The Complete History of YouTube Boxing

Social media influencers from YouTube taking part in professional fights is certainly a new concept, but not something to be belittled. With millions of pay-per-view purchases and arenas in London, Manchester, Los Angeles and Miami being sold out, these incredible events are global sensations. The most recent fights have even been featured on Sky Sports Box Office and American-based streaming service DAZN.

It all started back on the 1st of August 2017 when UK youtubers Joe Weller (5 million subscribers) and Theo Baker (800 thousand subscribers) uploaded a fight between the two of them onto Joe’s Youtube channel. There was no bad blood between the two of them; they are good friends and it was purely made for entertainment purposes. However, during a promotion on instagram for the bout between the two, popular youtuber KSI (20 million subscribers) made a comment to let him ‘fight the winner’. It wasn’t a surprise when Joe, the favourite for the fight, beat Theo, and this is where the large-scale boxing events began to blossom.

Joe Weller and KSI (real name Olajide Olatunji) announced and confirmed the fight in September 2017, after a physical altercation on stage at a YouTube event. The fight was not yet known globally but had the biggest newspapers in the country talking about it. KSI was trained by professional boxer Viddal Riley whilst Joe was trained at a boxing gym. After exchanging insults on social media, press conferences, and a final weigh in, they fought in the Copper Box Arena, London, on the 3rd of February 2018. Several undercard fights were held on the same night, all leading up to the final bout. It was clear that KSI had the upper hand throughout the fight but Joe stood his ground until the 3rd round where he lost by TKO (technical knockout). Around 20 million people are thought to have watched the fight, with the livestream alone generating millions. In a post-fight interview, KSI called out the Paul brothers, notorious youtubers in America; he wanted to fight one of them next.

Logan Paul (20 million subscribers), the older of the two brothers, accepted the fight and preparations began. Viddal Riley would continue to train KSI whilst Logan would train at a boxing gym. KSI’s younger brother Deji (9 million subscribers), wanted to be involved with the event and challenged Logan’s younger brother Jake Paul (19 million subscribers); this fight was also accepted. Deji would first be trained with his brother by Viddal Riley but would go on to leave and train at a boxing gym whist Jake would train together with his brother. With media attention gained from the first fight and the eyes of the USA, it was clear that this event would be a lot bigger than the last one. The fights were confirmed for the 25th of August 2018, giving them just over seven months to train. Promotion for the fights first fully started when KSI and Logan met face to face at the Mayweather boxing gym in Las Vegas on the 14th of March. They were heavily promoted over the following months, in comparison to the first event. Two press conferences were held nearer to the fight in both Los Angeles (16th of June) and London (18th of July), and a final weigh in was held in the week approaching the fight.

 

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On the 25th of August, eight fights were held in Manchester Arena, with millions more viewers watching the pay-per-view stream at home than the first fight. Six undercards took place before the bout between Jake Paul and Deji Olatunji. Jake had focused on training and was very athletic whereas Deji had taken a more relaxed approach and was not naturally sporty; there was a clear favourite. Despite this, Deji shocked the world by holding his own until the fifth round of 6 when his team threw in the towel and Jake won by TKO. His brother’s loss did not seem to dishearten KSI, who entered the arena in his ringwalk emitting confidence and determination. Logan’s ringwalk was significantly more composed but he still looked confident upon entrance. It was very close throughout and difficult to call either way by the end. The fight went for all 6 rounds and ended in a majority draw, with two judges scoring it 57-57 and one judge scoring it 58-57 to KSI. Many jumped to the conclusion that the result was fixed to make more money after a rematch in the USA was announced, but in reality, the rematch had been scheduled from the very start when the contracts were signed.

It took a long time to organise the rematch, partly due to disagreements between the teams of KSI and Logan Paul. However, the fight was finally announced officially on the 3rd of September 2019. This fight, on the 9th of November, would be the biggest yet, it was to be broadcasted globally on sports streaming service DAZN and on Sky Sports Box Office. It also had the backing of world famous boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and his company Matchroom Boxing. With it being a professional fight this time, both KSI and Logan had to apply for pro licenses and would not be wearing headguards. KSI would still continue to be trained by Viddal Riley, but this time, Logan would be trained by two-time heavyweight world champion Shannon Briggs. There was once again a press conference in both Los Angeles (14th of September) and London (7th of October); in the London press conference, friend of KSI and fellow youtuber AnEsonGib (2 million subscribers), who had won 2 fights on previous undercards, got on stage and called out Jake Paul to fight him. This would prove to be an important moment later on. A public workout and face to face were held in the week leading up to the fight before a final weigh in.

On the 9th of November, at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, 7 undercard fights were held before the main event; Billy Joe Sauders and Devin Haney both fought in World Champion fights to defend their titles. The choice of putting two world title fights as undercards was controversial and criticised, even being called an ‘insult to the sport’, but many argued their intention to generate a new audience for boxing could only be seen as a positive concept for the sport. Then it was time. The pay-per-view live stream gained millions of viewers as the main event began. KSI walked out to a live performance of his chart-topping song ‘Down Like That’, released just days previously and featuring famous rappers Rick Ross and Lil Baby, as well as S-X, a british artist who produced the song. Like his previous fight, he seemed very confident and excited for the occasion. Paul walked out looking slightly less composed, but also seemed very determined. Their professional debut consisted of six 3 minute rounds. The first 3 rounds were controlled by KSI, who appeared the aggressor and threw many more punches, while Logan chose to take a steady approach and threw occasional jabs. In the third round, he slipped twice onto the canvas and was even knocked onto the canvas after a right hand to the ear, which the referee (Jack Reiss) did not call as a knockdown. In the fourth round, Paul turned it around and landed a clean uppercut KSI, but followed up with another uppercut where the brit’s head was held in place and then two more hits when he was falling and when he was on the floor. The illegal hits were heavily penalised by Reiss who immediately stopped the fight and gave KSI enough time to recover. The previously unanimously scored 10-8 round to Paul became 8-8 as each judge was instructed to count the knockdown but deduct 2 points. The fifth round saw Logan land the more meaningful blows as KSI stayed out of trouble. Both fighters were more frantic in the sixth round, though neither could land a decisive knockout punch to end the match. The bout ended in a split decision victory for KSI with one judge scoring it 57-54 in favour of KSI, one scoring it 56-55 also in favour of KSI, and the 3rd scoring it 56-55 in favour of Paul. The two both shook hands and embraced to pay respect to each other after the results were announced. KSI declined a proposal for a third round and Logan expressed his intention to contest the commision for his point reduction. He went on to appeal the decision but the appeal was denied in early December.

On the 29th of December, AnEsonGib (real name Ali Loui Al-Fakhri but known as ‘Gib’) announced he would be fighting Jake Paul on the 30th of January 2020 in Miami, leaving just a month for any more training. Gib would be trained by Viddal Riley, who had also trained him for his two amateur bouts, and Jake would be trained by Shane Mosley, a notorious fighter who held multiple world championship titles. The fight would be pay-per-view streamed on both DAZN and Sky Sports Box Office and Eddie Hearn would once again be the promoter of this fight. After two Miami press conferences and a weigh in, and both fighters training hard in training camp, it was fight night. Both Paul and Gib would, like KSI and Logan, have their professional debut as a six round fight with 10 ounce gloves and no headguards. The fight was an undercard to Andrade vs Keeler, but was the last fight before the main event. Gib looked very confident on the ringwalk, going somewhat wild and shouting into the camera. Jake was more composed and did not look phased by the enormous audience at Meridian Island Gardens. Both KSI and Logan Paul turned up to the fight to show support. It was clear from the start of the fight who would win as Paul showed a lot of natural boxing ability whereas Gib’s technique was clumsy and not refined; the fight lasted just 2 minutes and 18 seconds before he was knocked down for the third time and the referee called off the fight. After the results were announced Jake called out KSI, whom he wanted to fight to ‘avenge’ his brother. KSI, being in attendance, got into the ring and went face to face with him, both hurling insults and abuse. At the time of writing this, February 2020, the fight between the two has not yet been officially announced but preparations are clearly in the works.

 

By Ellis Thompson, Year 10

Images courtesy of Attentie Attentie and I yunmai @unsplash.com

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