Elon Musk vs Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of celebrity combat sports

With the two tech billionaires discussing a possible cage fight, we take a look at how the social media age has paved the way for big-money influencer bouts

With Zuckerberg and Musk both indicating an interest in fighting, the launch of Meta's Threads app has only fanned the flames even further. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

When news broke that Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter boss Elon Musk had challenged each other to a cage fight, the internet was set ablaze.

This week, those flames were fanned as Zuckerberg's Meta launched Threads, dubbed Instagram's "Twitter killer" app, amassing 30 million users in only a day. Twitter has even threatened to sue Meta, with Musk's lawyer Alex Spiro stating that X Corp had "serious concerns" that Meta had engaged in “systemic, wilful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property”.

While a fight between the two tech giants has not yet been confirmed, the anticipation of such a match and the potential viewership comes on the back of a growing trend of influencer boxing.

English YouTubers Joe Weller and Theo Baker sparked the trend when they uploaded a video of themselves engaging in an amateur boxing match in 2017.

The sport was then reintroduced to a whole new generation of social media users with YouTubers, Instagram influencers and TikTokers challenging each other – and boxing champions encouraging their millions of followers to watch pay-per-view matches.

While influencer boxing is fairly new, the past six years have seen some major matches by famous online personalities and renowned names from the ring.

Here are the five matches that have helped popularise and cement the growing sport of influencer boxing.

KSI versus Logan Paul

The match between British YouTuber KSI and American YouTuber Logan Paul is considered one of the boxing matches that truly popularised influencer boxing.

The two social media personalities already had a long-running and public feud online, but it was only after KSI fought and won a boxing match with YouTuber Joe Weller in 2018, did he challenge Paul to the ring.

They agreed to a two-fight contract. Their first match took place on August 25, 2018, in Manchester, England. The six-round fight ended in a draw – two judges scored 57-57 and one judge scored 58-57 in KSI’s favour.

Their second match was a six-round fight which took place on November 9, 2019, in Los Angeles, where KSI defeated Paul through a split decision by the judges. Two scored in favour of KSI, 56–55 and 57–54 and one in favour of Paul 56–55.

Austin McBroom versus Bryce Hall

YouTuber Austin McBroom faced off TikToker Bryce Hall on June, 2021 in a live boxing match.

Given McBroom and Hall’s popularity online, their match was positioned as the main fight at Social Gloves: Battle of the Platforms. Despite both fighters having similar fighting experience, McBroom was clearly the more skilled fighter. He beat Hall in round three via a technical knockout.

Floyd Mayweather Jr versus Logan Paul

Paul entered the ring again in June 2021, this time with recently retired professional boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Mayweather has an undefeated record with 15 major world championship wins to his name. Given the perceived disparity of their skills and careers, the fight garnered a lot of attention online. However, many fans were left underwhelmed with the eight-round exhibition match.

Exhibition matches are often friendly spars with the main purpose being to demonstrate the skills of the two fighters. Here, the main goal of a fighter is to make it through the fight without getting knocked out.

The fight was not scored and had no winner.

Anderson Silva versus Jake Paul

In October 2022, Jake Paul, the younger brother of Logan Paul, fought professional Brazilian mixed martial artist, boxer and former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.

Jake Paul, who only began boxing in 2020, had sparred previously with NBA player Nate Robinson and former MMA champion Ben Askren. Silva, on the other hand, at 47, was the more experienced and skilled fighter.

However, when the two fought at the Desert Diamond Arena in Arizona, Paul beat Silva through a unanimous decision by the judges. Paul scored a knock-down in the eighth round of the fight, which helped cement his career as a professional boxer.

Floyd Mayweather Jr versus Deji Olatunji

Mayweather Jr engaged in another exhibition boxing match in November 2022, this time against YouTuber Deji Olatunji. The match took place at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai and like Mayweather Jr’s fight against Logan Paul, there was a significant build up from fans.

Olatunji had participated in three boxing matches previously. The first two with YouTubers Alex Wassabi and Fousey, both of which he lost and one with rapper Swarmz, which he won.

While his match with Mayweather was viewed as a step-up in his boxing career, it was obvious that that he was undermatched.

Mayweather won the match after scoring a six-round knockout over Olatunji. The referee needed to step in to stop Mayweather from continuing to throw punches at Olatunji who at that point, was giving little response.

Jake Paul versus Tommy Fury

In February, Jake Paul fought professional boxer and reality star Tommy Fury in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The pay-per-view fight was highly publicised, mainly through Paul and Fury's online feud and their continuous “trash talking” on social media and at public events leading up to the match.

Up to this point in his fighting career, Paul had never been defeated in a fight with many pointing out that this was the first time he would be facing a “real boxer.”

Fury won the eight-round boxing match through a split decision by the judges and ended Paul's undefeated record.

While it’s not clear how many people paid to watch the fight, the match created a lot of attention online and is considered a significant moment in the world of boxing and particularly in the future of influencer boxing.

Updated: July 07, 2023, 11:47 AM