This story starts in a local shop, where bottles of a drink called Prime were lined up on the counter when we called in last week. It was the immediate effect on my grandson which struck me more than the bright blue bottles.
He was transfixed. Wanted to buy one so much that the reason for the trip, picking up Match! or Kick! suddenly seemed terribly old-fashioned.
You might have heard of Prime. Anyone with a school-age child or grandchild probably has. The brand was launched in 2022 by YouTube stars and so-called ‘influencer boxers’ KSI and Logan Paul and became an overnight playground craze.
This year, Prime released a new caffeinated energy drink – the one on the counter last week – with 200 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces. That’s nearly twice the caffeine of a Red Bull and the equivalent to six cans of Coca-Cola. When we’d left the store without any, the trip rather lost its shine – which only went to show the power of the marketing machine parents are currently contending with.
Logan Paul, an American who in 2018 posted footage showing an apparent suicide victim in Japan, and KSI, real name Olajide Olayinka Williams Olatunji, from Watford, have a combined YouTube subscriber count of 34.4 million across their primary channels alone. And they have just signed up Erling Haaland up to help them.
The Prime drink brand was launched last year and has become a craze with school-age kids
YouTube stars and so-called ‘influencer boxers’ KSI (right) and Logan Paul (left) promote Prime
The pair grow their brand through creating a buzz about their boxing fights through a blizzard of online trash talk, before settling scores in the ring (pictured – KSI and Tommy Fury face off)
The pair’s new ‘We got Haaland!’ vlog features Erling in a Prime T-shirt, wearing a Prime necklace and generally having a wild time with them, while clutching bottles of Prime. Bayern Munich have just become the drink’s ‘official hydration partner’, too.
It’s all emphatic proof of the commercial power of these two men, who have grown their audience by creating a buzz about their fights through a blizzard of online trash talk, then settling scores in the ring. It makes the old rivalries of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, introduced by Dickie Davies on ITV’s World of Sport, seem like a tea-party by comparison.
The abuse and insults for opponents are their only way to generate clicks and get eyeballs because the spectacle in the ring is so poor, but it’s descended to a disgusting level of misogyny ahead of Paul’s next fight, against Dillon Danis, an American mixed martial artist, in Manchester next month.
Danis has posted messages about Paul’s fiancée Nina Agdal which, according to a lawsuit filed in the US, have led her to accuse him of violating revenge porn laws. He responded to that suit with another foul-mouthed tirade against her. This has not lessened Paul’s willingness to engage with him one bit.
Individuals like this, the products they promote and the influence they have on impressionable young men, have seized the space that boxing once held, and to watch what they disseminate, week-to-week, makes you wonder where on earth the sport’s real heroes have gone?
Boxing currently has four highly compelling male heavyweight performers but the problem is that they’ve all-but vanished. Fans rarely get the chance to see them fight.
Tyson Fury has fought once in the past 18 months and has now coupled himself to a nonsensical bout with former UFC fighter Francis Ngannou, rather than defending the most valuable belt in the sport.
Deontay Wilder last appeared in the ring a year ago, in a mismatch against Robert Helenius which was over in the first round.
Anthony Joshua’s most recent fight was re-arranged after Dillian Whyte failed a drugs test.
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk has boxed 45 times in the last decade.
There was a hint this week that Joshua might finally face Wilder – but please don’t hold your breath. Eddie Hearn told BBC Boxing this week that ‘a change of environment in Saudi Arabia with the operators in boxing’ had created complications. ‘We’re waiting on the official contract, but we won’t wait forever,’ Hearn said.
This sounded like more evidence of the struggle to bring boxing’s elite fighters together – itself a symptom of the fact that nobody wants to emerge from negotiations looking second best. Logan Paul might be a deeply inadequate boxer, with a one-star rating out of five, according to the Boxrec boxing website, but he certainly makes fights happen.
Logan Paul’s next fight against Dillon Danis (pictured) has descended to a disgusting level of misogyny after he posted messages about Paul’s fiancée Nina Agdal
Boxing has four highly compelling male heavyweight performers in Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk and Deontay Wilder but the problem is that they’ve all-but vanished
Fury has fought once in the past 18 months and has now coupled himself to a nonsensical bout with ex-UFC fighter Francis Ngannou, rather than defending the most valuable belt in the sport
Boxing seems resigned to these untrained influencers, who will say and do anything for clicks and who demean the sport in the process. Hearn’s Matchroom Sport promoted a rematch of Paul v KSI in 2019. If the sport actually did the job of governing itself and creating a framework where the best fought the best, perhaps there would be less of a market for the freak shows.
Until such time, the ‘boxing influencers’ and the products they push seem to know no limits.
Prime states there is a difference between its caffeine-free ‘hydration’ sports drinks and the energy range and says the latter carries warnings that it is not for under 18s. Caffeine levels also fall ‘within the legal limit of the countries it’s sold in,’ it claims.
But with unpredictable stock levels fuelling the hysteria about the drink in the UK, some supermarkets have found themselves selling out, prompting an extraordinary re-sale market on Amazon, where some 500ml bottles were yesterday being touted for £24. After claims of extraordinary mark-ups started surfacing, KSI insisted on Twitter: ‘Me and Logan ain’t made any money from Prime. It’s all going back into the business to increase the supply.’
Words which carry about as much credibility as his pre-fight trash talk.
Sir Alex is just wired differently
I spent a fascinating few hours interviewing the great Scottish broadcaster and writer Archie Macpherson last week, during which few recollections were more vivid than his story of how Alex Ferguson, as Aberdeen manager, exploded at him over some mild criticism of Jim Leighton and has never spoken to him since.
There were echoes, there, of how Ferguson let the late David Meek, an equally thoughtful journalist, of the Manchester Evening News, have it one December night in the early 1990s, telling him he was ‘finished’ because of a perceived slight.
‘OK. If that’s how you feel, then Merry Christmas,’ Meek boldly replied, having held his own, just as Macpherson did.
It wasn’t irreparable for Meek – probably because Ferguson still needed him. It’s unfathomable that Ferguson would not have found a way to call Macpherson, a compatriot of such intelligence and perspective.
But perhaps that’s why he was a serial winner. He is wired differently to almost everyone else.
The way Sir Alex Ferguson handled the media was fascinating and shows he is wired differently
Reliable Kelly is still the one you would call upon
An excellent segment on ‘More or Less’, the BBC Radio 4 programme with Tim Harford, which investigates the accuracy of statistical claims.
It analysed Chloe Kelly’s 68.8mph penalty for England in their World Cup last-16 match against Nigeria, and measured it against last season’s most powerful Premier League goal.
Turns out FIFA’s measurement was very different to the Premier League’s: a case of apples and pears. Kelly’s measurement related to the moment of optimal speed, just after she had struck the ball, captured through a chip inserted within it.
FIFA claimed Chloe Kelly struck her penalty against Nigeria at the World Cup at 68.8mph
The Premier League’s most powerful goal – Said Benrahma’s 66.6mph strike for West Ham against Crystal Palace – was the average speed between him striking the ball and it crossing the goal-line, using high-definition images.
It slowed in flight, of course. Benrahma’s was the strongest.
Of course, Kelly had to contend with monumental pressure of knowing that her entire nation was willing her to score.
She, European Championship final matchwinner and shootout markswoman, is the one you would want to call on when the pips squeak.
University Challenge slip-up provides small satisfaction
‘Which football club did Brian Clough manage for 44 days?’ Balliol College Oxford’s team was asked on University Challenge, on Monday night.
‘West Ham,’ they replied, after some conferring.
There was a small and very pointless satisfaction to know one thing they didn’t.