KSI vs Logan Paul fight delivers on a curious night when online culture entered the mainstream

The main event may have helped win boxing a new audience more used to the exploits of their favourite YouTubers

Chris Stokel-Walker
Los Angeles
Sunday 10 November 2019 08:00
KSI 'respects' Logan Paul following victory in YouTuber boxing match in LA

The arena wasn’t full to its 17,000 capacity, but the STAPLES Centre was rocking regardless for an unusual sight even for the most jaded Los Angeleno – the first professional boxing bout between two YouTubers.

Logan Paul and KSI – two of the platform’s biggest names, with a combined audience of 40 million between them – applied for and were granted professional licences by the California State Boxing Commission to compete in front of nearly 13,000 people as the headline bout at an event that featured two world championship defences.

In the end, KSI took the plaudits, beating his opponent on a split decision after six rounds.

It was a curious event, with the crowd disinterested in much of the first half of the card, only coming truly alive as Billy Joe Saunders defended his world title in a hard-hitting bout against Marcelo Coceres, and the crowd lapping up any sight of their hero, KSI, and booing the any time Logan Paul’s face appeared on the eight big screens above the ring.

It was an odd turn of events: Paul should technically have been the hometown hero, residing in the state, but instead the controversial YouTuber was an easy target for the ire of the audience. His younger brother, Jake, was booed into and off the floor of the arena at several points during the evening.

Jonathan Andrade was one of the Los Angelenos to visit STAPLES Centre for the bout. “I’m supporting KSI,” the 16-year-old said.

“The guy is pretty funny, and now that he’s stepped up to another level of boxing, that’s just crazy. Going from being a YouTuber to a boxer, that’s just crazy. I guess that it will be a good match, and let’s just hope for the best.”

The event proved to be a mish-mash of styles. “Matchroom being involved in the event could have been a huge positive for YouTube boxing, however it does seem as though they have come in looking to build an event that pleases boxing purists and YouTuber fans and ended up not fully pleasing either,” said Stuart Jones of Upload Agency, who was involved in promoting the first meeting between the two YouTubers at Manchester Arena, but was not part of this year’s event.

Paul and KSI each earned $900,000 for the fight, secondly only to WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney, who took home $1 million for his involvement.

The hope was that the involvement of the YouTubers could bring a new audience to boxing, though a title defence by Billy Joe Saunders was more for the boxing purist than the casual fan looking for fireworks.

The main event, however, could have helped engage a new audience more used to the exploits of their favourite YouTubers into boxing.

“Should the match entertain the crowds, it’s likely to bridge gaps that both traditional pay-per-view and existing boxing content online have yet to surmount,” said Denis Crushell of Tubular Labs, a YouTube analytics agency.

People travelled from around the globe to see the bout. Matt Stokes, a YouTuber from Manchester, who has his own YouTube channel with 7,750 subscribers, spent £700 on flights, accommodation and fight tickets, alongside half a dozen of his friends.

KSI defeated Logan Paul in Los Angeles

“I was at the first fight,” he said. “What made me come over here, I hate to say it, is Logan Paul. I like them both. I’m a big fan of KSI and Logan, but Logan does have my bias this time. I thought I’d come all the way to America to watch it. I always wanted to come to LA and here I am.”

Like many of those who have congregated in Los Angeles, Stokes was not just passively watching the match: he was also producing videos for his own YouTube channel. “I’m here for content as well as entertainment. I’m living my life and this is where it’s brought me.”

Geraldine and Travis Milne, brother and sister from Utah, spent around $700 each travelling to Los Angeles. “I’m supporting KSI.I prefer him over Logan Paul. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time,” she said. “My brother has been a fan ever since his FIFA videos, and he introduced me a couple of years ago to The Sidemen.”

The outlay was “totally worth it,” she said. “I want to get the experience. I’ve never been to a YouTube event before, and there’s a lot of people I want to see. We saw the first fight online, and really wanted to come out for the second one.”

Part of the selling point was the proximity she could get to the action. “I like that it’s more authentic, because people are closer to the process,” she said. “TV is good too, but you get to know the YouTubers a lot better and see their lives a little more and get to know them.”

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