YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul made their boxing debuts headlining a DAZN fight card promoted by Matchroom Boxing. It wasn’t a typical night of boxing.
The verdict is in. KSI and Paul are YouTubers, not boxers. Paul possessed more refined pugilistic than KSI, but both proved to be neophytes in the boxing game, and let’s hope they are done pretending to be professional athletes.
Days before the fight, Matchroom Boxing CEO Eddie Hearn told Boxingscene.com:
We need to showcase ourselves to the Gen Z audience. It’s very difficult to attract them via contemporaries methods. These fighters will be bringing built-in audiences and expose them to the elite fighters like Devin Haney and Billy Joe Saunders, who will also be on the show. You can’t not watch Devin Haney without going, ‘wow! He’s amazing! We’re going to follow him.’ His fan base will grow and more fans will come into the sport as a result.
The Gen Z fans Hearn hoped for showed up to the KSI vs. Paul fight in force. It was a very different boxing crowd than the norm. Also part of the crowd were celebrities like Justin Bieber and Wiz Khalifa, who are more famous for their dramatic personal lives than their talent.
Regardless of this fight being more of a sideshow than a serious boxing match, the Staples Center was packed and the crowd was amped up when both YouTubers made their way to the ring.
KSI demonstrated his showmanship as rapper Rick Ross performed in the ring to lead him out. The bout that ensued could be described using a unique amalgamation of words. It was sloppy, confused, comical at times, yet strangely alluring.
It only took about 20 seconds for KSI and Paul to clinch. KSI threw wild haymakers and looked more like a Tough Man entrant than a professional boxer. Paul stayed clam but lacked the skill to make KSI pay for his undisciplined attack.
By the second round, KSI was breathing out of his mouth. He threw a lot of punches. They were all telegraphed, but one or two occasionally landed. Paul used movement around the ring and jabbed, but looked reluctant to let his hands go.
The fun started in round 3. KSI hit Paul with an overhand right, but experienced referee Jack Reiss ruled it a slip. It seems that Paul and KSI’s amateurism in the ring was infectious and plagued Reiss’s abilities.
Round 4 added to the building excitement. As KSI recklessly charged in with an attack, Paul caught him with a well-placed right uppercut. KSI was badly hurt, but Paul’s lack of experience saw him make two costly errors.
After hurting KSI with the uppercut, Paul held KSI with his left hand and hit him with a right. KSI went down to the canvas and Paul swiped at the back of his head while he was down. Reiss ruled it a knocked down, but negated Paul’s scoring by deducting two points from Paul for his infractions.
Reiss’s decision to deduct two points instead of one was unusual and criticized during the fight by commentators and after the fight by Paul.
KSI was given time to recover which probably saved him. He lost round 5, but had a decent round 6. The bout’s outcome went to the judges’ scorecards. One judge had Paul winning 56-55, but the other two had KSI winning with scores of 57-54 and 56-55.
When it was all done, KSI and Paul met at center ring and quashed their beef showing mutual respect. Paul even went so far as to censure his harsh words leading up to the fight saying, “It’s all for show.”
Gen Z got their fun night at the fights. They saw their YouTubers go at it in an awful display of boxing that looked like most fights that take place by the bike racks in middle school. They also got to see Billy Joe Saunder’s deliver a knockout performance and Devin Haney show off his skills.
Will Gen Z keep their DAZN subscriptions and permanently respect and follow boxing, or will boxing continue to live outside of the mainstream and see a devaluation in its legitimacy because of spectacles like KSI vs. Paul? Time will tell.