More than a year after Logan Paul and Olajide ‘KSI’ Olatunji’s first self-proclaimed “YouTube world boxing championship” ended in a draw, last night’s rematch at Los Angeles’ Staples Center finally crowned KSI the winner of their whole much-hyped, melodramatic rivalry.
The six-round professional cruiserweight match (with no headgear, 10 oz. gloves, and Paul weighing in at 199.4 pounds and KSI at 193.2 pounds) saw the two in admittedly much more impressive fighting form than last year’s bout. This match, both spent the majority of their time in the ring on the offensive, and their increased stamina from months of serious training kept them spry till the end of the fight, whereas, in the August 2018 duel, both stayed defensive, and both tired quickly. Though Paul, by the betting odds, was expected to win this fight (a stark difference from last year’s odds, which favored KSI), for the majority of the bout, it looked like they were evenly matched, and like the fight could end in another draw.
But then Paul made a crucial mistake.
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After K.O.’ing KSI with a sharp uppercut, he followed his fellow YouTuber down as he was falling and kept hitting him in the back of the head. Boxing has a stiff rule against hitting opponents while they’re down, and accordingly, the match’s referee, longtime pro caller Jack Reiss, docked Paul two points. That means each of the three judges had to knock two points off their total score for Paul.
In the end, results came out like this: one judge, 57-54 for KSI; another, 56-55 for KSI; and the last 56-55 for Paul. A slim but solid victory for KSI.
“I let emotions get the best of me,” Paul (who has 20M subscribers on YouTube and brings 40M-80M views per month) said after the match, while watching an instant replay of the knockdown. “I think if you do the math, the two points I got taken away from me was the reason I lost tonight.” He added that he got no verbal warning from Reiss while it was happening, and said he plans to contest the California State Athletic Commission in hopes of recovering the two points. If he does contest, and the commission decides in his favor, he’ll end up beating KSI (who has 20M subs and brings 30M-60M v.p.m.).
— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) November 10, 2019
A reversal of the deduction could be unlikely, however. Reiss, speaking to Seconds Out postmatch, explained, “Please watch the replay. Logan hit him with a really good shot, an uppercut, and then Logan grabbed KSI behind the head and hit him with a second shot while he was holding him down. But KSI was already stumbling from the first one and going down, and then when he was on the ground, Logan hit him with a straight punch. There’s no such punch in boxing […] and Logan hit him, it’s a felony.”
As for what KSI thinks of the match, he had surprisingly kind (considering their near-constant macho posturing and acidic trash-talking) words for Paul when a postmatch interviewer — from DAZN, the sports streaming service that aired the match — asked if KSI’s victory had “settled” things between them, and if they “at least respect each other as men, as warriors.”
“Aight,” KSI responded after a lengthy pause, prompting a grin and a laugh from Paul. The two hugged it out, and then KSI went on, “You know what, we gotta have some respect. It takes a big man to get in the ring, and you’re a big man, and you made me work today. You made me work today, and you made me work last year as well. Thank you for a good fight.”
A clip of that moment between the two has been heavily circulated on Twitter, netting nearly 6 million views at post time.
the way logan smiled after jj said “aight” that looked so genuine my heart pic.twitter.com/1hajkdNLRe
— (@wilburplays) November 10, 2019
Views for this match overall aren’t easy to track, unlike views for the duo’s first bout, which the majority of paying viewers watched on YouTube’s pay-per-view stream (we saw 884K viewers at the stream’s peak, meaning at least 884K people paid to watch) or at Manchester Arena, where 21,000 people gathered to watch in person. (We say “paying viewers” because the true majority of people, more than one million, watched it illegally on Twitch.)
This time, there was no YouTube livestream; the only way people could watch online was by subscribing to the aforementioned DAZN. DAZN (unintuitively pronounced “da zone”) costs $20 per month or $150 for a year — but, crucially, it offers a 30-day free trial. Judging by this morning’s swarm of social media posts about how to cancel a DAZN trial, many people didn’t pay anything to watch, and don’t plan to pay DAZN anything in the future.
tweet above yours pic.twitter.com/zJNFacmXyo
— BTD (@buythursday) November 10, 2019
Google trend results for
“How to cancel DAZN account” pic.twitter.com/XL4pj0YHo3
— Saladino for Congress (@JoeySalads) November 10, 2019
We don’t have hard numbers for how many watched on DAZN, but The Guardian reported the service expected at least one million viewers.
We do know that this fight was, like last year’s match, pirated. KSI and Paul’s teams said earlier this year that potential piracy was a major concern while they were planning this match; that concern was ostensibly one of the reasons the bout was streamed solely on DAZN rather than YouTube. DAZN execs have talked about piracy prevention before, telling Sports Video Group Europe that the streamer uses security tools, digital rights management, and geographic IP detection to prevent things like streams being mirrored.
But there was at least one person who found an…inventive way to share DAZN’s stream on YouTube without being detected:
— Ryan (@ryxn78) November 10, 2019
Viewership in person, meanwhile, seemed thinner than last year’s packed Manchester Arena. Last night, there were still a number of seats available in virtually all areas of the Staples Center, and the only sold-out areas were the cheapest seats farthest from the ring.
Despite the apparent lack of people paying for the DAZN stream and the open seats around the ring, Paul and KSI will each walk away with a guaranteed $900,000, according to California State Athletic Commission figures published by Boxing Scene. Their contracts stipulate that they could make more, depending on the size of their digital and in-person audience, but that cool near-million is their base payout.
They aren’t the only ones paid by last night’s match. Like last year’s fight, this year’s featured an undercard. Last year’s undercard was stacked, with eight fights mostly featuring YouTubers, including Logan’s younger brother Jake fighting KSI’s younger brother Deji. (Their fight netted the entire event’s highest number of concurrent viewers on YouTube.) Jake and Deji — whose increasingly publicly toxic relationship with KSI hit critical mass in May — were noticeably absent from this year’s undercard, though Jake was present at the fight and posted a lengthy statement to Twitter where he says he plans to “avenge” Logan by fighting KSI himself.
goodnight!! love y’all pic.twitter.com/aEjWdGQzdA
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) November 10, 2019
Instead of YouTubers, the undercard’s two fights featured professional boxers. In the first fight, World Boxing Organization super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders beat challenger Marcelo Esteban Coceres, and in the second, World Boxing Council lightweight champ Devin Haney beat challenger Alfred Santiago. For their victories, they’ll each take home a healthy chunk of change: $750,000 for Saunders, and $1 million for Haney.
If you’ve noticed all of the sources we cited in this story are sports publications, you’re not alone. Last year’s fight saw plenty of coverage in mainstream outlets, and there was a general sense of bafflement hanging around Paul and KSI’s fight. Was it a YouTube event? Was it a sporting event? Why were YouTubers so jacked up to beat the sh*t out of one another?
The difference between last year and this year seems to be DAZN. The streaming service, along with appealing to hardcore sports fans, also operates DAZN News, and has been publishing stories about Paul and KSI for months. DAZN’s engagement with the sports world, combined with Paul and KSI’s intense training regimens and the fact that their undercard fights featured pro contenders rather than inexperienced YouTubers, seems to have finally given Paul and KSI a kind of legitimacy — among their YouTube fanbases and sports fans alike — as real fighters.