Ade Oladipo: “Fighters are now asking for crazy money, as they’re more aware of how much money is in the pot.”
By Chris Akers
Having started producing YouTube videos of boxing opinion, thereby making a name for himself, which in turn led to presenting stints on Sky Sports and TalkSport and now on DAZN, Ade Oladipo knows about getting your name well known to an audience in the hope that better opportunities in your chosen field arise.
In many ways, the marketing of boxers outside of the ring is something that is not as common as it is with athletes in other sports. Floyd Mayweather topped the Forbes Sports Rich List regularly during his career and Canelo Alvarez was recently named by London-based media company Sports Pro as the most marketable male athlete in the world and fourth most marketable overall. Yet indicative of boxing’s lack of marketability compared to other sports, the next two boxers on that list are Anthony Joshua at 75 and Gervonta Davis at 89.
Naseem Hamed was sponsored by Adidas for a period in his career and even starred in adverts for them. Marketing of that kind seems rare for boxers now. Oladipo highlights some reasons as to why this may be the case.
“As much as we love the sport of boxing, boxing is still very much a second-tier sport” explains Oladipo. “In this country with football and rugby and maybe tennis when Wimbledon’s on, and in America with basketball, baseball, and the NFL, boxing can only compete with those sports when it has tier one events. So when AJ’s fighting it feels as though it’s as big as a football match, When Canelo’s fighting the same.
“But the truth be told, it’s still a violent barbaric sport. It’s not one which a lot of sponsors are going to want to get behind, just because of its danger. As much as we like it, people had gone into the ring and don’t come out the same. You can understand why some sponsors might be apprehensive about putting their big money behind that. They’d rather put it behind footballers, basketball players, the Usain Bolts of the world. I guess why AJ gets more money is because he looks clean cut, he looks the part.”
As eluded to by Oladipo, one reason sponsors may not touch boxing, is because of the general aim of the sport. Its brutality has always had people calling for it to be banned – hardy an attractive message for a sponsor to be associated with.
“There are some times I watch a fight and think ‘How is this allowed?’ People might disagree with this, but your aim nine times out of 10, is to go and hurt the other person. People might say that’s the same in NFL, but the aim in NFL is to get the ball over the touchline. If you’re a marketer, that’s difficult to get behind. If you’re a sports company and you want to chuck in millions, you think ‘Shall I chuck it in boxing, who lets us down all the time by not making big fights, promises us this but doesn’t deliver? Or shall I just give it to Premier League football, where I know that every week, there’s a guaranteed big match?’ I would chuck it to Premier League football every day of the week.”
Champions League Final, The Superbowl, The World Series. Events that are guaranteed millions of viewers around the world, that happen every year and as such, attract sponsors of the highest calibre. Big fights in boxing, while not rare, are not common enough for high-quality sponsors to hang their hats on. This is primarily due to politics too often getting in the way of making the fights we want to be.
“I feel like the hardcore boxing fans have sometimes gone ‘Oh again!’ When AJ versus Fury was cancelled and some people were celebrating I was like ‘Boxing is lost here.’ Eventually, people get, not lost from boxing, but the tune out of it. Mentally you feel like you’ve been hurt so many times from these big fights not happening, such as Crawford vs Spence.
“If I try and explain to someone why Crawford isn’t fighting Spence, and I talk to them about broadcasters and the politics, they’d be like ‘What are you talking about?!’
“If boxing was to give anything they asked for, boxing would become like it was in the 80s. It would be up on par with basketball, NFL, Premier League football. Fans aren’t afraid to pay for pay per view if we get what we want. We moan about pay per view because we feel we’re getting a sub-standard product. If we were getting paced shows, we could be charged 30 quid and we’d say to take the money.”
One way this problem of making the big divisional fights could be by fighters taking more control of their career. Canelo became a free agent last year and has his own promotional company. So too has Devin Haney. While there have been boxers in the past like the two Sugar Ray’s Robinson and Leonard dictating their terms, fighters appear to be becoming savvier in regards to how much money there is in the sport and how much they think they are worth.
“I feel that boxers are getting smarter every single day. You have to give credit to someone over here that was one of the first fighters I can remember doing it and that’s David Haye with Hayemaker Promotions. That’s why Derek Chisora hired David Haye to be his manager, because he knows that David knows how to get every single penny from the pot.
“Fighters are now asking for crazy money, as they’re more aware of how much money is in the pot.”
From arguably embracing social media better than other sports and slowly changing the way it is promoted to a wider audience, boxing is looking to seep more into the sporting consciousness in a way it has not done so for at least twenty years.
Presenters like Ade Oladipo are part of that change – of people within the sport growing an audience online and transferring that success to other forms of sports media. This interview was conducted before he joined DAZN –reaping the rewards of his journey of hard work.