After their white-collar boxing clash in front of a sell-out MEN Arena in August 2018 ended in a controversial draw, the pair – who both amassed 20m followers on YouTube and no professional boxing experience before the first bell in the early hours of 10 November – settled their internet feud atop a fight card boasting current world champions in front of a capacity crowd in Los Angeles and millions of fascinated onlookers online and on pay-per-view.
Taking place without headguards and billed as their pair’s professional debuts, KSI (real name Olajide ‘JJ’ Olatunji) and Paul generated more pay-per-view purchases than Anthony Joshua’s ill-fated American debut against Andy Ruiz junior, according to promoter Eddie Hearn, who claimed it notched 1.2m pay-per-view buys globally. Though according to World Boxing News only 216,000 people in the UK purchased the PPV on Sky Sports – a figure confirmed by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
Such was the digital demand for the spectacle, there were even 11,000 views of a pirated stream of the fight shown in the reflection of someone’s glasses. However, while KSI and Paul each earned in the region of $900,000 (£697,000) for their part in the six-round cruiserweight bout, and with home viewing figures through the roof, did the impressive numbers trickle through to the pub trade?
Despite the fanfare and pantomime build up, only four pubs in the UK were listed on MatchPint as showing the YouTubers’ fight, compared to 13 listed for Tyson Fury’s September date with Swede Otto Wallin in Las Vegas, and 64 that showed Anthony Joshua’s knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jnr in New York.
Yet, while consumer demand for Joshua-Ruiz Jnr was roughly two-and-a-half that of KSI and Logan Paul’s fight – generating 5,000 searches on MatchPint compared to 2,000 for the YouTubers’ clash – their on-trade numbers dwarfed those of the Gipsy King and lineal heavyweight champ, Fury, whose bout yielded just 1,000 searches from fans despite it being shown in more than three times as many pubs.
According to Mark Bruce, general manager, St Aldates Tavern, Oxford: “I was booking the Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz fight and I enquired to Sky about the KSI v Logan Paul rematch. I thought it was worth the gamble of showing it and staying open to test the waters if there is an appeal for that type of fight.
“We are known as one of the main pubs in Oxford that will stay open into the small hours of the following day to show the best and biggest fights. We will also show what’s possible during standard opening hours dependant on any potential clashes with other sports.
“I had a good-sized crowd of mostly under-25’s arrive from 1am that got their seats and camped up until the sun came up. We had a lot of 18 years old come in that were well behaved and were clear fans of the Youtube scene.”