By: Hans Themistode
It was funny at first. A bit of sideshow if you will. YouTubers with massive followings jumping into the ring to fight one another? No harm no foul.
However, with social media stars lacing up the gloves becoming more of the norm, New York City trainer Eric Kelly became sick and tired of it. The typically laid back former amateur standout paid no attention to it in the beginning. Instead, he simply continued to punch in every day and played his part in helping the sport of boxing grow.
Recently, what seemed to be more of an experiment, has quickly turned into what many believe is completely necessary as both YouTube stars and social media influencers continue to flood the sport. However, when broached with how important these nonboxing figures have become to the sport, Kelly immediately gets apoplectic at the mere thought that these sideshows could be here to stay.
“Why would we need that?,” asked Kelly during an interview with Boxinginsider.com. “Has a boxer went and elevated YouTube? So how the fuck would a YouTuber elevate boxing? We don’t need that.”
Not long ago, Kelly’s questions were seemingly answered by social media star Jake Paul. The YouTube sensation recently claimed that boxing was a dying sport. That is, until he came along and resuscitated it. With two knockout wins under his belt, albeit against non boxers in fellow social media influencer Ali Eson Gib and former NBA player Nate Robinson, Paul has boasted of his importance to his recently adopted sport.
For Kelly, the famed trainer won’t fulminate with anyone supporting Paul’s statement. He simply has a few questions he would like the social media star to answer.
“If boxing was alive because of Jake Paul what facility does he have for the youth? What has he done to help the sport grow? People turn to boxing as a scapegoat, therapy or even want to pursue it full time. What is he doing for that demographic? I’m out here doing what I have to do on behalf of boxing. I have a facility for the youth. You can’t say you’re the reason boxing is alive, no mother fucker, Eric Kelly is the reason boxing is alive. Mother fucker, you upload videos. I upload ass whoppings.”
Contrary to what it seems, Kelly doesn’t have an issue with Paul. In fact, if asked, he would be willing to work with the newly turned boxer. Whether you’re a YouTube star or a regular Joe on the street, Kelly believes that if you have the balls to lace up the gloves, and head into the ring, then you will always have his respect. With that being said, the long time trainer doesn’t believe Paul should be in the position he’s in today. The large sums of money, the notoriety and the apparent star power he has in the sport of boxing simply doesn’t make sense to Kelly.
When the former amateur standout looks into the mirror or closes the lights before heading to bed, the aches and pains that are associated with decades spent in the ring are a constant reminder of what he has done to himself for a sport that he loves so much.
“I shared the ring with the Andre Ward’s, I shared the ring with the Jermaine Taylor’s, I shared the ring with the Jeff Lacy’s. I been in there with a lot of champions. Sparring, fighting, everything. I did that. I was a stepping stone. My face shows it, my hands show it, my body shows it. I’m the one who put my body through that damage.”
Despite it all, Kelly pulls himself up out of bed every morning, similarly to how he would climb off the canvas whenever an Andre Ward right hand would land and makes the long trek to his SouthBox boxing gym located at 171 Lincoln Avenue in Bronx, New York. From there, he holds the pads for troubled youth, instructs willing learners on how to defend themselves and helps clean up after putting in a 12-hour shift. It isn’t just his amateur record of 104-14, nor is it about his numerous golden gloves trophies that are stacked up in his office. No, it’s about the work he does every day that leads him to believe that he is an integral part of the sport of boxing.
“That’s why boxing is alive because of me. I’m giving the youth a chance, I’m giving an aspiring boxer a chance. That’s why boxing is alive, because of things that I do to help the sport.”