Have you ever wondered how all this came about?
KSI and Logan Paul - two YouTubers with absolutely zero in the way of professional boxing credentials between them - will fight for a second time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday with the eyes of the world trained on their every move.
It follows a first encounter in 2018 at a sold-out Manchester Arena which drew £2.7m in ticket revenue and was watched by 2.25 million live viewers, becoming known as ‘the biggest event in internet history’.
YouTube boxing, it turns out, began with two mates scrapping in a gym.
“So this started with myself and Theo Baker,” Joe Weller tells The Sportsman. “He’s my friend, and basically we decided: Let’s do a boxing match for a YouTube video in some dodgy gym.’”
Aside from fellow YouTube star True Geordie providing the commentary, there was little in that first social media bout in August 2017 which would stand out from anything you would find on the amateur circuit, yet the video has now been viewed almost 7 million times on Weller’s YouTube channel.
As rudimentary as that fight was, it was the start of something big, as Weller explains: “I won that, and KSI was like: ‘Let me fight the winner.’ So I was like: ‘Okay mate let’s do this, but let’s do it properly.’
Although Weller had attempted to call people out at the end of that video, he needed to move things on and make sure his match with KSI happened.
“So I got on the stage at a YouTube convention and said this, that and the other, and gave him essentially no choice but to accept,” says Weller.
Remarkably, they attracted a crowd of 7,500 people to the Copper Box Arena in London in February 2018, with KSI winning the fight midway through the Round 3.
“We did the fight, and I got my arse kicked!” concedes Weller. “I didn’t throw a punch, I froze and it was awful.”
Weller’s ability to laugh at his own performance is testament to how far he has come since that night. He put everything into preparing for the fight but on the night he simply didn’t perform, failing to trouble KSI.
On reflection, though, that event was about so much more than what happened inside the ring, giving a glimpse of just what was possible when two online stars collided.
The build-up had been incredible, leading to 1.6 million people watching live and the fight being watched 19 million times on YouTube to date. Such numbers would be the envy of any two boxers in the world, and even considering Weller ‘only’ had around five million subscribers compared to KSI’s 19 million at the time, the potential for a bigger match-up, in front of an even bigger audience was tantalising.
“The better man won and then he called out Logan Paul,” continues Weller, “and here we are today. It is what it is. It’s huge, it’s massive and it’s taken over the whole of the internet. So yeah, it’s class!”
Having beaten Weller, KSI sent out a message to brothers Logan and Jake Paul, calling on “any of the Pauls” to be the next to step into the ring with him, and it was Logan who stepped up to the plate.
With 20 million subscribers apiece, a natural UK v USA rivalry, and Logan’s controversial episode in 2018 when he vlogged from a suicide forest in Japan, the build-up to the first fight in Manchester had everything to capture the public’s imagination.
Although the numbers behind the fight did not surprise those in the know, perhaps the quality did, with both men looking in elite condition despite only having three months to prepare. The draw set up the rematch perfectly, and although it has taken over a year to organise, the day finally arrives this weekend.
Despite earlier criticism, Eddie Hearn saw the pay-per-view buys and, in turn, the dollar signs flashed before his eyes as he set about turning both boxers professional, dropping the head guards to make the spectacle even more exciting.
Weller says there is plenty to suggest the second fight will be even better:
“At the moment, with it being no head guards and 10oz gloves, I think you’ve got to look at Logan Paul. He is going to be favourite early on but he is prone to gassing out so if JJ [KSI] can get past the first three rounds I feel like JJ will be able to continue with his power and be able to finish it late on.”
The UK has already done this massive event justice, now it is time to see if the USA can match it. But let’s not forget that this worldwide spectacle, now with world champions on the undercard and its own pay-per-view on Sky Sports, had humble surroundings.
YouTube boxing has come a long way from a scrap with a mate in ‘a dodgy gym’.