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November’s Freak Fight in LA Poses a Dilemma for Boxing Journalists

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  • November’s Freak Fight in LA Poses a Dilemma for Boxing Journalists

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Capture.PNG Views:	1 Size:	681.1 KB ID:	14497 By Arne K. Lang

    A forthcoming prizefight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles is attracting a lot of buzz. On Nov. 9, Logan Paul and KSI (birth name Olajide William Olatunji) will meet in the ring for the second time. Their first match, on Aug. 25 of last year, played to a full house at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, and drew $11 million in revenue between gate receipts and the $10 pay-per-view live stream on YouTube. That figure would have been substantially higher if not for widespread live stream piracy.

    Logan Paul and KSI boxed six rounds to a draw using headgear and 12-ounce gloves. Both were novices. Matchroom's Eddie Hearn, Great Britain’s most prominent boxing promoter, wanted no part of it. He said he considered the fight an embarrassment to the sport.

    Hearn will promote the rematch. It will air on DAZN.

    If not for Internet search engines, this grizzled reporter wouldn’t know Logan Paul from the man in the moon. Same goes for KSI. As I have come to learn, both are YouTube sensations, video bloggers who now have millions of followers on various social media platforms. Both have comedic and musical talent – KSI’s first release went to #1 in the U.K. in the R&B album category – but where they really excel is in marketing. Through shrewd self-promotion, both have attracted advertisers with deep pockets and have become millionaires while still in their mid-twenties.

    The antics that preceded their first meeting were obviously inspired by the Mayweather-McGregor pre-fight tour, an orgy of F-bombs that pandered to adolescents, whatever their age. Logan Paul and KSI “asserted their superior manliness through base insults about strength, pain tolerance, attire, material possessions and sexual prowess,” wrote Vlad Savov in Verge, a publication that explores the role of mobile technology in shaping popular culture.

    Freak fights are nothing new. Philadelphia huckster Damon Feldman (his older brother David Feldman promotes bare-knuckle fights) manufactured a slew of so-called Celebrity Boxing cards including a 2002 one-off that aired on the FOX network. In one of the bouts, infamous figure skater Tonya Harding swapped punches with Bill Clinton accuser Paula Jones who filled in for “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fisher whose appearance was nixed by her parole board. Needless to say, this was beyond tacky.

    There have also been many freak fights that weren’t packaged as such. At a press luncheon to hype his match with Mike Tyson, Peter McNeeley asserted that he was going to wrap Iron Mike in a cocoon of horror. “Hurricane Peter” had as much chance of defeating Mike Tyson as a man plucked randomly off the street.

    Damon Feldman’s Celebrity Boxing shows, like others of the ilk, were mis-named. They weren’t celebrity boxing matches but has-been-celebrity boxing matches. As Caryn James of the New York Times put it, they offered a 16th minute of fame to folks that had used up their 15 minutes.

    The fight last summer between Logan Paul and KSI in Manchester was a different animal. In terms of being famous, Paul and Ksi were in their prime. Moreover, they were both physically fit and the two cruiserweights -- each weighed a shade under 190 pounds -- brought to their scuffle more than a modicum of athleticism. Paul was an all-league linebacker at Westlake High School in suburban Cleveland and as a wrestler earned a berth in the state tournament. And both came out of the fight looking as if they had been in a fight.

    What converted Eddie Hearn, however, was not the competitiveness of the fight, but the public reaction to it. “What I saw was a phenomenon, a sold-out arena, over one million PPV buys but more importantly an energy of a new audience to the sport of boxing,” he told a reporter to the (London) Sun.

    Hearn will be making a few changes. The re-do will stay six rounds, but Paul and KSI will compete without headgear and with 10-ounce gloves rather than the 12-ounce gloves used in their first encounter. You won’t find the outcome of the first meeting up on BoxRec; the sport’s official record-keeper ignores exhibitions. But Paul-KSI II has been certified a legitimate professional fight.

    Paul-KSI I was a doubleheader. Their younger brothers were matched-up in the prelim. (At his post-fight press conference, Jake Paul introduced his new clothing line.) The Nov. 9 sequel will be noosed to a conventional undercard. Rumor has it that new Matchroom signee Billy Joe Saunders will defend his newly-won WBO world super middleweight title in the co-feature. There’s also talk that Devin Haney will be added to the card if he emerges unscathed from next week’s encounter with Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev.

    Traditionalists view Paul vs. KSI as a slap in the face to all the young fighters who are working hard to hone their craft, paying their dues, so to speak, in hopes of becoming good enough to eventually secure good purses and improve their standard of living. Others, myself included, are less turned-off by the fight than by the inevitable trash talking that will precede it. True, trash talking has always been part of the culture of prizefighting but the new breed of trash talker, a foul-mouthed lout in the Conor McGregor mold, can’t hold a candle to Muhammad Ali who trash talked with an impish wink that didn’t coarsen the language.

    The dilemma for boxing journalists is that they can’t just ignore the Paul-KSI fight altogether. They have to report the news and as boxing events go, this is big news, so big that it has forced the promoters of the rematch between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz, also scheduled for Nov. 9, to find a new date. But to what extent should their stories focus on the exchange of brickbats before the fighters’ touch gloves? Perhaps this is journalism, but if so it’s hackwork.

    I know what some folks are thinking: “Dude, chill out, life will go on.” Bob Arum certainly feels that way. “If they make a buck in the ring, who the hell cares? There are things in life to get excited about, and this is not one of them,” said the octogenarian impressario to The Ring correspondent Michael Woods.

    Arum certainly makes a valid point, but we are reminded that he hatched one of the greatest freak shows in “sports”, the failed jump over the Snake River Canyon in a steam powered rocket ship by motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. In terms of the entertainment value it gave, the jump was on par with Tyson-McNeeley.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    I see KSI, I think KSE, Killswitch Engage from Massachusetts.

    That's a metal band by the way.


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      From Westfield, Massachusetts

  • #3
    And also interestingly they had a black lead singer as frontman for one of the heaviest/screamiest (albeit melodic) bands of all/time. Howard Jones, aka "Sexual Chocolate", my man had serious some pipes. He's not actually in the band anymore. Sorry about the thread hijack Arne. 😎


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      One of my best friends was Phil Anselmo but I don't hear much from him anymore. Front man for Pantera at one time. He knew/knows boxing.