Popularity of Boxing Continues to Increase through Mainstream Accessibility

It wasn’t long ago that boxing was being discussed as a relic of a sport, one that had faded far from its prime and lacked a draw in the modern day. Over the last decade or so, however, some charismatic and exciting stars have risen to the fore across several divisions, and finally, women’s boxing is being given the spotlight that it deserves in some parts of the world.

This rise of thrilling boxers and an uptick in quality matchups has helped to surge the interest in boxing once again, but it’s not just ringcraft that’s helping boxing to get back off of the canvas. Beyond headline events, entertainment media is contributing to the rise and accessibility of boxing. It’s been a classy comeback, too, with over 770,000 participants in the UK in 2020 and US polls finding boxing to be the fourth most-popular sport.

So, what’s helping to boost boxing back to the upper echelons of sports in the modern day?

Adapted into captivating entertainment

Above all else, boxing has always had a penchant for storytelling, with most who rise to the top having incredible back stories spurring them on: be it in the form of a hard upbringing or the trials of making it in the sport. It makes for great fight promotion and just as good entertainment beyond the bouts. This is why Showtime invested in the documentary series The Kings in 2021, which showcases the legendary 80s combatants who’d continually cross paths.

Netflix is also looking to weigh in this year, bringing out a documentary series that follows WBC World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury beyond the ring. Also in 2023, Creed III is expected to set a new record for the spin-off Rocky series. According to reports heading into its opening weekend, it’ll hit around $39 million in its first three days at the box office.

In the more modern entertainment space of digital gaming, boxing and combat titles continue to prove to be major draws. Even at an online bingo platform, there’s Wild Fight slot machine to appease fans of combat sports. Its focus is on kung-fu fighters and the Daily Drop jackpot, but its fight night appeal has given boxing fans something to enjoy while they await a larger boxing game release.

On that note, the last officially licensed, fully fledged boxing game to hit the video games market was Fight Night Champion in 2011. Earlier this year, Sheffield-based studio Steel City Interactive soft-launched Undisputed into early access. Still a rather shallow game, it does feature several real boxers and looks to build up to a full release over the course of 2023.

Boxers finding the magic formula to connect to fans

Perhaps the biggest revelation that’s helped to propel boxing in recent years has been the mass adoption of social media and boxers harnessing its potential. Having charismatic and likeable heavyweights is key, and Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua have been sure to tap into social media and similar platforms to keep in the headlines and entertain beyond the ring. Still, their combined following of over 20 million pales in comparison to one boxer.

Floyd Mayweather has perfected the social media game. He has a combined following across Instagram and Twitter of well over 30 million, even though he technically retired from the professional ranks in 2017. Still, he’s a huge draw and has long leveraged his following to get eyes on the sport. In fact, worldwide Google searches for “Boxing” from 2004 to 2023 stayed fairly steady until sudden peaks in May 2015 (Mayweather vs Pacquiao) and August 2017 (Mayweather vs McGregor).

On the power of social media, we unfortunately also have to look at the eyes brought in by the 'influencer’ boxing events. Often having accumulated millions of followers on YouTube and Instagram, these influencers stage huge exhibition fights either against each other or against former combat sports stars. They generate storylines and rivalries through social platforms, and then sell millions in PPVs. It’s not deserving of PPV revenues based on any metric of boxing ability, but it has likely brought several new fans to the real sport.

Boxing is on the rise across all channels. The big-name champions will continue to drive the narratives, but there’s plenty going on around the sport to promote it and make it more accessible to mainstream entertainment audiences.

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