In boxing, there is often no love lost between fighters. Whether that manifests in a weigh-in scuffle or a war of words beforehand, intense rivalries have been commonplace over the years. The sport’s newest rivalry has a very modern edge to it.
In one corner, we have a former internet star. A man who made his name on YouTube and through his music, before turning his hand to boxing.
In the other, a reality TV star and one of the younger brothers of one of the most successful boxers of all time.
Sunday’s fight between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury is one of the most hotly anticipated in the sport’s modern history – not necessarily because of their relative qualities, but because of the bad blood between the two.
After years of antagonistic exchanges, Paul and Fury will finally exchange blows in the ring in Saudi Arabia this weekend and perhaps change the future of the sport itself.
The pair will trade blows on Sunday at the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia as they headline of the evening’s fight card.
The card will get underway at 2 p.m. ET (10 p.m. local time), with the eight-round cruiserweight bout scheduled to start at about 5 p.m. ET (1 a.m. local time).
Here’s where you can watch Paul and Fury battle it out:
UK: BT Sport
Sunday’s fight has been years in the making.
The two have been scheduled to fight twice before. Fury pulled out of the first, citing a broken rib and a bacterial chest infection, and for the second Fury was denied a visa to face Paul in the US.
The two fighters have had different journeys to get to this point.
Fury has boxing in his blood. As the brother of world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and the son of a former fighter, a career in the sport was always likely.
After a brief stint on the UK reality TV show ‘Love Island,’ the 23-year-old Fury has turned all his focus onto boxing and has begun his burgeoning career with an undefeated, eight-win start; although critics would say the opponents have not been tough.
Paul only began boxing in 2018, but has since gone on to record six wins – including four knockouts – against a variety of sporting names, including victories against MMA world champions Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley and Anderson Silva.
What began as seemingly a money-driven decision – having seen the huge purses boxers can earn, even in exhibition fights – has turned into a full-blown career change for Paul. Fury, however, will be the first professional boxer he will have faced.
Should he perform well, or even beat Fury, the boxing community may start to take him more seriously.
“In terms of what it means for my career, he’s a professional boxer and we’re in the sport of boxing,” Paul told BT Sport earlier this month.
“The build-up has been years and years in the making. It’s almost like we’ve gotten three press tours with this fight because we’ve been trying to make it happen for so long, so there’s so much media out there, so many people want to see it.
“It’s country vs. country, it’s the Paul family name vs. the Fury family name.”
It is also a massive fight for Fury – who has not fought since beating Daniel Bocianski in April – as he has for years had to live in the shadow of his brother and also faced criticism for not achieving more in the sport to date.
“This is a massive event, a lot of people think this is going to be a really hard, really close fight,” Fury told BT Sport.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s a big event because one man is a superstar on the internet and the other man is a legitimate boxer and people want to see [Paul] go up against one.
“That’s all it is in my eyes. In my eyes it’s fight number nine, another journeyman to knock out.”
Internet personalities taking up boxing has come a long way in the last five years.
Ever since the first fights involving YouTube stars KSI and Joe Weller back in 2017, people from all walks of life – from TikTok to music – have slipped on the gloves and stepped into the ring, with the exhibition demographic of the sport growing rapidly.
As the sport’s newcomers have improved and taken the craft more seriously, some of boxing’s traditional devotees have begun to be won over.
Former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton said that at first the Paul vs. Fury fight did grate, but that he has come to understand the appeal of the event.
“At the very, very start, I was kind of like: ‘What is this?’ And as a boxer who’s dedicated his life to the sport,” Frampton told the BBC, “if I’m being honest, it did annoy me at little bit at the start that these guys were getting so much attention.
“But I understand it now and I can see why there is such an appeal.”
In an unprecedented event, the World Boxing Council – one of boxing’s four major organizations – announced the winner of the fight will receive a top 40 cruiserweight ranking.
That is a decision which has been criticized by members of the boxing fraternity, but gives the fight a legitimacy that many such bouts have previously lacked.
A special commemorative belt has been created by the WBC. The Diriyah Belt will be awarded to the victor, with the WBC saying that the fight “continues to support the growth of our sport by attracting thousands of new viewers.”
The pre-fight press conference was full of barbs, with Fury predicting he’d knock Paul out in four rounds and Paul saying he is there to “silence the critics.”
In fact, the whole fight was given another edge to it when Paul made a double or nothing bet with Fury in the press conference, saying he would give Fury all of his earnings if he loses. But, if Paul was to win, he would take all of the money.
Although Fury himself didn’t shake on the deal, Fury’s father and trainer John seemed to agree on it.
For both fighters, this fight could prove a huge springboard – both in the ring and out – to a successful boxing career.