The fake hate has been real so far in the KSI and Logan Paul fight series and that is perfect for when the first bell sounds in front of 21,000 at the Staples Centre in downtown Los Angeles on November 9.
In August 2018 they fought a six-round draw in Manchester, watched by just under 20,000 in the arena, millions on YouTube and were introduced to their new adventure by iconic MC, Mr. Michael Buffer; they each left the ring richer, but determined to fight again and get a clean result.
They fought then as white-collar warriors, wore extra padded gloves and headguards, but there was nothing synthetic about their total effort in what was a competitive six round slugfest between two novices. One judge went for Watford’s KSI and the other two returned drawn scorecards.
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Step forward Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, an admittedly cynical witness to the first fight, and his plans for making the next fight legitimate. “I could only get involved if they became professional boxers, had all the medicals, got rid of the headguards and fought a properly sanctioned fight,” confirmed Hearn. “They listened and that is exactly what is happening.” KSI and Paul will fight over six three minute rounds, licenced and blessed by the California commission.
KSI finished his training in London on October 14th and flew to Las Vegas to put the final touches to his improbable professional debut in that fight city’s various gyms. His success as an eponymous YouTuber and his singing career gave him the platform to top the bill, which also features unbeaten double world champion Billy Joe Saunders defending his WBO super-middleweight title. Boxing purists are not happy that Saunders, an Olympian and unbeaten in 28 fights, is on KSI’s undercard.
“This fight suits me, it’s ideal for me,” insisted KSI, whose real name is Olajide Olayinka Williams ‘JJ’ Olantunji. “No headguards, smaller ten ounce gloves, a proper training camp – I’m a different fighter this time and I have seen him (Logan Paul) training and I’m not impressed.” Paul, a Los Angeles native, returned the compliment and promised a quick knockout.
In Las Vegas, KSI is being prepared by unbeaten British professional Viddal Riley, who has a promotional contract with Mayweather Promotions. It is an inexperienced pairing, a novice professional boxer of just 22 with three fights on his record and KSI, a raw novice boxer of 26; the pair have virtually no understanding of the business, and that could be crucial if there is a crisis. Riley competed at the Youth Olympic Games in 2014 and won a silver medal at the Junior European championships the same year when he was a member of the GB boxing team.
Paul has opted for the high-profile and often bonkers Shannon Briggs, a one-time heavyweight world champion, and their partnership has been entertaining to follow. Paul has also claimed he eats 36 kilos of food each day and drinks the blood of cows. Briggs, not to be outdone by the YouTuber’s excesses, has claimed that Paul will follow him and one day become the heavyweight champion of the world. A combined YouTube following of 40 million has watched and listened as Paul and KSI have prepared for the fight; in September over six million had their eyes live on the press conference to launch the rematch.
The smaller, more compact gloves and the removal of the headguards will not be a factor because the pair have trained liked elite athletes, prepared for a hard 12-round fight and not a short six-round sprint. They will both last, they have endurance because of their training camps and regimes and a distance fight looks the most likely outcome with a draw a big, big inviting price. KSI and Paul are evenly matched in size, temperament, skills, egos and ambition. A nasty stoppage win for either would be a surprise – a stoppage loss to rescue an exhausted boxer would not be a shock.
There is every chance that one of the pair will start too fast, get inspired by the noise and the moment and then start to tire early; it is oddly a fight where the boxer with the best boxing brain, the more rudimentary skills will win by simply boxing and not brawling.
Behind closed, but not locked, doors at the City Boxing Club in Las Vegas, KSI has been working on the basics – like any novice before his real debut – and if he can find some space there is a chance that he could box his way to a win. Paul will go for the finish, use his strength and set a fast pace. It will, in the end, be a hectic and furious 18-minute fight, with a shortage of guile and skill, but no shortage of guts and desire. KSI, the slight betting outsider, on points and then the trilogy.