KSI vs Logan Paul rematch: Boxing being dragged kicking and screaming into brash world of YouTube drama

KSI vs Logan Paul rematch: Boxing being dragged kicking and screaming into brash world of YouTube drama

For the residents of Los Angeles, the most abnormal events can be everyday occurrences. 

A city block 10-minute walk from the Staples Centre, normally the home of the LA Lakers NBA team, was taken over on Thursday night by Winnebagoes, Kraft catering and enough lighting to burn through the muggy fog that hangs over the city – another Hollywood production being shot on its streets. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that the city would react with a collective shrug to the KSI versus Logan Paul boxing match being held here on Saturday evening – been there, done that, got the t-shirt – but there’s something different about the sight of two YouTubers duking it out in the ring this weekend.

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For one thing, it’s a clash of cultures: the world of boxing is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the limelight and the brash world of YouTube drama. 

Not that long ago Eddie Hearn, the ringmaster behind this weekend’s event, was saying he thought the initial bout between the two YouTubers in Manchester was a waste of time. 

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rightCreated with Sketch.

The YouTubers have also had to travel some way to meet in the middle: both creators have had to get official accreditation from the state’s boxing board, while there have been concessions made to the demands of pro sports

The question is whether shunting together two very different worlds will work.

For the uninitiated, in August 2018 Paul and KSI – two YouTubers with a combined 40 million subscribers on the platform – battled to a draw in front of a sellout crowd at Manchester Arena. 

Earlier this year the rematch in Los Angeles was announced, with a new name attached: Hearn, the head of Matchroom Boxing, the promoters of traditional sporting contests who had signed a billion-dollar deal with live stream sports service DAZN.

The organisers hope to pack out the 17,000-seat arena for this weekend’s event.

There are still a significant number of tickets remaining unsold – though in recent weeks Hearn has said he’s confident the event will sell out; others involved in the promotion of the fight tell The Independent the American audience tends to leave it late until securing their seats. 

The decision to host the event in California was obvious, says Liam Chivers, manager of KSI, and the person who has brokered many of the agreements around the event. 

“It was never going to be agreed with Logan to bring it back to the UK for this one again, even if there was a suitable platform,” he explains. “It also made sense with the assumed core fanbase of Logan there – although as we’ve seen, KSI’s audience is far stronger and more engaged than Logan’s, even in the US.”

For those not in the immediate vicinity of the pre-fight publicity events going on around the city – a public workout on Venice Beach, a press conference in Hollywood, and the weigh-in today at an entertainment complex – awareness of the fight is no greater than any other event happening in Tinseltown.

Immigration officials and taxi drivers are blissfully unaware of the event, and look askance when it’s explained the headliners of the whole shebang aren’t actually boxers at all.

However, as anticipation for the fight builds, more people are descending on Los Angeles. Video editor Freddie Scott-Miller has travelled over from the UK to Los Angeles for the fight – editing a video series produced by Footasylum in the run-up to the event starring Chunkz and AJ, two social media influencers and friends of KSI.

KSI vs Logan Paul London press conference

The two influencers have gone fishing, rode horses down Old Town Road, and attended the pre-fight press conference on Thursday as part of the video series, which Scott-Miller is editing within hours of the events happening. “It’s been crazy man, a proper experience,” he says. “It’s been amazing and interesting to see places I’d never normally go.”

While Scott-Miller doesn’t follow Paul or KSI’s exploits on YouTube – and isn’t too keen on boxing – he’s looking forward to seeing what the event offers.

Plenty of other YouTubers have travelled from across the United States – and the world – for the fight. 

Justin Whang, who runs the YouTube channel Whang!, which has 500,000 subscribers and is best known for its “Tales from the Internet” series, is flying in from New York this weekend. 

Niko Omilana, the Staffordshire-born prank YouTuber who has a million subscribers, has caused chaos by hoodwinking Logan Paul’s trainer, former pro boxer Shannon Briggs, into insulting himself, and asking Logan Paul about his maths skills at the press conference.

He’s joined by Norwich-based YouTuber and podcaster Jack Dean, better known as Jaackmaate, who is in Los Angeles to support KSI.

But the distance – and the associated cost – seems to have put off some who otherwise would have travelled over from the UK.

Andrew Pyrah’s 10-year-old son Valentino has been a huge fan of Logan Paul for the last two-and-a-half years. “If he had his way we would have gone along with going to LA for this one,” Pyrah explains – but work circumstances mean Valentino will have to make do with watching it on television. It’s the boy’s first real sleepover. 

“Their plan is to pull an all-nighter but the reality is that they’ll be sent to bed fairly early so they can wake up and watch the fight live,” says Pyrah, a former pro boxing manager. 

KSI and Logan Paul face off onstage while promoter Eddie Hearn looks on (Getty)

“My son is showing interest in what I do, so for the first time I can remember I’m cool with having a kids’ sleepover in my house,” he explains. “The reality is that if this was a standard pro boxing fight, my son wouldn’t be that interested to get up at 3am and watch with me.”

Pyrah believes melding the cultures of boxing and YouTube is a brilliant idea. 

“Putting the possibility of a new audience to one side – because nobody really knows at this point if that will happen – what it shows is that boxers need to up their game outside of the ring in terms of how they engage with consumers because currently they’re lazy, and so they should be watching and learning,” he says.

There will be a sprinkling of stardust at ringside, but it’s more than just the location of the fight that has captivated fans. The headline participants – and the curious world of digital fame they inhabit and how they present themselves – has also offered boxing a jolt in the arm. 

Pyrah isn’t worried about concerns that getting involved with YouTube devalues boxing. “The build-up has been fun, the fight itself will be watchable, the fall out of the fight will go on for weeks and the numbers and revenue generated will be huge,” he says. 

“Ultimately as sports fans, don’t we all just want to be entertained every step of the way?”

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