LOS ANGELES—Logan Paul and KSI have the tall task of putting on a legitimate boxing performance Saturday at the Staples Center as both YouTubers make their professional debut as the main event of a card separately featuring Devon Haney and Billy Joe Saunders as co-headliners.
Paul and KSI also have the job of tapping into their combined audience of over 91 million and bringing in an entirely new demographic — mostly the millenial and Gen Z, digital native audience they reach — to streaming platform DAZN.
Paul has over 4.7 billion lifetime views on his YouTube channel alone and he’s hoping to carry over that reach and have his fans fork over a fee when he steps inside the squared circle.
“If we could get one million people to watch this fight, that it's a big win. We’re going to make that happen,” Paul told BoxingScene.com in an interview, adding that he has bonus clauses in his contract depending on how well the fight and stream performs. “Not only do you have to account for viewership, but subscriptions, too.”
If Paul and KSI are able to hit the magical one million mark, it will be a big boon for DAZN, who is offering the fight at either $19.99 for a one-month subscription, or as part of an annual deal that totals $99.99.
For his 2018 majority draw against KSI, both fighters were able to pull 1.2 million PPV buys at $10 a piece and drew 15,000 attendees at Manchester Arena in England.
In comparison, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin drew 1.3 million pay-per-view buys in their first match in 2017, and 1.1 million in their rematch last year. Pay-per-view fights headlined by Manny Pacquiao, Deontay Wilder and Errol Spence Jr. over the last year have reached no where close to one million buys, although the price point was nearly four times the amount of a one-month DAZN subscription.
Paul thinks he has the “it factor” to carry over fans who watch his shenanigans on social platforms to DAZN, and the skills to back it up.
“For combat sports, I click. My learning curve is a lot faster,” said Paul, who is trained by former heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs. “I like the aggression and mental game of chess you have to play while literally beating someone up. The moment I realized that I could be really good in this sport, which happened about a month ago, I was absolutely stoked. I was watching myself on film going, holy shit! If I wanted to, I could dedicate my life to it and make some waves in this sport.”
Soon after pumping himself up, Paul ripped into his rival opponent.
“KSI is a punk. He’s egotistical. Long story short, he’s a scumbag. I have to win. I have to beat this guy,” said Paul. “Change comes from two things in life — inspiration or desperation. I’m both. The amount of work that I am putting into this sport to beat KSI is unprecedented.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com and currently does TV commentary for combat sports programming that airs on Fox Sports. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at [email protected].