By: Sean Crose
An article appearing in Forbes on Tuesday presented the stunning results of a recent Harris Poll, which indicates “boxing’s popularity is surging in the United States.” And here we were thinking the sweet science was dead. “For a sport long-deemed a relic from yesteryear,” the article continues, “boxing is attracting fans at a higher rate in the U.S. than any other sport while also capturing a younger fan base, according recent poll data.” That data, it seems, is sending a clear message. “The esteemed Harris Poll,” the article states, “which surveyed more than 2,000 adults in 2021, ranks boxing as the country’s fourth most-popular sport with 33% of respondents saying they are fans of the sweet science.”
A bit of an authorial interruption here – when I was a kid, boxing was the fourth highest ranked sport in America, behind football, baseball, and basketball. To put things in perspective, the big fights at the time were Leonard-Hearns 1, and Holmes-Cooney. Yet, according to the Harris Poll, identical popularity rankings have now returned forty years later. That’s a big surprise considering the fact that boxing has long been considered a dead sport. It’s an even bigger surprise when one thinks of the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts – ranked fifth in the poll – and of the fact boxing wasn’t even ranked in the top ten in the Harris Poll of 2010.
“The younger fan base” the article speaks of has a lot to do with it. Purists can roll their eyes at Ryan Garcia all they want, the man’s popularity on social media is astounding – and that sort of thing leads younger viewers to watch the fights. The article also points out that the Paul brothers, Jake and Logan, certainly haven’t hurt boxing’s popularity. To the contrary, the Paul’s bring in lots of attention, whether its in the ring or on social media. And then there’s good, old fashioned marketing, which, contrary to the beliefs of skeptics, boxing’s power centers are currently excelling at.
The article states that the Harris Poll numbers certainly don’t shock “Brian Kelly, the Chief Revenue Officer at Top Rank, one of boxing’s biggest — and most historic — promotions.” Kelly has been investigating the trends, it seems, and has noticed boxing’s growth. “Kelly,” the article states, “quickly points to metrics from Luker on Trends that show boxing has grown more than any sport from 2010 to 2020, attracting more than 26 million new American fans over that period of time.” Kelly also gives credit to younger fans. “Gen-Z is a big part of it,” he says of boxing’s resurgence. It appears the fast paced nature of the sport, with it’s frequent abrupt knockout endings, fits into the high speed world Gen Z’s have been raised in.
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