KSI/Logan Paul bout to create more mainstream fights

Sebastian Gamboa, Courier Staff

With the continuing growth of social media and the creators that social media runs off of, the permeation of online creators into mainstream culture is inevitable. One current of the mainstream ripe for the picking is the world of sports and more specifically, boxing.

Just this week, an over a year long Internet/sports crossover phenomenon found its conclusion. This event was the Logan Paul vs. KSI fight. In February of 2018 right after defeating fellow YouTuber Joe Weller, Internet creator KSI called on creator Logan Paul and challenged him to a fight, which took place on Aug. 25, 2018 in Manchester, England.

The fight was heavily promoted and was a subject of huge interest online with both competitors being huge on the YouTube platform. Additionally, Deji and Jake Paul, the brothers of KSI and Logan Paul, respectively as well as also being large creators, fought on the undercard. Along with other more minor undercard fighters, a huge spotlight was shined onto the fights. Prior to the fight, there was debate as to whether or not Internet celebrities should be entering the world of sports. One opposed individual was former UFC champion Michael Bisping who called the KSI-Paul fight a “mockery” of boxing. He received plenty of backlash and ended up deleting the podcast episode where he made that statement.

In terms of viewership and revenue, the first fight generated over 22 million views including official pay-per-view streams and illegal streams. With YouTube views, sponsorships, merchandise and the live fight itself, it is estimated that each Paul and KSI received ~$96 million, not taking into account costs. There was an additional ~$12 million lost from pirated streams. All of this came from a fight that ended up in a draw, which was the perfect setup to this last week’s rematch.

In this match, things changed. It was no longer a YouTube event and was instead a sanctioned professional boxing match with no headgear and an undercard with only accredited professional boxers. Additionally, both fighters trained under professional boxers. Even though the fight had all of the makings of a professional match, it still drew heavy criticism from parts of the boxing community. Many saw it as a blatant cash-grab from the two YouTube stars and as a sacrilege of the sport. These opinions were drowned out in favor of a more positive view. Many argued that the two stars battling it out draws in new fans to a sport that is falling by the wayside. It was also pointed out that ignoring the background of the athletes, every aspect of the fight hit the criteria of a professional match, meaning those with dissenting opinions were objectively wrong to question its legitimacy.

In an effort to bolster its image of legitimacy, the rematch also stayed clear from YouTube, opting to instead stream on the sports streaming platform “DAZN.” While total viewership is widely unknown, the stream had almost 900k viewers at its peak with 21,000 attending in-person. This, however, pales in comparison to the other over 1 million views that pirated streams brought in. It is also too early to know revenue figures but both fighters were guaranteed $900k by the California State Athletic Commission plus extra from pay-per-view viewership, merchandise, sponsorships, etc., which promise to be very large.

While there was a smaller turnout for the fight, there was finally a conclusion. KSI won the match in a split decision after Paul faced a two-point deduction for hitting KSI while he was down. Because of the closeness of the outcome, there are many critics who say the fight was rigged in favor of KSI.

Besides the money and viewership, this match is poised to have huge implications in the world of boxing and the sports world in general. Crossover between what is popular on the Internet and what is popular outside of the Internet is very rare. However, this set of fights sparked interest from individuals in the online community in boxing. Since the second fight, a new trend on the Internet has popped up. Felix Kjelberg, also known as PewDiePie, who is the most subscribed individual creator on YouTube released a video titled “Which YouTubers Could I Beat in a Fight??” inspired by the KSI/Logan Paul Fights. Because of these fights, there is more opportunity from those in the online community to crossover to boxing and maybe in the future sports in general. In an age where online content is sapping conventional media of its viewership, crossover between the online world and professional sports may be just the mutually-beneficial relationship that professional sports and conventional media need to regain popularity and prominence.