If you’re somewhat familiar with YouTube and the creators on it, there is a big chance you’ve heard about the madness that went on on the 9th of November. Two people who create YouTube videos and music, amongst other things, for a living, went head to head in a sold-out Staples Center in Los Angeles in a boxing match that was described as the biggest online entertainment event ever. Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me introduce you to the multi-talented British entertainer KSI and his opponent, social media star Logan Paul.
I can hear you thinking, why would two YouTubers square off in a boxing match? Well, let me give you a timeline. On the 2nd of August 2017, football YouTuber Joe Weller uploaded a video in which he fought his colleague Theo Baker in a small-scale boxing match. There was little to no skill involved, but it was purely done for entertainment. This however changed when the biggest YouTuber in the United Kingdom, Olajide Olatunji, better known as KSI, left a comment on Joe Weller’s Instagram post. ‘Lemme fight the winner haha’ was the comment that KSI left. It was only 5 words, but those 5 words changed the YouTube landscape for years to come.
If you know the two fighters, it won’t be a surprise that the much more athletically gifted Joe Weller won his first ‘amateur fight’. What followed was something no one expected. KSI and Weller exchanged some insults on Twitter, with KSI even creating a ‘diss track’ on Joe Weller titled ‘Two Birds One Stone’. This started a true rivalry. There was fighting during the press conference for the fight, and the trash talk was going hard between the two. On the 4th of February KSI and Weller had their amateur fight in a sold-out Copperbox Arena in London. Whilst KSI was considered the underdog, he did win by technical knockout after 1 minute and 30 seconds into the third round.
It was only 5 words, but those 5 words changed the YouTube landscape for years to come
This event was the biggest that ever came out of YouTube, gathering over 25 million views on stream. However, in hindsight, there was just one part of it that was groundbreaking. After knocking out Joe Weller, KSI called out Logan Paul to fight. United Kingdom versus United States. 2 massive ego’s, fighting it out in the ring. That already sounds like a spectacle.
Now, if you don’t know, Logan Paul is quite a controversial figure. His career took off after he made the switch from video platform Vine to Youtube, amassing a staggering 16 million subscribers in just a year. Everyone loved him, and it didn’t seem like he could do anything wrong. That was until the beginning of 2018, when he made, as said by the man himself, a ‘severe and continuous lapse of judgment’. He travelled to Japan to film a video in the infamous ‘suicide forest’. In this forest, he and his team ran into a guy who had just hung himself. He filmed it. He kept filming. And uploaded it. A severe and continuous lapse of judgment indeed.
From there on out, it’s been a story of redemption for Logan. He has done suicide awareness videos, and it seems like he has grown up since then and really become an adult. The call-out by KSI came at a perfect time for Logan. It would give him something to work towards, and essentially save his career. He grasped this opportunity and started training to fight KSI.
From a nerd to an athlete
KSI, known as JJ, wasn’t known for his athletic prowess. Whereas Logan spent his high school time as Ohio state champion in wrestling, KSI spent his younger years in his bedroom, recording videos while screaming at a screen. He started his YouTube career by just making a few videos on the video game FIFA, but now the entertainment octopus has a successful music career, he starred in a movie and has sold out stadiums in charity football matches. After exploring all these paths, it was time for him to continue into boxing. He recruited a trainer, olympic silver-medallist Viddal Riley and he started working hard. He defeated Joe Weller as the underdog, and he was not done there. Logan Paul was next.
A professional event for amateur boxers
It took a while to put together, but on the 25th of August, Paul and KSI faced off for the title of YouTube Boxing Champion. They sold out the Manchester Arena, and after developing a real hate for each other in the lead-up to the event, that night they were finally going to settle the score. Logan and KSI weren’t the only fighters that night, with 14 other YouTubers going at each other in the ring as well. The fight between Logan and KSI ended up in a majority draw, with both of them winning 3 of the 6 rounds of boxing. It was like it was written in the stars, have the match end up in a draw to do a rematch in the USA.
The fight was streamed on YouTube’s pay-per-view platform, where it cost £7.50 to stream the fight. The event amassed an overwhelming 1.05 million pay-per-view buys worldwide. Simple maths lead to the conclusion that the pay-per-view revenue alone would end up being just short of 8 million pounds. With those kinds of numbers involved, it wasn’t weird that the mainstream media got involved. One name in particular came forward. Eddie Hearn.
A new level
Eddie Hearn is known as the biggest boxing promoter in the world. He has promoted many world champions and high profile fighters like Anthony Joshua, Amir Khan and Billy Joe Saunders. The involvement of Hearn with the KSI vs. Logan Paul event brought it to a new level. DAZN and Sky Sports Boxing, the two biggest boxing broadcasters in the world, covered the fight extensively. Both KSI and Logan Paul went professional for the fight, which meant that the fighters could fight without headguards. Logan Paul’s trainer for the fight was two-time heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs, while KSI expanded his training team with boxing legend Jeff Mayweather. The fact that these two got involved shows the sheer will of the two fighters to win.
On the 9th of November Logan and KSI sold out the Staples Centre. Justin Bieber attended the event in support of Logan Paul, while rappers Rick Ross and Lil Baby performed their new song that they released with KSI for his ring walk. Wiz Khalifa, Tyron Woodley, Dan Bilzerian and Mike Tyson are amongst the celebrities that attended the event. There were title defending fights on the undercard, amongst which were Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney. The hype was real.
The real winner
While the fight itself wasn’t of a particularly high standard, it was entertaining. KSI came out swinging with an impressive stamina level, while Logan paced himself after gassing out in the previous event. KSI knocked down Logan, but this was deemed illegal for a hit behind the ears. Real controversy started when Logan knocked out KSI with an uppercut, but hitting him illegally 3 times after. This resulted in a 2-point deduction for Logan, rendering this move irrelevant. The fight went the whole six rounds, which raised the suspicion that another draw would be announced. However, the judges gave the fight to KSI and he was declared the YouTube champion of the world.
Eddie Hearn recently reported that the KSI vs Logan Paul fight had amassed 1.2 million pay-per-view buys
The real winner here? YouTube. Who would’ve ever thought that an event that started with a small YouTube video by Theo Baker and Joe Weller would result in an event with such magnitude. Eddie Hearn recently reported that the KSI vs Logan Paul fight had amassed 1.2 million pay-per-view buys, overtaking Anthony Joshua’s fight. It has lead to major mainstream media to embrace the entertainers that YouTube has brought forth, and recognised them as real celebrities. KSI and Logan Paul didn’t come out of it that bad either. Apart from a few bruises, they got at least $900,000 for their fight. Not bad for a nerd playing video games and a high school wrestler right?
Cover: Joel Muniz