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SOCIAL MEDIA – THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVES FOR THE WORLD OF BOXING

The last decade has seen the use of social media spiral in an unprecedented way, with many sports now relying heavily on the platforms to drive themselves forward – none more so than the world of boxing. In a sport that is so heavily influenced by its fans, the impact that social media platforms have had on the way fighters, promoters, and fans interact has altered in a previously inconceivable way. Not so long ago, the life of a boxer could be a solitary one, often disappearing for eight or so weeks in the lead up to a fight only to emerge out of the darkness of their gym in the final few days before their fight. In contrast, now a fighter’s entire life, including their training and time away from the gym is subjected to a level of public scrutiny never seen before, how does the modern-day boxer manage to deal with this, and how has social media changed how a fan follows the sport?

Over the course of this week, we will be discovering how some of our most well-known boxers use social media to better engage with their fans but also deal with the ever-present effect of negative trolling. We will also be hearing from their fans, and learn how social media has altered how they follow the sport and their favourite stars.

The first instalment of the week sees us speaking to WBA Inter-Continental Middleweight Champion Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan as well as boxing fan Dean Toth.

Spike-OSullivan4

Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan

(Twitter: @spike_osullivan)

Q1. I think most people would agree that social media platforms have created a far more open and visible relationship between fighters and their fans, but would you say that this is always a positive, and why?

Spike: I would be inclined to think that yes it is always a positive from my personal experience anyway.

Q2. Do you feel that the pressure to engage with fans on social media can have an effect on how you train or recover from training? For example, in the day leading up to a fight would you feel pressurized to respond to messages instead of focussing and relaxing?

Spike:  I don’t see it as pressure at all I consider myself to be a people person and I enjoy engaging with the fans on social media and I’ve gotten to know a few over the years via social media and I’ve become good friends with a few people through it. As regards to having an effect on training or recovery etc… I wouldn’t let it do that, I know when I’m tired and need to rest the eyes and thumbs so I take a little bit of time anyway from it and get my energy levels back up etc.. and around fight time I cut down on my replying and save as much energy as possible but I read all the well wishes etc… and it’s really nice to read through them and see all the people rooting for me it’s one of those things that give me a percentage of positivism and helps inspire me to perform better.

Q3. Social media not only allows fans to pass on positive comments but also an unprecedented ability to troll a fighter with negativity. Have you ever felt that this has affected you in any way, how, and how do you deal with it?

Spike: Yes absolutely it has affected me I’ve nearly burst a lung with laughter on many occasions when a few trolls have given me shit I’ve ripped them apart in a funny way and had a great laugh at their expense along with many of my supporters jumping on board to dish them some abuse as well, I find it very amusing because 99% of the time the trolls are spouting absolute shite and talking through their arses so their easy to deal with and also the majority of them are not the fizziest drink in the fridge lol… If there is someone continuously annoying with irrelevant shite that I don’t want to be wasting my time with clogging up my timeline that I could use to read proper fans stuff that deserves my time then I just simply block them and that solves that. I’ve actually had a bit of banter also in the past with a few that have given me grief and we ended up following each other at the end and becoming twitter buddies lol…

Q4. We have seen an increasing number of fight negotiations being made public on social media platforms. Do you feel that this is good practice, and do you think it helps or hinders the negotiations process?

Spike: I think it’s a good thing that the negotiations are made public as it helps create extra public interest with the fans knowing a lot more about what’s going on and in turn it gets the fighters bigger pay cheques as there is more public wanting to attend the fight or watch it on the TV.

Q5. Finally, overall, would you prefer to have fought in an era that social media didn’t play such a pivotal role in boxing?

Spike: No I prefer it the way it is today as I said in the answer to question number one I consider myself a people person and I enjoy chatting with the fans and I get to know a lot of them and they get to know me and it’s a lot of fun. It can be time-consuming but a lot of the time also when you’re in training camp you tend to have a lot of time on your hands and for me I do be looking for things to do when I’m in camp because when I’m at home I’m used to being flat out busy with keeping fit and been full-time dad at the same time and doing plenty of family chores. So I fill a lot of my spare time while away from home in training camp chatting on twitter with the fans.

Our first boxing fan we speak to this week is Dean Toth………..

Zqz5pj20_400x400(Twitter: @GeordieT0FF)

Introduction:

As cliché as it sounds, the very first fight I remember watching and fully appreciating was Lennox Lewis vs Mike Tyson 2002. I was only a kid at the time and was up watching it with my step-father and a few of his friends. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a good fight, and both men, especially Tyson had seen much better days. But for me, a school kid being introduced to the sport… It was perfect.

Since that day I’ve always been a boxing fan. However, my passion would come in waves. I’d have periods where I literally couldn’t get enough, but then also down periods where my enthusiasm would wane. I would say though that the last 6 or so years, although always a fan, is the point where I went from a fan to an enthusiast. Rarely miss an event, both here and overseas. Very much a TV watcher though, only been to a handful of live events, while the atmosphere is great, I much prefer being able to sit down and really take in a contest.

You asked me about my favourite fighter, a conversation we’ve had before and the simple truth is I would find it impossible to narrow it down to 5 never mind 1. The usual list of names would be there along with a mix of modern talent. Two fighters I’ve took quite an interest in and am very much looking forward to seeing where their careers go however are Errol Spence Jr and Anthony Fowler. I’ve followed Spence for quite some time now, I think it was the Khan/Molina undercard I first saw him on, though don’t quote me on that. As for Fowler he just has this raw power and explosiveness that just pulls me into his fights, of course, it’s early days in his career but can’t wait to see where he ends up.

My favourite fight? I’ll keep this short because I’ve already waffled on too much. So many great fights out there but one I always find myself watching and re-watching are Ward/Gatti the first one, the whole trilogy was outstanding and all-out war, but the first one is a thing of beauty, at least to me.

Q1. I think most people would agree that social media platforms have created a far more open and visible relationship between fighters and their fans, but would you say that this is always a positive, and why?

Dean: The keywords here have to be “between fighters and their FANS”, so while a fighter may have 50k (random number plucked from thin air) followers, not all are fans. That’s the nature of social media.

So concentrating solely on the percentage that are fans, ignoring the rest, I’d say the majority of the time it has to be positive. Over the years we’ve all followed fighters who have experienced highs and lows, surprise wins and surprise losses. Being able to share a message of support or congratulations in those times of highs and lows is great from a fan perspective, I’d imagine from a fighters point of view, receiving those genuine messages could be rather rewarding as well, though obviously not qualified to confirm so.

Like I say though, the keywords has to be between fighters and fans. A relationship between fighters and followers becomes a whole different question with a totally different outlook and answer.

Q2. In your opinion, would the way a boxer interacts with their fans through social media influence your opinion of them? For example, are you more likely to follow closely a boxer who is more prevalent on a social media platform than not, regardless of any other factors?

Dean: Not at all on my end, talent is talent and that comes whether they’re a saint or the complete opposite. Whether somebody tweets daily doesn’t affect their explosiveness in the ring. If they’re nice to their fans doesn’t affect their footwork. Having a personality is irrelevant to how they execute their gameplan and after all those, and more, are why I watch and love boxing. I’m here to watch warriors go out and fight at the top level, I’m here to watch chess like tactics slowly grind down an opponent. I’m here to watch boxing.

I’ll see their personalities in their fight build up pressers and that’s good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong though, I can understand why social media presence may warm some people to a particular fighter, and I’ve no issue with it. Just personally what is done within the ring is what calls out to me.

Q3. Social media not only allows fans to pass on positive comments, but also an unprecedented ability to troll a fighter with negativity. At what point do you feel that a fans constructive criticism turns into blatant negative trolling or even bullying?

Dean: Of course there are genuine trolls out there in the social media world, that’s just a fact of life. However, I’d wager they’re a very small percentage of the negative comments a boxer may receive on a social platform. The rest I’d say is more made up of what is simply an uneducated opinion. People commenting on a fighter or event, where they simply don’t know enough about either the fighter, sport, division etc but chime in due to believing in their own head that watching one PPV every six weeks means they’re clued up.

That said, I see comments from people whose opinion I genuinely respect that baffle me from time to time also. In a sport of opinions, it’s always going to be a fine line.

I don’t believe these comments are said to troll, but more so simply what they believe without knowing they’re not really in a position to comment. Of course, this is a lot easier for me to say considering my average post doesn’t drum up hundreds of comments, a professional will be in a much clearer position to answer this than I.

Showing respect when commenting on men, and women, who step in the ring and put their well-being and safety on the line for our own entertainment, regardless of your opinion on them, should never be an issue though. You may not like a fighter, but you should always show them respect.

Q4. When we look at the build-up to fights, social media has become instrumental in creating a hype to help sell the fight. Looking back at the super fights over the last 18 months, do you think it would have been possible to fill the likes of Wembley and Principality with 90,000 fans without the use of social media?

Dean: This may be the hardest question of the lot. I think the fan within me absolutely wants to say yes, with the right fight and the right promotion/promoter it was doable anyway. However, you also can’t deny the fact that social media does play a part in the promotion aspect of things nowadays. You can’t ignore facts like Ali’s record, attendance-wise, having stood from 78 until Froch/GrovesII, and there has to be some reason behind why such a long-standing record is now being broken.

Which begs the question, has it helped with those fights that may not be viewed as the elites? Has it helped bring more people, and attention to those fights that don’t involve the biggest of big names?

Boxing itself, especially in the UK, is red hot, no denying that. Whether people love him or hate him Eddie Hearn needs to take a lot of the credit for that. I’d personally like to think that yes, yes those attendances could have been achieved without a social media aspect and we are where we’re at because of the product that is being presented to us in the ring from all involved in the sport.

Truth be told though, I couldn’t say yes or no to the question. A cop out I’m sure, but one I’m gonna take!

Q5. Imagine that you lived in a time without social media. Do you feel that you would follow the sport as closely as you do now? Do you think that your choice of favourite fighters would differ without the increased visibility that social media brings?

Dean: I’d almost guarantee that I’d have my eyes as firmly on the sport with or without social media. I’ve been an avid fan a lot longer than I’ve had a twitter account. I also predominantly base my favorites or “must-watch” fighters on what they do within their fights. I’m very much the type who stays up to watch an event well into the night alone, so I can actually watch it, rather than a load of mates over as I feel what they do inside the ring matters tenfold to what they do or say outside of it.

I do have to attest to the fact that social media, more so twitter as I don’t really use owt else, has helped broaden my horizon on the sport though in a number of ways. Introducing me to the team behind the boxer and their philosophies in people like Dave Coldwell, or just sharing thoughts and opinions with fellow fans, like yourself Mark. Both have opened up new avenues of both sharing, and learning, about boxing that wouldn’t of, existed without twitter.

So in summary, my passion for boxing and the boxers I follow would be intact with or without social media but my broader knowledge potentially not so.

Final thought (if you don’t mind): I’d like to pay a huge respect to all those who step inside the ring and put their life on the line each and every time. Whilst I am a huge fan of boxing, I’m an even bigger fan of all you lads and lasses, and appreciate the time, work and dedication you put in for our entertainment. Thank you.

Also a big thank you to Mark for asking me to do this, a very knowledgeable boxing fella who I’ve potentially watched more matches with recently than actual lads I know haha! It was a pleasure and thanks lad, can’t wait to read all ya columns!

Thank you to both Spike and Dean for taking the time to help us out with this article, remember to look out for the next installment tomorrow where we hear from former European Middleweight Champion Kerry Hope, and boxing fan/amateur boxer George Rodriguez!

3 comments on “SOCIAL MEDIA – THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVES FOR THE WORLD OF BOXING

  1. Pingback: SOCIAL MEDIA – THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES FOR BOXING – TOPCLASSBOXING

  2. Pingback: SOCIAL MEDIA – THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES FOR BOXING – TOPCLASSBOXING

  3. Pingback: SOCIAL MEDIA – THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES OF BOXING – TOPCLASSBOXING

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