Has influencer boxing got the professionals ‘on the ropes’?

On the 28th October, Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou will take to the ring as the ‘Gypsy King’ will look for yet another win in his undefeated career.

Fury is the favourite to beat Ngannou as the WBC heavyweight champion while Ngannou is making the switch from MMA to take on one of boxing’s greats. It will be Fury’s first fight since December 2022 which is a considerable gap (however not unheard of in boxing); is the reason for this to make way for less competitive boxing?

Two weeks before Fury squares up to Ngannou in Saudi Arabia, another boxing fight will be taking place. A boxing fight with arguably less skill, less meaning but perhaps more viewers.

Tyson’s half-brother, Tommy Fury, most famously known for his stint on ITV’s Love Island, will take on YouTube star KSI at Manchester Arena with fans of both celebrities getting very excited for the prospect. With less professional fights and the mainstream media also bringing a lot of attention to these influencer fights, are we seeing a change of direction for boxing as we know it?

Influencer boxing has grown rapidly in the last 3-4 years as it has attracted more and more fans. KSI, or his real name Olajide Olatunji, has been at the forefront of many of the famous influencer fights and can be argued to be the pioneer of this craze when he fought fellow YouTuber Joe Weller back in 2018.

A few months later, KSI took on American YouTuber Logan Paul in a fight that was described as the ‘biggest event in internet history’ and pulled in an estimated £150 million with two million people paying to watch it. Will we see a similar outcome this weekend?

Tommy Fury has not been outside of the amateur boxing limelight either. Back in February of this year he took on brother of Logan Paul, Jake Paul, in a fight that attracted 800,000 PPV buys. Compare this to Tyson’s last fight against Derek Chisora where 500,000 PPV were sold.

Boxing Hospitality

So are these boxing matches attracting new audiences to the sport who want to watch their favourite influencers, or is professional boxing, specifically heavyweight in this case, in a slow demise?

It can be argued that a lot of heavyweight boxing has made way for the influencer boxing. According to Boxing Social, Mike Tyson criticised many heavyweight boxers for not wanting to fight each other in reference to the lack of recent fights exclaiming ‘they just need to fight’.

With that said, there are still plans of a Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk fight with the date yet to be confirmed as well as Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder rumours. So is it actually fizzling out or are there just less fights due to the increased athletic demands and the difficulty in getting fit for events?

It is with no doubt that the popularity in influencer boxing has risen in recent years, but is it necessarily a bad thing? Well it could even attract a wider range of audience to tune into professional boxing. With new fights being announced regularly such as Fury vs Osyk, there are still plenty of professional heavyweight battles that will keep the die-hard boxing fans satisfied.

Want to watch Fury vs Osyk live? Check out Engage Hospitality for the best seats in the house.

Will Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury ever happen?

Let’s get ready to rumble! Heavyweight boxing is set for a huge final few months of the year, with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury both set to return to the ring. Sadly, they won’t be fighting each other – at least for now.

Talks between the pair broke down at the end of last year, so Fury fought Derek Chisora instead. And while we all want to see them finally go head-to-head, they’ve now both got confirmed fights coming up.

AJ is set for a long-awaited rematch against Dillian Whyte, while Fury is putting his reputation on the line against UFC fighter Francis Ngannou. With Oleksandr Usyk and Deontay Wilder both getting itchy feet for a big clash, we’re set for an interesting few months both in and out of the ring.

Has Joshua still got it?

With a Fury showdown looking as unlikely as ever, Joshua is set to face old foe Whyte in a rematch at the O2 on Saturday 12th August.

It’s Joshua’s first fight since 2015 with no belts on the line and he insists that Whyte is just a “body in the way” as he eyes a mega-money clash with Wilder in the Middle East later this year.

Having first fought as amateurs, Joshua and Whyte met almost eight years ago for the then-vacant British heavyweight title. AJ survived an early scare to come out on top and has hardly looked back since.

Since first fighting Whyte professionally, Joshua has twice gone on to become the unified heavyweight champion of the world, recording iconic wins over the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin along the way.

But the 33-year-old hasn’t enjoyed the best of times in recent years. He suffered his first defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019 and despite beating him in the rematch, he’s since been defeated twice by Usyk to surrender his titles.

Whyte has come a long way since that defeat to Joshua and he’ll be no pushover. He lasted almost six rounds with Fury last April on the back of a devastating rematch victory over Povetkin.

Both fighters beat Jermaine Franklin in their most recent bouts and the outcome of their upcoming fight will have huge implications for the heavyweight division. Wilder is waiting to meet the winner and if Joshua loses, his stock will be at its lowest in years.

A highly-anticipated showdown with Fury would be a guaranteed money-spinner for both fighters – but it remains to be seen if either of them even want to do it.

Is Fury scared of Usyk?

After talks with Joshua broke down, it looked like Fury was set to take on Usyk. The Ukrainian has beaten AJ twice and currently holds the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring heavyweight titles.

He’s willing to put his belts on the line and prove he’s the world’s best by taking Fury’s WBC title. But boxing fans will have to wait if they want to see that match-up.

Fury has raised a few eyebrows by agreeing to take on former UFC star Ngannou, who has never boxed professionally in his career. The pair will meet on 28th October in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a fight like this take place. Floyd Mayweather was taken to the 10th round by Conor McGregor when they met back in 2017.

Fury remains unbeaten in his career and has won his last four fights by knockout. So for the self-proclaimed greatest heavyweight in the world to choose a mixed martial artist for his next opponent feels like something of a step down.

He beat Whyte last April before seeing off Chisora for a third time in December, so it seemed inevitable that Usyk would be next. Usyk, who is unbeaten himself, has ambitions of becoming a unified two-weight undisputed champion.

The 36-year-old is keeping himself in shape by taking on Daniel Dubois in Poland at the end of August and has accused Fury of being scared of him by suggesting that he’s only taken the Ngannou fight for money rather than to test himself.

Usyk had hoped to finish the year with a showdown against Fury, who he’s been chasing since his rematch win over Joshua a year ago. But with Fury now solely focussed on his meeting with Ngannou, we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

Will Joshua ever fight Fury?

For years Joshua vs Fury was the fight that everybody wanted to see. And while it would still be one of the most anticipated clashes in British boxing history, the clamour for it to happen doesn’t seem as strong as it once was.

Reports at the end of last year suggested it was closer than ever and an agreement was close to being found. But both parties accused the other of backing out so we may never truly know the reasons for it not happening.

As AJ no longer has any belts, there’s less incentive for Fury to make the fight happen. A lot depends on Fury’s mindset and how much love he still has for the sport following his clash with Ngannou.

In an ideal world, Fury eventually beats Usyk and puts all of the belts on the line against Joshua in the heavyweight clash of the century. But boxing is unpredictable so for now we’ll just have to cross our fingers and enjoy the fights that are actually happening.

What major boxing fights can we expect in 2023?

Major Upcoming Fights

  • Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk – TBC
  • Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano – TBC
  • Devin Haney v Vasyl Lomachenko – Saturday 20 May

As many predicted, Tyson Fury dominated his WBC title fight against fellow Brit Derek Chisora until the referee finally intervened in the 10th round, announcing the Gypsy King as the victor.

In truth, the writing was on the wall from the first round, as Fury landed jab after jab with searing accuracy. When the fight was over, Chisora’s lip was bloodied and his eye was sealed shut, the veteran fighter, 38, was consoled by Fury with a hug and a kiss.

The bout at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in front of 60,000 fans will almost certainly be the last of that magnitude in Chisora’s career, but his compatriot Tyson Fury has plans to take on Ukrainian fighter Oleksandr Usyk in 2023, to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Wembley Boxing Match
Wembley Stadium

Usyk, who was ringside for the Fury v Chisora fight, currently holds the IBF, WBA and WBO belts after successfully defending his titles against Anthony Joshua in August.

Although not officially scheduled in the 2023 boxing calendar, it is thought that Usyk is targeting a fight date between February and March next year. According to Talksport, Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas said: “On our side, everything is done […] Right now it’s Tyson Fury’s decision.”

Asked when the fight would be if Fury agreed, he added: “No earlier than February 18, no later than March 4.”

If the spring fight does go ahead, many have tipped Wembley Stadium in London to be the most likely venue, where Fury will be the home favourite in front of 95,000 fans. However, Saudi Arabia has also emerged as a serious contender to host. If that is the case, the venue will most likely be the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, where Joshua lost to Usyk earlier this year.

If Fury defeats the Ukrainian, making him the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, British boxing promoter Frank Warren would like to see Joe Joyce return to fight the Gypsy King at Wembley in the summer. The undefeated Olympic Silver Medalist would set up an all-English fight, but perhaps not the one fans have been crying out for.

Chisora was very much Joshua’s understudy for the Fury fight in December (talks for a fight between Fury and Joshua broke down in October) and AJ is unlikely to meet Fury in the ring anytime soon.

A possible route back into the heavyweight discussion for Joshua could be a fight with American Deontay Wilder, with Wembley as the venue once again. The former WBC world heavyweight champion inflicted a first-round knockout in October against Robert Helenius at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The hard-hitting American would be a formidable opponent for Joshua but he’s not the only name being touted around.

Fellow Brit Dillian Whyte has been mentioned as a possible comeback opponent for Joshua. The pair fought in 2015, with Joshua coming out on top, but Whyte is in good form now after defeating American Jermaine Franklin in November.

As an all-British showdown, the likely venue will be the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium or the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Principality Stadium
The Principality Stadium

Beyond the heavyweight division, standout fights to punch in your diary include; Chris Eubank Jr. vs. Liam Smith, in a middleweight clash in January at AO Arena in Manchester, Jermell Charlo vs Tim Tszyu in an undisputed super-welterweight fight at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas and Oscar Valdez vs Emanuel Navarrete for the super-featherweight, WBO title at the Desert Diamond Arena in Arizona in February.

As the year draws to a close, many boxing fans will be thinking about what could’ve been, as the promise of blockbuster battles, such as Fury v Joshua failed to come to fruition.

However, in 2023, the heavyweight division will be brimming with potential, with the top five fighters in the world all looking to make their mark, from those at the very top of their game like Usyk and Fury to sleeping giants like Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.