Jake Paul, an American social media celebrity turned professional boxer, has made a name for himself in the ring. After defeating former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva by unanimous decision in October 2022, he now turns his attention to the UK’s Tommy Fury, brother of world champion Tyson Fury.
The twist is that Tommy Fury is Paul’s opposite – a professional boxer turned reality TV star (he rose to fame on ITV’s dating show, Love Island), which sets up a hotly disputed showdown between the two in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, February 26. Tyson Fury took to social media to tell his brother to “stay in Saudi Arabia” if he loses the fight, so the prestige of the Fury name is also at stake.
Paul has not only been victorious in his first six fights in the ring, but he has also won the support of social media followers worldwide. In the battle of the personal brands, Paul knocks Fury out.
We examined the pre-match fight on social media to compare how each fighter’s profile brand performed worldwide. The table below provides a head-to-head social media comparison of the two fighters.
With over 70 million followers across YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter, Paul is a big hitter on social media. Despite Fury’s celebrity status and social media influencer girlfriend Molly-Mae Hague, he is a relative rookie in the social media stakes.
Paul punches around ten times his weight in the social media battle, cementing himself as a mega influencer (over 100,000 followers) on every channel. Meanwhile, Fury can be classified as a macro-influencer (between 10,000 - 100,000 followers) on most channels besides Instagram, where he has mega status.
In a straight fight between boxers or other sports personalities, success in their sport often leads to more followers on social media through the “basking in reflected glory” effect, where fans want to be associated with successful sports stars and teams.
Are social media stars diluting the sport?
This new phenomenon of influencers turned sportspeople and vice versa, however, puts a twist on using social media followers to gauge the level of sporting prowess. Paul gained this massive following before becoming a professional boxer, so he now faces the fight of his life in the ring.
There have been criticisms towards social media influencers from traditional boxing enthusiasts for entering the sport and calling out established professional fighters, as they perceive it to be damaging to the sport of boxing. However, because social media influencers attract such a high following and are mega influencers, there is always the potential to bring in new fans and the associated money to be made.
Paul has thousands of users retweeting and commenting on his posts. The network of users is so vast it is similar to that of a high-engagement sports team.
In a recent interview with The George Groves Boxing Club, boxing promoter Frank Warren notes how Tommy Fury and Jake Paul are capitalising on their following and eclipsing traditional professional boxing events at this level.
As our data shows, the two top locations interested in the fight are the US and UK. However, the event also has a global interest, with users actively engaging from South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia. With this level of international interest, more people are exposed to boxing than might not otherwise have engaged with the sport.
In the lead up to the fight, one of the top pre-fight social media posts came from Paul. In the above tweet, which reached 1.4 million people, he uses his social media status to provide pre-fight updates.
The fight has already been cancelled twice, once due to injuries and once due to a visa issue. In his tweet, Jake Paul assures fans that Fury is on his way to Saudi Arabia and that the fight will probably go ahead.
In terms of quantity of followers, macro social media influencer Paul wins the contest, hands down. In the bravado stakes of showing off and appearing confident and relaxed through social media posts, Paul outshines Fury’s more modest status. In terms of the betting world, too, Paul is also currently odds on to beat Fury.
Fans will find out on Saturday what the fight’s outcome will be and the impact of millions of fans viewing pre- and post-match updates through various social media channels.
Despite criticism from purists, these mega sporting events have added a new lease of life to boxing, potentially attracting casual fans to the sport. Despite the detractors, as social media audiences continue to tune in, boxing matches between influencers are set to remain popular.
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.