Triller reinvents what a boxing show can look like with Paul-Askren’s wild PPV
Boxing has always had one foot in carnival culture, but Jake Paul’s Triller weekend bid against Ben Askren had both feet in the circus tent, squared with nearly every convention in the sport.
Triller, a video-sharing platform now turned boxing promoter, presented their second event on Saturday night in Atlanta, Georgia, and decided to throw out the formula for how a boxing event is presented in a conventional manner and diffused completely through the window. From the Mercedes Benz stage staging and cinematic camera work to the often secular commentary, the show was unlike or unlike any other major boxing event.
The main event between Paul and Askren, which ended with Paul knocking out Askren in the first round, arose out of an internet feud between a social media star and an MMA fighter. Those who were particularly invested in their beef were probably not part of the weekly boxing audience, and the show was certainly presented as if it were. In fact, boxing was very secondary to the occasion.
The show featured a host of renowned musical performances, all of which performed at least three songs each, and sometimes more. The Black Keys, Saweetie, Doja Cat, Justin Bieber, Diplo, and a newly formed supergroup called Mt. Westmore with Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Too $ hort, and E-40 all performed in the main show. In terms of overall screen time, there was arguably more music than boxing (thanks in part to the brevity of the scheduled fights). In all likelihood, Doja Cat with his solo performance and feature film on the Saweetie set has had more screen time than anyone other than Paul or Snoop Dogg, who has doubled as host and commentator.
Commentary duties were provided by a rotating cast that included Snoop, Ray Flores, Al Bernstein, Crimefaces, Mario Lopez, Pete Davidson, a very intoxicated Oscar De La Hoya, Sean Wheelock, Mike Coppinger and cameos from Teofimo Lopez and George. Kambosos. Broadcasters have been given the green light and may have been encouraged to use swear words, drink and smoke weed on air. As you might expect when the barriers are lowered and people soak in, the joke turned into what it might be like if you and your friends were on the couch watching a fight. Often times, broadcasters would react to punches simultaneously, rather than letting Flores narrate the shots, giving the impression that you were listening to a bunch of rowdy fans rather than a bunch of commentators.
The change in tone wasn’t necessarily a bad thing keeping in mind the target audience, who likely watched more Twitch streams than conventional boxing shows, and for whom this brand of spontaneous analysis is. more familiar and more pleasant.
Sometimes the jarring nature of the chatter has served to put real boxing action in the background. Other than the main event, every fight came out of a skit, backstage segment, or promo with the fighters already standing in the ring. This left very little time to provide context for the fights before they actually started, which doesn’t help grant boxing fans’ wish that crossover events such as these help develop a new base. of fans for existing professional boxers.
It was a stark contrast to Triller’s first event, headlined by Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. Much of the production staff who worked on the first event, which largely consisted of boxing series veterans now missing from HBO, was not working on the second show, which may explain the difference in visual approach. Paul-Askren was shot as a concert film, which in fact was more than a boxing card.
Tyson-Jones, meanwhile, was treated like a traditional boxing show visually and acoustically, with commentators playing directly but with Snoop providing a comedic twist, and with shorter musical performances to break up the action.
That night, boxing was part of the show. But other than Paul-Askren, it wasn’t the show.
There is a reason for this. Tyson-Jones also included a Jake Paul fight, but it was primarily intended for the rope in a lost era of boxing fans and mainstream sports fans with the price of seeing their former heroes go there once more. Apart from the inclusion of Bernstein and Michael Buffer, the nostalgia and boxing tradition was not part of the appeal of the second show.
It will be interesting to see if Triller changes his tone again on June 5, when their event will be headlined by Lopez-Kambosos, as well as a return of Evander Holyfield and Kevin McBride, a return to a more traditional boxing demographic. .
In any case, it was fascinating to see an outfit completely explode all the protocols of a boxing presentation. The boxing industry’s one and only idea when it comes to attracting new fans has been to “put on good boxing matches”. This strategy works to some extent, as elite practitioners of everything will ultimately gain a fan base and mainstream appeal based on their excellence. But weekly reviews indicate that for many – or most – that’s not enough. What about people who don’t care who the best junior welterweight in the world is, but still enjoy a fight when it’s up and running? How do you get these people in the door or click on “buy”?
Triller’s approach on Saturday mirrored the promotion of minor league baseball. Any minor league executive will tell you that their presence has very little to do with the performance of the team, but rather everything to do with a nice atmosphere and good gadgets and promotion. People love baseball, but most will only be but so invested in sub-elite players who might not even be on the team all season – people want the experience. Likewise, the raw materials Triller worked with on Saturday was a 2-0 pro novice and a rookie known in MMA circles for his poor boxing abilities, so bells and whistles had to be attached to them.
Not all promoters or networks could and should do everything Triller did on Saturday, but there are concepts and ideas to borrow. Good or bad, boxing shows have mostly looked and sounded the same since Thomas Edison figured out how to film two people punching, and maybe a disruptor like Triller could finally change course.
Right before his main event on Saturday, Ben Askren tweeted, “People love fist fights. People love circuses. Hope you enjoy tonight.
Maybe the lesson from Triller is that boxing has the ability to make the tent a little bigger if and when it wants more people to come to the show.