- Move on to the big boy stadiums (Millenium Stadium, Wembley Stadium) once the roster has name value that resonates with a casual audience.
- Make boxing easily accessible for the casual audience.
- Stream events to mainstream broadcasters (Sky Sports), while also utilising social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) and press-trained boxers to build up hype for events.
Boxing fans can thank Hearn for his vital role in dragging the sport into the twenty-first century. Competitors have since been forced to match the quality produced by Matchroom or risk falling to the wayside. Frank Warren and his Queensberry Promotions, the UK boxing kingpin throughout the 80’s-00’s (hosting ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan), speedily aligned itself with rival major broadcaster BT Sports in direct competition with the Matchroom-Sky relationship. With Matchroom and Queensberry both opting to broadcast the same number of twenty live British events a year, the fervent televising of top-quality boxing has only enhanced the reputation of the sport rather than oversaturate the market.
As of 2020, Hearn is a widely respected name within the boxing industry. A shrewd businessman, after spying the dollar signs circling KSI vs Logan Paul I, Hearn stepped in to organise the hotly anticipated rematch. Adding a much-needed level of professionalism, KSI vs Logan Paul II was a smash hit despite the lack of financial figures emerging from the event. Hearn secured the official sanctioning from CSAC (California State Athletic Commission) and held press conferences across the UK and US. Moreover, Hearn’s presence led to the Heavyweight trinity (AJ, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder) and many other professionals giving the fight their blessing. Hearn had officially elevated the state of celebrity boxing before the fight had taken place in the ring. Although later telling BoxingScene in November 2019, “The Logan Paul versus KSI is a one-off”, just one-month later, Hearn announced the next celebrity showdown – Jake Paul versus AnEsonGib.
Since we’ve announced this fight, I can’t begin to tell you how many singers, football players and YouTubers have gotten in touch wanting to get on this card… The Logan Paul versus KSI is a one-off. I’m not looking to do celebrity matches.Eddie Hearn, October 2019
For Hearn to risk his pure boxing stature by pandering to celebrity fights, fights that hardcore boxing fans vehemently oppose as circus shows, illuminates not just the potential profits, but more importantly, the future of the sport. Possessing the media know-how and logistical experience to turn these ‘circus shows’ into a lucrative reality, get comfortable seeing Eddie pictured alongside your favourite influencer.
TL;DR: For the most part, Hearn tends to keep financial decision making and figures in the shadows. As such, the Paul-Gib numbers are unavailable to find anywhere online. Without hard figures, the size of the event is most accurately comparable to Logan Paul vs KSI I. Paul-KSI I drew 1.3 million pay-per-views purchases worldwide (generating approximately £9.8 million). Holding the title as most viewed internet star in the US before the fight, Jake Paul had access to over 35 million followers (Youtube, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter). Combining Paul’s audience with the several weeks worth of pre-fight advertising through DAZN and Sky Sports, it would be foolhardy to estimate revenue below £10 million.
Returning to the playboys, both AnEsonGib and Jake Paul held typical professional training camps before their fight on 30th January 2020. Gib, who started his camp in early November, enlisted the tutelage of professional cruiserweight, Viddal Riley (4-0, 2KO). The pair had successfully worked together in the past, when Gib defeated Jay Swingler over four rounds on the Logan Paul vs KSI I undercard. Moreover, Riley had further proved his coaching worth when he guided KSI to a split decision victory over Logan Paul in their heated rematch. Fashioned on modern principles, Riley constructed a training camp that balanced strength and conditioning, technique, mechanics, and regular sparring.
Exploring the footage released by Gib’s camp highlights major red flags that would later prove fateful in Miami. In a video released just four days before the fight, there is a genuine concern amongst Gib’s coaches that he was failing to deliver shots with necessary power. Strength and conditioning coach, Leon Williams, noted that “right now we are finding that (Gib) hasn’t got enough power behind his shots”. Later in the video, Williams identifies the cause as inefficient mechanics. Basic techniques are an issue that should have been ironed out long before any training camp. Although Riley justifies working on Gib’s mechanics during camp as the same training found in professional camps, it must be noted that Gib was still essentially learning the mechanics from scratch while the pros instead rehearse or re-fine.
Moreover, Gib faced the challenge of delivering the complete boxing package in front of a raucous crowd and unimaginably large online audience. No longer hidden on the undercard, Gib was to be thrust directly under the spotlight. In contrast, Paul had already fought under intense pressure, defeating KSI’s brother, Deji, in the co-main event of the KSI vs Logan Paul 1 card. Gib was to face an intense spotlight from an industry alien to him. There was no escape for Gib as he was constantly reminded of the scale of the event with advertising, touring for the press conferences and adjusting to the hardships of camp life. The cumulative pressure will no doubt have chipped away at Gib’s mental gradually, and as a result, his physical performance on the night.
Conversely, Paul isolated himself from the media limelight and trained at Shane Mosley’s gym in the mountains of Big Bear, California. Creating time for boxing away from the distractions of a social media star, Paul was able to solely focus on honing his skills and mentally preparing for the upcoming fight. Hall of Fame boxer turned trainer, Shane Mosley, proved to be another string to Paul’s bow. Mosley’s reason for aligning with Paul may have been because his children enjoy the social media star, but there is no doubting the expertise that Mosley offered. An exceptionally successful fighter, Sugar Shane held world titles in three weight classes (lightweight, welterweight and light middleweight) and secured the scalps of many contemporary greats: Oscar De La Hoya (twice), John John Molina, and Antonio Margarito.
While it is common that a successful career as a professional boxer more often than not fails to translate into a successful coaching career, Mosley would prove himself an exception. Mosley was able to develop the already impressive jab of Paul as well as drill him on operating under the spotlights. Most crucial, Mosley’s guardianship enabled Paul access to the training facilities at Big Bear. Hidden away in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is a renowned altitude training facility where many world-class boxers have trained before (e.g. Gennady Golovkin and Tyson Fury).
The workload involved in Gib’s and Paul’s training camps were largely the same (S&C, technique, mechanics), with one exception – sparring partners. Clocking up rounds with quality professional boxers clearly displayed the difference between Gib and Paul. While the former looked ungainly inside the ring, the latter was able to fluidly move through the motions having already finetuned his skills in a competitive setting. Mosley revealed to Seconds Out Boxing that Paul had been sparring with Ukrainian super welterweight, Serhii Bohachuk (17-0, 17KO). Mosley later admitted that although “Serhii hit him with some really hard shots… He was gaining the respect of Bohachuk”. Even after considering Mosley’s words with a pinch of salt, Paul still spent considerable time learning from a similarly aged (25-year-old) unbeaten contender around the top-twenty five of the super welterweight division.
Tale Of The Tape
|Bath, England||Hometown||Ohio, USA|
Don’t blink. The most decisive part of the fight occurred before the timer had even loaded onto the screen. Within the first few seconds of the fight, Gib revealed his gameplan as he immediately raced across the canvas to control the centre of the ring and pressure Paul onto the backfoot. Riley’s gameplan was clearly designed to stop Paul from settling into a comfortable mid-range and utilising his ten-inch reach advantage. Employing unorthodox, herky-jerky movement, Gib applied forward pressure by dipping at the knees to change levels and avoid incoming straight shots. Despite successfully avoiding the initial triple jab thrown by Paul, Gib’s explosive movement burned considerable energy while also preventing effective counter shots from range.
This is not to say that Gib’s aggressive movement was a poor strategic choice. Paul’s first meaningful shot of the match, a dangerous right hook, breezed over Gib’s head as a result of his active level changing. Furthermore, having backed Paul into the corner with forward pressure, Gib was able to capitalise with a counter hook. Gib’s offensive style resembled Heavyweight GOAT, Joe Frazier. Aiming to get inside an opponent’s range by bobbing and weaving, Gib made himself a moving target that was hard to hit while also throwing off his opponent off rhythm. Two issues with using Frazier’s strategy would become apparent later in the fight, however:
- Gib is not the athletic freak that Frazier was. Constant movement drains the gas tank and takes the sting out of punches; a lack of power already being a key issue identified pre-fight.
- Gib’s one-dimensional defence (dipping low) was not compatible with his robotic footwork. After Paul read Gib’s defence and adjusted the angle of his shots to hit a crouched Gib, Gib was left rooted and unable to evade danger. Gib desperately needed another defensive layer (slipping, parrying, etc.) to cause Paul problems when countering.
Gib’s defensive frailties were exposed in the very next punch of the bout. Having just missed with his right hook, Paul made the immediate, necessary adjustments to arc his next right hook so it connected as Gib rose out of his crouched stance. Although cleanly connecting to the side of the head, Paul wasn’t able to deliver much juice to the punch. Gib’s offensive momentum had saved him, having pushed Paul’s weight onto his left leg and leaving his right leg limply extended behind him. Unable to plant his right foot, Paul was thus incapable of generating the necessary torque to powerfully throw his right hand.
It would still take Paul the full minute of the first round to become comfortable with Gib’s changing levels. Paul found difficulty in landing his ramrod jab with its usual frequency. Often sailing harmlessly over the head of Gib, Paul attempted to change strategy and meet Gib at his own level. Using a double jab, Paul initially missed the first shot as Gib ducked underneath it. Paul’s second jab, however, exhibited Paul’s ability to adjust on the fly as he dipped to meet Gib. Unfortunately for Paul, the second jab would also miss. Even if the shot had landed, Paul would have been unable to generate power from such a position as his hips were firmly set. Regardless, the boxing awareness and adjustments shown by Paul, a two-fight novice, is pleasing to see for his future potential.
Riley’s tactics were once again on show as Gib’s forward pressure aimed to break the footwork of Paul and keep his back against the ropes. Robotic footwork, to be sure, but Gib’s movement is enough to push Paul back without needing to throw shots or feint. Gib’s downfall, however, was his inability to cut off the ring effectively. Once Gib had Paul in a dangerous situation, backed in the corner of the ring, Gib wasted his opportunity by refusing to throw. Without facing any danger, Paul was able to throw a loose shot which Gib bit on and opened up his exit out of the side. In pursuit, Gib failed to move laterally and cut off Paul’s exit. Instead, Gib opted to follow Paul in a straight line and as such, lost his hard-earned pressure in a matter of seconds.
Having experienced the full extent of Gib’s defensive capabilities, Paul began to plant his feet and throw with more confidence after the first minute. Using his jab as a range-finder to meet the dipping Gib, and to hold his moving target in place, Paul followed up with a right straight that sailed through the centre of Gib’s leaky high guard. Gib was attempting to execute too much at once for a novice. While Gib continued to apply forward pressure, he was also wildly feinting, but never committing to a single shot. As a result, all Paul had to do was continue moving backwards before picking his counter shot.
The downsides of Gib’s defence is obvious when Gib is sent reeling across the ring from a basic jab. Having dipped down pre-emptively, Gib had spread his feet too far apart, leaving himself unbalanced. Moreover, Gib found himself facing Paul face-on, and left himself with little natural resistance to any force he would receive. While Gib only absorbed a tame jab, the shot alone was almost enough to knock him down on the mat for the first time.
The first knockdown of the fight highlights the levels which separate both men. At a mid-range, Paul remained calm and composed whilst Gib fruitlessly tried to find a significant shot. With no subtlety to his offence, Gib bull-rushed his way into the pocket and threw a wild right straight that was easily parried by Paul. Finding himself in no man’s land, Gib remained in his defensive crouch but failed to tuck up behind his high guard properly. In response, Paul countered with a swift right hook that broke the guard of Gib and knocked him down momentarily. While difficult to spot in the gif, Gib had his eyes closed on the point of impact. Gib’s inability to overcome his natural bracing instinct once again highlights his layman pedigree.
What may come as a bit of a shock after the criticism raised, but Gib can actually counter punch. Despite being stunned by the first knockdown, Gib refused to let up his pressure tactics and remained moving forward. When Paul threw a speculative straight right, Gib was able to catch the shot on his guard and roll with the punch to take out the sting. While Paul lingered in the pocket, Gib was then able to tag Paul with a short right hook that forced his opponent to dash away. A minor exchange in the grand scheme of things, but it serves to highlight the potential success Gib could have achieved if he persisted with Riley’s strategy. Instead, Gib attempted to cash-in on his success with a wild barrage of hooks while chasing Paul in a straight line. As Gib kept his head firmly on the centre-line, Paul was able to move backwards at an angle and open up with a left hook on Gib’s extended chin. Crisp footwork and a slick counter punch by Paul yet this shot only transpired because of the ungainly and wild advance of Gib.
After suffering two knockdowns, Gib fought the remainder of the fight devoid of confidence. Unwilling to press forward, Gib stood flat-footed and attempted to limit the damage he received. Unfortunately for Gib, Paul had finally found his range and was able to tee off with regular one-twos. After hitting Gib with a double right hook, Paul showed true killer instinct. Separating himself from Gib’s desperate clinch, Paul created the necessary space to land a powerful straight right that knocked Gib down for the third and final time. Although Gib was never fully knocked out, the referee was forced to intervene based on the pre-fight three knockdown rule being in effect.
Criticism was rife following the fight. The Independent termed the fight “pantomime (against) professional”, Forbes saw the bout as an insignificant “breadcrumb”, and countless tweets online viciously berated Gib for his nightmare performance. On the night, Gib did indeed fall apart, there is no denying that. To say Gib cannot box well, is correct. To say Gib cannot box at all, however, is false. Gib employed a clear strategy and attempted to use mechanics to achieve his goal. To fight on such a massive scale undoubtedly played a factor in Gib’s inability to tie together all the facets of his game and box competently.
Jake Paul vs AnEsonGib marks yet another milestone for the rapidly growing future of celebrity fighting. While Gib may no longer take up the gloves again after the viral spanking received, Jake Paul has a future in the sport. Lined up to fight ex-NBA basketballer, Nate Robinson, on the Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr undercard, Paul should have far too much class at this lowly level. There is no doubt that Paul will earn himself a few more ridiculously lucrative paydays if he continues boxing other celebrities. What is intriguing is whether he would ever consider transitioning into a fully-fledged professional. Before the pitchforks are raised, this isn’t a discourse regarding world-title contention. Rather, Paul has obvious athletic ability and so far has looked at home in the boxing ring. With extremely favourable match-making, Paul could embark on a career similar to Kiwi rugby legend, Sonny Bill Williams. Boxing is evolving, and we must choose to jump ship or stay for the ride, whether we like it or not.