Danny Flexen presents some key takeaways from the KSI vs Logan Paul 2 press conference
I’d never previously been inside the Troxy, even though the Limehouse venue has hosted several small-hall boxing shows. To me, the setting for the London leg of the KSI vs Logan Paul press tour, will always be where my mum used to play bingo on Sunday and Thursday evenings, while my older brother introduced me to the wonderful if not particularly diverse canon of Jean Claude Van Damme.
I grew up down the road but, on Monday evening, Limehouse took on a rather different hue. The first clue was the line for the ticketed event which meandered up and down a narrow side street and was largely populated by teenagers and pre-teens. They would later turn almost feral under the dancing Troxy lights, chanting and swearing like a baying horde from the Twilight generation. It was like soft play on crack (imagine that holy hell) and confirmed that at least one part of the Matchroom/Sky marketing is true: this IS a new, untapped audience and, crucially, a young one
Secondly, the promoters and broadcasters are happy to target this lucrative demographic via the YouTubers themselves. Eddie Hearn, Adam Smith and DAZN’s Joe Markowski hardly spoke up on the dais, deferring to KSI, Logan Paul, pro boxer and the former’s coach Viddal Riley and Paul’s trainer Shannon Briggs, who was unsurprisingly rather bemused by it all. Honestly, if someone told me Briggs had been replaced a few years ago by a life-sized action figure spouting automated catchphrases, I’d accept the claim without question. Coins and paper were launched from the balcony, props - including a somewhat disinterested dog - were employed and it all added to a pantomime feel. Never work with children or animals, huh? Importantly, though, the crowd were passionate, engaged and invested. This show, available in the UK small hours for a cut-price £9.95, will do big numbers.
So, we conducted interviews before, during and after the presser. I was happy to speak to the main players but my colleague Alex dealt with the YouTube personalities. Not, I hasten to add, due to any snobbery on my part - YouTube effectively pays my wage, don’t forget - but the simple fact that I did not recognise any of these digital-age celebrities or know of their credentials.
Perhaps that was my most poignant takeaway: I’m old, man. Not exactly a revelation, I grant you. I felt a certain malaise around halfway through the event and, without naming names, so did Rob Tebbutt of Boxing Social. We were like Stadtler and Waldorf off The Muppet Show, a dated reference that would be appropriately lost on the Troxy attendees. Believe me, I still get pumped up for a number of fight weeks so this apathy is uncommon. It all felt a little too contrived and silly, and this is coming from a huge WWE fan!
This leads to my final point. While this show will make a great deal of money, it is unlikely to retain its audience for future boxing cards, as has been claimed. The audience in the Troxy could not have cared less for the real boxing figures and neither super-hot prospect Devin Haney nor two-weight world champion Billy Joe Saunders, both of whom appear on the undercard, were even in attendance. Rumour had it that Saunders’ contest could well appear on non-ppv Sky Sports. These kids (I realise I’m not helping my evergreen case) only really want their YouTube heroes, whether it’s in a boxing ring, a cage or a gaming arcade. These cult figures transcend the activity, and boxing itself will not gain from this particularly. But those involved will and I, for one, have no problem with that.
As I left, to down a few welcome pints at my childhood local, the Peacock, with my oldest friends, Steven Cole and Lee Boys - one of the regulars frequently misnomered the American main eventer as ’Paul Hogan’ - I saw Tyan Booth on the pavement. Standing up, I should add. He’d be ideal for a show like this. He’s perfect for it, ain’t he? Perfect, yeah.