At the beginning of the last century, Boxing, along with horseracing and football, was one of the most popular sports.
Matches drew huge audiences, especially those epic fights held in the Las Vegas arenas, and champion boxers were the A-list celebrities of the day. Since then, the sport has experienced a decline.
Mike Tyson’s fall from grace in the 1990s was heralded by some as the last nail in the coffin.
Predictions of the sport’s ultimate demise in the face of stiff competition from MMA, as well as the aura of sleaze that seemed to permeate it at the turn of the century, dominated the 90s and early 2000s.
Like many fictional boxers, Boxing had pulled itself up off the canvas and come back swinging just before the count reached 10.
This remarkable revival is mainly down to Gen Z fans. They have adopted the sport wholesale and are flocking to fights in record numbers. A Harris Poll in 2021 ranked Boxing as the 4th most popular sport in the US.
More importantly, the study revealed that 32% of Gen Z sports fans are avid boxing fans compared to only 6% of Boomer sports fans, and while Boxing ranks as the 11th favorite sport among the older demographic, it ranks as number four for Gen Z.
And Luker on Trends puts it as the fastest-growing sport from 2010 to 2020. So how have Gen Zers helped revive the proud art of pugilism?
Firstly, Gen Z sports fans are more into individual sports, with 33% following individual athletics compared to just 25% of Boomers. This fits in with their focus on the importance of the individual over the collective. As a result, individual players are being idolized, and team loyalty is not of the essence anymore.
And sports are more popular with Gen Z overall than with Boomers, thanks to increased awareness and obsession with healthy living compared to their parents.
Studies have shown that out of the 134m sports fans in the United States, Gen Z makes up the most significant demographic (38m). Gen Z sports fans also include more female fans than previous generations, with one-in-five female Gen Zers declaring themselves as avid sports fans, compared to only one-on-ten on Boomer women. As a result, more and more women are interested in combat sports, especially MMA.
Former heavyweight Brendan Schaub has stated recently that popular Gen Z Youtuber Jake Paul has made boxing more popular than ever and that his newfound fighting career has people invested.
Younger fans are now following Boxing, learning about the history of Boxing (some, for example, have never heard of Mohamed Ali before), and engaging massively on social media.
Some may some he’s a joke and is fighting to get massive publicity, but the heavyweight champion Tyson Fury claims that Jake is a pretty decent boxer. His half-brother Tommy is about to fight Jake in February in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most anticipated fights of 2023.
Gen Z sports fans also follow a more comprehensive range of sports, with fans following an average of 4.7 sports compared to 2.3 for Boomers.
The flip side of this coin is that Gen Z sports consumption is shallower, meaning they like fast, short chunks of action available across a variety of media., as is the preference in most things for the digital native generation. They are more into controversial boxers who can create social media buzz.
Boxing is the perfect sport for the digital native Gen Z generation. A strong storyline is delivered in short, dramatic bursts as matches lead up to one climatic showdown. The sport has regained its place to such an extent that Boxing has inspired online slot games, like the Rocky slot.
And all of this is consumable in just a few hours. So while educators and others mourn the shortened attention spans of people who have grown up online, we can at least point out one silver lining – Boxing is back, and it is here to stay!