I like to think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the boxing landscape. You know, like the upcoming slate; who’s fighting who and when. Not on a BoxRec scale, but enough to be called a “boxing pervert”, affectionately, by my nearest and dearest. But the other weekend I was caught cold as I was scrolling down my Twitter feed.
It all started with a screenshot of 118 lb titleholder Ebanie Bridges wearing what appeared to be a Manchester City tracksuit. Now, and you’re going to have to be patient with me here, Bridges is known – and when I say known, I mean recognised as, to some degree, by a small corner of social media – as a Leeds United fan, after running a Twitter poll to determine what English Premier League team she should support having moved to England and broken through with a Matchroom contract. And breathe.
This caused a stir – and when I say stir, I mean the kind of short stir you finish making your cup of tea with after adding the milk (yes, MILK!) – amongst a small number of Leeds United fans online.
“Take your name out off our club,” one Twitter user exclaimed, clearly so riled up by the the 35-year-old former maths teacher’s apparent switch of footballing allegiance that he decided to add an extra “f” to “of” purely for emphasis.
But Bridges wasn’t going to let RossLUFC1919 of/off so lightly and decided to respond, just as eloquently, with “Your pathetic. It’s obvious it’s the corner/ team tracksuit. Plus it says Elle Brooke. It isn’t the man C badge. Get a life.”
Now – assuming you’re still with me at the back – this made me think: Who the fuck is Elle Brooke and why haven’t I heard of her? Off I went Googling and Twitter searching and to my, ahem, well let’s call it amazement, I discovered she was an OnlyFans model with a penchant for “squirting and anal” – good luck Scott in deciding what to asterisks there. (Editor’s Note: Might as well let it fly at this point. Anyone still with us won’t get the vapors. — Scott)
Three hours and a $14.99 monthly subscription later, I dug a little deeper to find Elle was headlining a Kingpyn Boxing card inside the O2 Arena’s Indigo room, alongside an eclectic mix of TikTokers, Love Islanders and a 50-year-old+ dude named Simple Simon who’s selling point is a rumour that he has attempted to groom children online.
The £6.99 pay-per-view event (!!!!) was called Settling Scores and was marketed as the “biggest TikTok card of 2022” and had even drawn in esteemed Repton Boxing Club trainer Mark Tibbs to work the corner of Brooke.
Before I get accused of climbing onto my high horse – I like a bit of fun as much as anyone, guys, I once even put chocolate milk in my cereal! – this race to the murky, quarry floor of boxing seems to be gathering worrying pace in recent years as the TikTokers take the baton from the YouTubers.
When this craze of social media boxing first gathered pace in August 2017, fighters appeared to be well-matched in size and talent as well as wearing protective headgear and bigger, less damaging gloves.
Now, with events popping up left, right and centre, this social media arm of the sport feels like the wild west, with dollar signs skewing the scales of sense and literally anyone becoming eligible to enter the ring at the shortest of notice.
We know boxing can be dangerous, and we all have to balance our conscience to varying degrees as we bay for blood each weekend, or some of us ignore it, but this unnecessary and seemingly unregulated runt of the boxing litter is going to get someone hurt, or even killed.
And it’s hard to pinpoint the blame at the “fighters” involved. These characters are merely pawns in a business model who are looking to cash in on their three minutes of fame as best as they can. But their health shouldn’t be compromised.
Kingpyn Boxing and myriad other companies will pop up over the coming years looking to cling onto boxing’s coattails and use anyone and everyone to provide content. After all, it’s not hard or expensive to glove up a couple of kids and tell them to try and knock the other one unconscious.
But the more that these events are justified and validated by boxers, trainers, media or anyone higher up in the sport then the more they will continue to be accepted as part of boxing.