So this is bound to divide opinion. It was announced on Tuesday the 3rd of September that the boxing rematch between YouTube stars KSI (real name Olajide Olatunji) and Logan Paul will take place on the 9th of November in the Staples Centre, Los Angeles, following their first bout which took place in Manchester last August ending in a majority draw. What has arguably grabbed headlines the most however is the fact that both men are turning professional and the fight is being promoted by Matchroom Boxing and is to be broadcast live on streaming service DAZN. This time there will be no headguards and is taking place as a professional boxing match with strong rumours of big name professional stars fighting on the undercard. To say the response to this ambitious move has been varied would be an understatement with some fans calling the event an absolute shambles and others saying how it will actually do more good for the sport of boxing than people might think. Both arguments are fair and people rightfully feel excited or frustrated about the event, therefore I’m going to take a look at what are the positives and negatives of the internet’s biggest rivalry turning professional.
First of all, a look at the positive sides of the argument. When the pair met in late August 2018 the fight was broadcast on a YouTube pay per view system with a set price of $10 (or around £8). On fight night over 1 million people bought the fight and around 1.2 million people watched the event on illegal streams on streaming website Twitch making it the most watched non-professional boxing match of all time. To put the PPV buys into perspective, Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder made around 400,000 buys, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr was somewhere between the 400,000–500,000 buy mark and the second fight between Carl Froch and George Groves generated around 350,000 purchases . From a business point of view, it makes perfect sense to make the fight a professional bout as it’s bound to bring in a large viewing audience. The interest is obviously there and I imagine it will do huge viewing figures on fight night. Also, look at it for what it actually is. It’s two fighters making their professional boxing debuts. They’re both licensed pro fighters and this will be their first professional bout and what an audience to make your debut. The last bout had a bit of a professional feel to it in the build up with a “Gloves Are Off” special interview hosted by Johnny Nelson, two “press conferences” in Los Angeles and London (they weren’t much of press conferences though, more shouting matches) and a weigh-in the day before fight night. The only thing missing was the fact it wasn’t a professional bout however this time it is. Most importantly, this could bring a whole new audience to the sport of boxing. With the rumours of a strong undercard featuring the exciting Devin Haney and Billy Joe Saunders defending his WBO Super–Middleweight title (nothing should surprise me in boxing anymore but, what?!?!?!) this could see a new wave of fans drawn to the sport and even inspire some to take up boxing. Hopefully, this event will bring many new eyes to the sport.
However, there are many good reasons to argue why this shouldn’t be a professional bout. The main argument is purely, why? Yes it’s going to make a lot of money but business aside, why do it? I’m 1 million percent sure that no other YouTubers will be fighting on the card or commentating on the live broadcast which was part of the draw for their target audience last time. By putting KSI and Logan as the headliner but having huge names like Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney on the undercard (I still can’t get my head around Billy Joe possibly on an undercard for any fight, let alone this one) there is no way any celebrities or YouTube stars are getting anywhere near the card. Furthermore, it could make for a bit of a strange atmosphere come fight night. You’ll get people in attendance there only for KSI and Logan whilst not caring in the slightest about the undercard and others who will be there for Billy Joe or Haney and couldn’t care less about the main event. Both of which is damaging to the professionals on the undercard and the main event. The system they used for their previous bout (and the KSI–Joe Weller fight before that) by having other YouTubers on the card in non-professional fights and YouTube stars True Geordie and Laurence McKenna on commentary worked perfectly fine for their target audience. This time however I think it’s a bit ambitious to make it a professional bout if other YouTube stars involved in previous events was part of the attraction and that’s being taken away. If the rumours are true (and it looks like they are) that Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney are on the undercard then, in my opinion, that’s just a strange move. Saunders is a world champion and could easily headline a PPV on his own and Haney is probably 1 or 2 fights away from Vasyl Lomachenko, are these really the fighters you need on the undercard? I get that having them on the undercard would make the event seem even bigger than it already is, however if over 1 million people bought it last time is there need to make these fights on the undercard when there’s already a huge following for the bout? If professional fights are being put on the undercard, then why not use this opportunity to promote some young fighters to a big audience? The fight has not been received too well by some hardcore boxing fans with it being described as disrespectful, a farce and a mockery of the sport. The main frustration is that there are countless pros who have worked tirelessly for years and would give an arm and a leg to get where KSI and Logan are in terms of headlining at an arena like the Staples Centre yet they’re doing it in their professional debuts. Whilst a valid point, they’ve established a huge following and regardless of where the fight was held it was always going to sell out. Some fear that this could be the catalyst for a trend of celebrities and reality stars turning professional without too much background in the sport just for the money. Again, whilst a valid point, professional governing bodies would need to approve for them to turn professional and personally I don’t see it happening if too many applied to turn pro after little/no previous fights.
It was always going to bring controversy. Who knows what’ll happen come fight night, there’s no doubt it will be a success business wise but the response and aftermath will be mixed to say the least. However one thing is for certain, it will completely rock the landscape of boxing and will change the sport on a huge scale for better or worse.