On Tuesday, KSI clashed with Logan Paul’s trainer Shannon Briggs in a rather heated public workout in Los Angeles, fuelling the hype ahead of the highly anticipated boxing match at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
The social media sensations fought to a majority draw in their first contest at Manchester Arena in August 2018. With both YouTubers turning professional and headguards being removed, both are predicting knockout wins.
Whilst there is an overwhelming hype globally and among the fan bases of KSI and Logan Paul, there is a sharp divide in opinion on the fight. Eddie Hearn – promoting the fight through Matchroom Boxing – is among those who believe the rematch is a huge opportunity for the sport. Others are less convinced.
A huge opportunity for boxing
Hearn – notorious for promoting the likes of British boxer Anthony Joshua – claimed that he “couldn’t ignore” the success of the first fight:
“I watched it and thought I should be involved with it. The YouTube world is a remarkable way of people digesting content and it fascinates me. There will be a huge, new audience worldwide and it’s our job to make sure they take an interest in boxing – then they buy tickets and watch other fighters”.
KSI and Logan Paul are powerful figures on social media – with a combined following of 40 million – the fight will no doubt bring the limelight on boxing. It could result in the younger generation taking an interest in the sport, an increase in white collar boxing events, and more professional boxers kickstarting their careers at obscure leisure centres.
The power of social media
The sheer popularity of the fight undoubtedly highlights the power of social media. Just imagine this: in February 2018, YouTube had its first white collar event with Joe Weller and KSI headlining the fight, streamed on both fighters’ YouTube channels in front of a crowd of 8,000 at the Copperbox Arena, London. Flash forward 20 months and one more fight on: from YouTubers to professional boxers, KSI and Logan Paul will go head to head at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, in front of a sell-out crowd of 21,000, with millions more expected to watch live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Watford-born KSI rose to fame by uploading FIFA clips to YouTube, whilst Paul came to prominence by posting comical bite-sized videos via social media platform Vine. Whilst their social media status is a fast-track in enabling them to become professionals, it reflects the art of self-promotion, and the sheer power of social media in the present day.
Boxing pundit Steve Bunce – who criticised the fight for being a ‘joke’, ‘shambles’, and ‘a very poor bout technically’ -predicted that the pair will become the highest paid boxers in the world this year, potentially gaining up to £40 million each. Bunce states that there is a lot boxers can learn from social media celebrities regarding the art of self-promotion: “If I was a promoter, I’d get my fighters to look at how these guys and girls are doing it on YouTube or Facebook. If you think boxing shouldn’t be influenced by the online community, are you living in 1979? We’re in 2019. Get with it”.
Boxing traditionalists opposing it
Others are less convinced, and struggle to grasp the direction that the YouTubers are heading in. Former British champion Jamie Moore, now trainer of Carl Frampton who holds the WBO interim featherweight title since April 2018, states that you cannot call it ‘boxing’: “It’s two young men who have a bit of a problem with each other and are using boxing to sort their beef out. It’s a short window of time where they have to put their bodies through hell”, adding that “Young professional fighters have no idea what the end goal is”.
Much criticism stems from the fact that KSI and Logan Paul are headlining a bill featuring well-established boxers in world title fights on the undercard. This includes American WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney and British undefeated WBO super-middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders, and critics like Moore feel that one of these reputable boxers should be headlining such a prestigious event.
It remains to be seen whether KSI and Logan Paul can justify being the headline fight through their boxing ability. One thing is for certain though – regardless of the criticism from traditionalists or the vast amount of money the fighters will earn – the fight poses a huge opportunity for boxing, shedding vast attention on the sport.