Walid Sharks is taking a nasty beating at the AO Arena in Manchester. It’s the second round of his fight against ‘Deen the Great’, and he has just been knocked down by a punch to the face. ‘His eyes are rolling right now,’ says a commentator. ‘He doesn’t know where he is!’ But Sharks doesn’t mind: he’s fighting before a sell-out crowd, with a million people livestreaming at home, and they’ll be loving the drama. ‘Hit ’is jaw off!’ someone in the stands shouts to Deen The Great, wishfully. Sharks isn’t a professional boxer, but a social media ‘influencer’. Being used as a punchbag is worth it to grow his internet following.
This is the industry turning online attention into cash and celebrity. For Sharks and Dean The Great and the 22 other influencers who fought in the ring on that evening in Autumn last year, the rewards are great. The main bout in Manchester was between Logan Paul, a YouTuber, and Dillon Danis, a former jiu-jitsu fighter who was boxing for the first time. Paul started on YouTube as a teenager a decade ago, and now he’s a rich man with millions of adoring followers. On camera he’s raced Ferraris, hung out with supermodels and wrestled a bear. He’s made his life an epic and tireless drama, and earned a load in return. He goes further than most other YouTubers to get subscribers. A few years ago, he filmed a dead man hanging from a tree in the Aoikigahara forest in Japan, a suicide hotspot. ‘I want to entertain you guys. I want to live life with you guys. I want you guys to be able to live life through me’, he told his subscribers in a video.
The idea is that the fame and the riches once reserved for sportsmen, actors, musicians or models can be possible for anyone.