Peter Lewinton assesses the YouTube boxing craze and ponders if KSI vs Logan Paul 3 is an inevitable consequence
With the dust now settled on KSI vs Logan Paul 2, not to mention the Andy Ruiz vs Anthony Joshua rematch, it is worth considering where the YouTube boxing phenomenon might go next and whether KSI vs Logan Paul 3 is a natural consequence. It is a strange thing when the cruiserweight professional boxers Logan Paul (0-1) and Olajide William Olatunji aka KSI (1-0) have a significantly greater profile than Mairis Briedis (26-1) from Latvia who is probably the number one cruiserweight worldwide and has only ever lost to the superlative, and now heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk, who is the WBO mandatory challenger for Joshua.
As fans of the Die Hard movies will know the sequels are often no match for the original. However, KSI v Logan Paul 2 will most likely have generated greater revenues than KSI v Logan Paul 1 in August 2018. The two venues (Manchester Arena/Staples Center) were similar sizes at about 20,000 capacity but, unlike the return in LA, the first bout in England was sold out. All media revenues from the initial contest were from YouTube PPV at £7 per buy. Approximate buys were 1.5 million so £10.5 million total ppv revenue. For the second fixture, Sky Sports Box Office was selling at £10 and reports suggested 500,000 buys so £5 million in revenues. Unless DAZN and FITE.tv did not generate £5.5 million from the rest of the world, and the former apparently enjoyed a subscription surge due to the rematch, the sequel outsold the original and the laws of commerce dictate that people will generally keep doing things that make money.
On closer inspection, however, the two events were very different, and this makes predicting what happens next quite tricky. The first event was contested under amateur rules (headgear and bigger gloves) with many of the undercard bouts not matching the weights of the fighters. The anarchic world of the internet ruled. The fight was based purely on two people with a ‘beef’, and around 50 million social media followers, stepping in to the ring to settle a score. It could have been a sword fight, joust or game of Twister – it just happened to be boxing. But it was great fun. Other YouTube fighter events of a similar nature have also happened – Joe Weller started it with a fight against Malfoy in August 2017, followed by Weller v KSI in Feb 2018 with MaxPlaysFifa and AnEsonGib on the undercard. Calfreezy has organised a couple of Royal Rumbles and Slim and Fousey had a real battle in September 2019. All amateur and to an extent light-hearted in the sense that the contests were not really about absolute boxing ability; more about enhancing social media profiles and settling scores.
The decision by Logan Paul and KSI to ‘go professional’ for the rematch changed that completely. In the context of the fight itself, it may be that the only way to stage the event in the USA was on a professional basis and DAZN wanted the event in the USA. It was also an additional marketing move, applying a veneer of gravity. But who does either fighter now face if they wish to remain pro? It would be unwise for either to step into the ring with a top 10 cruiserweight or even take the obvious match between Viddal Riley (3-0 and KSI’s trainer) and Logan Paul. According to BoxRec Viddal is ranked 50/59 in the UK and is rapidly closing in on one million YouTube followers. Tommy Fury at light-heavyweight is a possibility and has called KSI out, but the brother of Tyson has been training in the sport for most of his life, so that matchup would not be sensible from a boxing perspective. KSI has suggested he wants to fight some celebrities, but he would likely need to do that on an amateur basis and Logan Paul, who wrestled in high school, is reportedly headed to MMA. As soon as a fight becomes a professional contest about boxing and not a ‘beef’ between two celebrities the credibility of the YouTube fighters will evaporate.
There is a lot of online chatter about a likely fight between AnEsonGib and Jake Paul. AnEsonGib’s social media following is much smaller than Jake Paul’s and this may present a barrier. Also, if they both turn pro for the fight to make it happen that will most likely be the last pro fight they have for the reasons suggested above. Not to disrespect anyone who is brave enough to step into a ring, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to both build up 20 million followers online and train enough to become a top pro boxer, not to mention the inevitable issues in only taking up the sport as an adult.
This also suggests that the most likely next pro fight for either KSI or Logan Paul is KSI vs Logan Paul 3.
To keep an eye on what is going on and to try to put some sort of vague structure around YouTube fighters I have created a light-hearted YouTubeFighterRank which will be updated as things happen. It takes into account social media following, performance in ‘ranking’ events and other things. It is not based solely on fighting ability.