KSI Decisions Logan Paul; 3 Reasons This Was Real Boxing
The evening of Saturday, November 9 at Los Angeles’ Staples Center UK YouTuber KSI, ne Olajide William Olatunji, won his debut fight versus fellow influencer Logan Paul via split decision. Interest in their rivalry from their respective followings far out-paced the disdain of boxing purists.
Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn oversaw the creation of the spectacle. International sports streaming app DAZN enabled U.S. fans to watch the unique bout. Fans of KSI and Paul embraced the 6-round main event fight; conversely, fans of boxing rolled with the experiment. The card’s line-up also featured lightweight Devin Haney’s first appearance since being elevated to full WBC champion. WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders, a fighter in the hunt for a Canelo Alvarez fight, also made his U.S. debut.
Haney scored an early knockdown versus Alfredo Santiago, but earned a unanimous decision that requires a degree of boxing literacy. Saunders probably failed to garner new fans, with it being an unfamiliar crowd on-hand at Staples, but he eventually landed a brilliant uppercut that led to a knockout win over Marcelo Coceres.
Preceded by those underwhelming performances, the fight for the credibility of KSI-Paul became a taller order. Fans of the YouTubers just eagerly awaited what brought them, and Justin Bieber, to Staples.
So, did the 6-round cruiserweight contest deliver?
Was it good (for) boxing?
Let’s look at three reasons why KSI-Paul 2 lived up to its hype.
The Beef Was Contrived; The Action Was Legit
Maybe you had to be a millennial to under the genesis of the rift between KSI and Paul. Maybe telling older folks that KSI stands for “Knowledge Strength Integrity” before the first bell would have been a great idea. Regardless, moments after the first bell, and Paul threw a Floyd Mayweather-esque jab to the body of the UK gamer.
In comparison, Brooklyn-based middleweight prospect Nikita Ababiy gave very little consideration to his jab in a 1-round debacle of a fight versus Jonathan Batista. Placing Ababiy, 21, right before KSI-Paul 2 seemed like a great decision. But Batista went off script, and the fight concluded in a manner that squandered the chance for Ababiy to clearly appeal to all the new eyes. The disqualification win, despite a knockdown of Batista, probably did very little convince fans Ababiy is more than the guy often mistaken for Logan.
Both KSI and Paul relied on the basics of the sweet science. KSI attacked aggressively. Paul handled that aggression fairly well, remained poised, used his legs to re-establish a comfortable distance and never wasted punches.
Both men scored what appeared to be legal knockdowns – from legitimate punches. In fact, Paul’s right uppercut in the final rounds not only dropped KSI, but it was one nearly on par with Saunders’ shot versus Coceres. Furthermore, KSI’s recovery from the big shot was consistent with regular Saturday night boxing.
The fight contained the ebb and flow of a real fight, as both men landed their share of solid shots. Each used their own means to find their second wind, and fight consistently for all six rounds. Lastly, for cruiserweights, both men looked to be in excellent shape. On any given Friday night, smaller crowds have seen less entertaining fights a local promoter’s club show.
Jack Reiss Is Gonna Jack Reiss
Veteran referee Jack Reiss is hands-on with his supervision of fights. He’s become a high-profile referee since his polarizing handling of Deontay Wilder’s 12th round knockdown of Tyson Fury in their heavyweight championship fight last December. That bout also took place at Staples.
For KSI-Paul the third man in the ring, Reiss, had an interesting set of unspoken duties. DAZN streamed a fight in mid-October in which super welterweight Patrick Day was knocked out in the final round of his versus Charles Conwell. Day never regained consciousness, and passed away four days later at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital. While many in attendance for KSI-Paul were enjoying this introduction to boxing, the two 20-something fighters hadn’t spent years with their bodies adjusting to the physicality of the sport. Nobody’s promised to walk out of the ring the way they climbed up those three steps.
Reiss maintained order through the six rounds. He explained the rules as the newcomers ran afoul of the guidelines. No different than with any other pair of fighters. He waved off the two knockdowns based on what he observed. Unfortunately, Paul’s excitement after his big uppercut caused him to do too much in his effort to go for the knockout. Reiss docked him two crucial points for the extracurricular activity, nullifying a potential 10-8 round in Paul’s favor.
DAZN’s on-air crew disagreed with Reiss’ rulings on the earlier KSI knockdown, as well as Paul’s two-point deduction. Paul had not received a warning for any illegal contact. Reiss’ decision didn’t result in the loss of a title, and neither KSI or Paul are likely to enter the ring for a second fight. One could argue Reiss went too far with the second point, for the same sequence, his judgment wasn’t egregious. At least Reiss took his role serious, as did KSI and Paul regarding their preparation – and fight effort.
The two points did authenticate the bout. No big time fight weekend goes unmarred without there being one controversial decision.
Another Controversial Decision
Ring announcer Michael Buffer announced the official decision in KSI’s favor 56-55, 57-54 and 55-56. Forgot to mention Buffer’s patented “Let’s get ready to rumble!” made the fight official, by the way. With the American, Paul, losing the fight the crowd’s reaction was seemingly measured. Definitely a sign of the crowd’s lack of familiarity with boxing.
In boxing, if there’s a controversial decision, it’s always accompanied by the losing fighter’s response. Paul might be new to boxing, but based on his 20 million YouTube subscribers he understands how numbers work. He also knew to disagree with his knockdown being questioned, and to say his own was a slip. Definitely boxing.
Again, it’s unknown if either fighter ever laces up a pair of gloves for fight No. 2. Despite the questionable decision, both men exited the ring content with the final outcome. Reportedly both received a purse of $900,000 for their 6-round debut. Being happy with ones purse under extremely favorable circumstances – definitely boxing. Just see Sergey Kovalev on DAZN last Saturday… err Sunday morning.
Eyes Turn Back to Boxing After KSI-Paul 2
One Night Fans?
So the fight was in the least entertaining. While they fought on the undercard, Haney and Saunders reportedly earned great money. Especially for facing lesser-known opponents. Haney didn’t have a follow-up for his Knockout of The Year candidate versus Antonio Moran in May. Saunders’ boxing wasn’t as sharp as his superior display versus Canadian KO artist David Lemieux in December 2017.
Now that Hearn found this large group of new eyes, will the experience retain a large percentage that checks back in December 7 for Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua? For example. Or, has the DAZN app already been uninstalled from millions of iPhones?
Perhaps it’s much too early to tell. Hearn’s optimism was noted. But, there’s one detail to consider. KSI and Paul’s online beef became a real thing. The amateur bout happened in 2018. A year later the two headlined a professional boxing event at Staples Center.
In real boxing, the Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis rivalry blew up in 2017. It’s lived on via Twitter for the past 20-plus months. Despite mentions of 7-figure purses, the beef spoiled with Davis vacating his title to move up to 135 pounds for a debut versus Yuriorkis Gamboa. Farmer is expected to defend his IBF lightweight title against Joseph Diaz in the future. Maybe real boxing, and its rivalries, will take a nod from KSI-Paul regarding the importance of expediency.