Logan Paul and KSI promoted their first professional boxing match as if the fate of the earth depended on the outcome – as if the fight between the two YouTube stars would leave only one survivor. Paul and KSI each have 20 million subscribers on their respective channels. This is the second time they’ve boxed each other. The first, an amateur match, ended in a tie.
On Saturday, Paul and KSI, a 26-year-old British YouTuber whose real name is Olajide Olatunji, fought at Staples Center in Los Angeles in front of thousands of fans, boxing enthusiasts and YouTube celebrities. Despite their lack of experience and comparative skill, the pair was the main event of a night that included undercard matches between actual boxers.
On DAZN, the subscription sports streaming service that exclusively broadcast the match online, the commentary set the scene: “Six rounds, who’s the king of social media, we’re about to find out.” Paul, who uses “Maverick” as his nickname (it’s the branding on his YouTube merchandise) wore red, white and blue. KSI (“The Nightmare”) was in red and black.
KSI won in a split decision from the judges. Paul is mad about a point deduction he believes cost him the match, and he made gestures contesting the results on Saturday night.
But none of this really matters. Instead, Logan Paul vs. KSI was about generating as many views as possible, and turning those views into a crossover payday for a cohort of people from the once separate worlds of boxing and YouTube. Paul and KSI may be, after months of intense training, OK-ish boxers. They’re much better at figuring out ways to turn anything into content.
The first time KSI and Paul boxed, in 2018, more than 800,000 people paid $10 each to watch a live stream of the YouTubers fight each other for a sold-out crowd in Manchester, England. While DAZN declined to give The Washington Post details on the number of viewers for Saturday’s fight in Los Angeles, Joseph Markowski, executive vice president of DAZN North America, said in an emailed statement that they considered the fight a “big success” for them.
“The KSI vs. Logan Paul event generated a significant boost in subscriptions, caught the attention of mainstream media and introduced the sport of boxing to a completely new audience,” Markowski said. “Those were our goals at the outset and we are very pleased with the results.” Monthly subscriptions for DAZN cost $20.
Paul’s talent is in monetizing your attention. He became famous on Vine years ago for short, goofy, physical humor skits. When Vine shut down, he and his little brother, Jake Paul, migrated to YouTube, where they positioned themselves and their fans as rival clans (the “Logang” and the “Jake Paulers”) whose supremacy would be determined by views. It worked. Their views and subscribers skyrocketed in a matter of months, and they built loyal fan bases of young, merch-buying tweens.
The 24-year-old, who likes to call himself a former YouTuber now, picked up boxing in the aftermath of the worst professional decision he made: filming a dead body in a Japanese forest at the beginning of 2018 and turning the footage into fodder for his daily vlog, which is primarily watched by children and tweens. Paul lost access to YouTube’s more lucrative premium ads as a result and became the most hated YouTuber on the platform for a time. But hate is still attention, and Paul took the attention and turned it into something new.